College of Education and Human Development

Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development

Peter Demerath

  • Professor; Co-Coordinator, Graduate Programs in Education Policy and Leadership

Peter Demerath

Areas of interest

Anthropology of Education
Leadership and School Improvement
School Culture
Student Academic Mindsets & Psychological Capital
Ethnographic Research Methods


Ed.D., University of Massachusetts
M.A., University of Pennsylvania
B.A., Haverford College



Demerath completes UMN GPS Alliance-Sponsored outreach trip to Papua New Guinea - Extended write up with pictures [PDF]


My research and teaching are guided by a commitment to broaden equitable educational opportunity for all students.  My scholarship is informed by the disciplinary perspective of anthropology and the methods of ethnography.  Ideally, it makes for a way of "seeing" that illuminates the cultural basis of everyday educational practices.  Throughout, my work seeks to generate new understandings of educational phenomena, to make recommendations for leaders and policymakers, and to offer practical resources for educators. 

I have carried out major research projects in Papua New Guinea and the suburban and urban United States.  A major interest has been the role of class culture in the perpetuation of social inequality through education.  More recently, I have completed two collaborative equity-oriented projects in the Twin Cities metropolitan area:  First, how a “beating the odds” public urban high school developed robust improvement-oriented culture over a period of several years (involving what I refer to as “emotion culture”);  and second, how staff members in the school built trust with students and helped them develop components of “academic mindsets” (including school belonging, future orientation, “sparks,” confidence, perseverance, and ultimately, agency).  The second research initiative has yielded grounded models of these processes.    

I teach courses on cultural dimensions of leadership, school improvement, anthropology and education, inquiry strategies, and ethnographic methods.  I draw on my ethnographic experience to infuse my courses with resources for illuminating cultural dimensions of American life, and for teaching about race/ethnicity, power, politics, and equity in education.  As an anthropologist I encourage all of my students to question their taken-for-granted cultural assumptions about schooling in order to contribute to educational renewal in a variety of ways.


  • Ohio State University College of Education Distinguished Teaching Award (2005)
  • Comparative and International Education Society George Z. F. Bereday Outstanding Scholarship Award (1999)

Professional Memberships


Demerath, P. (2019). Maximizing Impact in Anthropology and Education: Capitulations, Linkages, and Publics. Anthropology & Education Quarterly50(4), 448-458.

Demerath, P. (2009). Producing success: The culture of personal advancement in an American high school. University of Chicago Press.

Demerath, P., Lynch, J., Milner, R., Peters, A., & Davidson, M. (in press). Decoding success: A middle-class logic of individual advancement in a U.S. suburb and high school. Teachers College Record.

Demerath, P., Lynch, J., & Davidson, M. (2008). Dimensions of psychological capital in a U.S. suburb: Identities for neoliberal times. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 39(3).

Demerath, P. (2006). The science of context: Modes of response for qualitative researchers in education. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 19(1), 97-113.

Demerath, P. (2001). The social cost of acting "extra:" Students’ moral judgments of self, social relations, and academic success in Papua New Guinea. American Journal of Education 108(3).

Demerath, P. (1999). The cultural production of educational utility in Pere Village, Papua New Guinea. Comparative Education Review 43(2).