The Role of Critical Media Literacy in Preventing Educational Displacement and Building Moral Resilience to Hate

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  • 12pm–1pm (EDT/UTC-4)


With this lecture series entitled “Critical Media Literacy: A Challenge for Teacher Education and Beyond”, a joint initiative by the Heidelberg School of Education and Teachers College (Columbia University) aims for a transatlantic collaborative dialogue at the intersection of various disciplines and didactics. Lecturers, students, teachers, educators and various stakeholders in education are welcome to join in.

Teaserbild zur Veranstaltung #CMLLectures mit Porträt von Amra Sabic-El-Rayess
Portrait: © Ingrid Skousgard

This lecture offers insights into a critical role of media literacy in preventing educational displacement and building moral resilience to hate, othering, intolerance, and extremism. Immigrant communities and racial, religious, and ethnic minorities are often subjected to a multigenerational displacement from the educational systems that structurally transpose their lived experiences and representations from the mainstream curriculum in schools. Educational displacement is not always physical, but translates into being invisible and unacknowledged in the classroom and curriculum, which can engender a feeling of a lesser contribution, meaning, and value to society relative to the holders of the privileged identities. These acts of displacement in schools and classrooms reverberate through the ecosystem of the marginalized communities and can trigger a lack of belonging, recognition, and eventually lead to radicalization. This lecture exemplifies how we can address educational displacement by strengthening empathy, inclusion, connectedness, and moral resilience in classrooms. Professor Sabic-El-Rayess discusses how she has used critical media literacy and storytelling effectively and cross-nationally by incorporating elements from her award winning projects: (1) The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival (Bloomsbury, 2020) and (2) VOICES (Venture to Overcome Intolerance and Counter Extremism).


Amra Sabic-El-Rayess is a professor, author and activist who grew up in Bihac, Bosnia and Herzegovina (Bosnia). After surviving genocide and more than 1,150 days under the Serbs’ military siege, she emigrated to the US in 1996. By December 1999, she earned a BA in Economics from Brown University. Later, she obtained two Masters degrees and a PhD from Columbia University. Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Practice at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Education, Health and Psychology. Her scholarship focuses on mechanisms that drive societies towards social disintegration and the role of education in socially transforming and rebuilding decimated countries.

Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess has worked as the expert on behalf of the U.S. State Department, foreign governments, and other global organizations. She is an interdisciplinary scholar who has taught, researched, published, and lectured around the world on education’s links to social transformations, radicalization, corruption, elite formation, and violence. In 2019, she delivered the inaugural Charo Uceda Lecture at Columbia University on “How to Empower and ‘Un-Other’ Yourself?” Her recent Al Jazeera and EdWeek op-eds examine the stark parallels between the white supremacy movement in the U.S. and Islamophobia that ignited the genocide in Bosnia.

Her critically acclaimed memoir, The Cat I Never Named: A True Story of Love, War, and Survival (Bloomsbury 2020), has received seven starred reviews, and is a timely warning against othering, radicalization, and hate. Amra’s story is a remarkable journey of humanity, resilience, and determination to gain education and counter hate even in the face of the unimaginable. Her memoir has been described as Anne Frank’s story if Frank hadn’t perished during the Holocaust. In 2021, The Cat I Never Named won a finalist medal by the American Library Association for Excellence in Nonfiction. It is a finalist for Cybils Award for best nonfiction. The Cat I Never Named has been named a Best Book of 2020 by Kirkus, Mighty Girl, Malala Fund, and is nominated for the Amazing Audio Book of 2022 by the American Library Association. The President of the United States, Joseph Biden, has personally recognized The Cat I Never Named as inspirational. It was selected as one of the most remarkable books for teens for 2020 by Capitol Choices and has won the Outstanding Merit and Best Book of 2021 award by Bank Street College of Education.

In her students’ feedback, Professor Sabic-El-Rayess is consistently praised as one of the most inspiring professors they have encountered. Amra was recently featured by BBC, CBS-NY , PIX11, and ABC Action News. To learn more about Dr. Sabic-El-Rayess’ work, please visit:


The lecture will be held via Zoom:

Meeting ID: 982 3733 8559
Password: 452828

No prior registration required.