Stephen M. Engel

Professor of Politics



Pettengill Hall, Room 178


Wesleyan University (B.A., 1998); New York University (M.A., 2001); Yale University (Ph.D., 2009)

I am Associate Professor and Chair of Politics at Bates College and an Affiliated Scholar of the American Bar Foundation in Chicago (  My research and teaching focus on American political development, constitutional law, and social movements, particularly LGBTQ socio-political and legal mobilization.

I have authored three books. My first, The Unfinished Revolution: Social Movement Theory and the Gay and Lesbian Movement (Cambridge University Press 2001), evaluates how the distinct political institutional environments of the US and the UK affected the development, strategies, and goals of the LGBTQ rights movements in each country. My second, book, American Politicians Confront the Courts: Opposition Politics and Changing Responses to Judicial Power (Cambridge University Press 2011), is a cross-institutional analysis that examines how changing understandings over time of loyal opposition has influenced elected branch relations with the federal judiciary. My most recent book, which comes out in May 2016, Fragmented Citizens: The Changing Landscape of Gay and Lesbian Lives (NYU Press 2016), utilizes fundamental concepts in the field of American Political Development, particularly the notion of a fragmented polity and the partiality of political change, to evaluate how and why inequalities for gay and lesbian citizens persist in the United States even as formal rules mandating equal treatment are put into effect.  I contend that conceptualizing LGBT citizens as fragmented – in so far as their relationship with governing institutions changes depending on space, time, and policy issue – can help us make sense not only of how gays and lesbians’ relationship with governing authorities has changed over time since the late nineteenth-century but also that we learn something new and interesting about the polity – its institutions, practices, and interactive dynamics between public and private – and its own shifts when we approach it through the lens of sexuality.

Finally, I am currently working on two projects. The first is an edited volume with Stephen Skowronek and Bruce Ackerman, The Progressives’ Century: Political Reform, Constitutional Government, and the Making of the American State, which evaluates a century’s worth of progressive legal, political, and constitutional reform to consider its resilience or exhaustion and to propose alternative formulations that might advance the cause of democratic renewal, and which will come out later this year from Yale University Press. The second is a set of papers that explores how “dignity” has been utilized in recent US jurisprudence as the primary conceptual framework to give meaning to gay and lesbian equality. This project includes a project with Timothy Lyle, assistant professor of English at Iona College, which considers how governing authorities trampled the dignity of gay identities during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s and 1990s (including but not limited to bathhouse closures) and points to the limits of the dignity-restoration that is proceeding through Supreme Court rulings including Lawrence v. TexasUnited States v. Windsor, and Obergefell v. Hodges. It also includes a paper examining how the dignity framework marks a turn away from the scrutiny and suspect class architecture that has defined 14th Amendment jurisprudence since the mid-twentieth century.

The common aims of my research are to gauge how institutional and ideational environments motivate, constrain, or otherwise affect political behavior and to explain changes over time in legal and political outcomes.  To accomplish this, my work utilizes a variety of qualitative and historical methods and engages scholarship from multiple disciplines including history, law, political theory, and sociology.

My research has been supported by grants from and fellowships with

  • Bates Faculty Development Fund
  • National Science Foundation
  • American Bar Foundation
  • Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund of the Yale Law School
  • Institute for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University
  • Yale University Center for the Study of American Politics
  • Yale University Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies


Fragmented Citizens: The Changing Landscape of Gay and Lesbian Lives. New York: NYU Press. 2016.

American Politicians Confront the Court: Opposition Politics and Changing Responses to Judicial Power.  New York: Cambridge University Press. 2011.


“Engel contributes a new, significant piece to the historical understanding of the way that elected officials regard and interact with the US judiciary. By Engel’s analysis, conflicts between the elected branches and the courts have been dramatically reshaped, now taking the form of “measures that harness judicial power for political ends” rather than actions that more directly undermine judicial legitimacy. Engel identifies this trend on the strength of his own exhaustive and painstaking historical work, starting with the early republic and extending all the way through the George W. Bush administration. In the process, he helps readers newly appreciate how originalism, signing statements, filibusters, and other tools of political power really work. Though the title suggests the possibility of a slightly broader scope (Engel’s analysis of the conflict is primarily limited to partisan debates and disagreements), his study is still groundbreaking by any definition. Summing Up: Highly recommended.” Choice

The Unfinished Revolution: Social Movement Theory and the Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2001.


The Unfinished Revolution is remarkable for the elegance of its intellectual architecture.” The Gay & Lesbian Review

“In a comparative case study of US and British gay and lesbian movements since WWII, Engel engages new social movement theory and theories of collective action, integrating analysis of political opportunity structures into a political process model that accounts for the when and why of social mobilization…. A useful contribution to gay and lesbian studies and general social movement scholarship, especially in sociology.” Choice

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Books Chapters

“Developmental Perspectives on Lesbian and Gay Politics: Fragmented Citizenship in a Fragmented State,” Perspectives on Politics 13 (June 2015)

“Seeing Sexuality: State Development and the Fragmented Status of LGBTQ Citizenship.” Oxford Handbook on American Political Development, Vallely, Lieberman, and Mettler, eds. (online 2014). (print 2016)

“Frame Spillover: Media Framing and Public Opinion of a Multifaceted Rights Agenda,” Law and Social Inquiry 38 (Spring 2013)

“Assessing Presidential Manipulations of Federal Judicial Power” in The Politics of Judicial Independence, Bruce Peabody, ed. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010)

“Before the Countermajoritarian Difficulty: Regime Unity, Loyal Opposition, and Hostilities toward Judicial Authority in Early America,” Studies in American Political Development 23 (Fall 2009)

“Political Education in/as the Practice of Freedom: A Paradoxical Defense from the Perspective of Michael Oakeshott.”  Journal of the Philosophy of Education 41 (September 2007)

“Organizational Identity as a Constraint on Strategic Action: A Comparative Study of Gay and Lesbian Interest Groups.”  Studies in American Political Development 21 (Spring 2007)

“History of Racial Politics in the US” in Racism, Xenophobia, and Distribution: A Study of Multi-Issue Politics in Advanced Democracies. John Roemer et. al. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press and Russell Sage, 2006)

“Marketing Everyday Life:  The Postmodern Commodity Aesthetic of Abercrombie & Fitch.”Advertising & Society Review 5 (October 2004)

“Making a Minority: Understanding the Formation of the Gay and Lesbian Movement in the US.”Handbook of Gay and Lesbian Studies. Diane Richardson and Steven Seidman, eds. (London: Sage, 2002)

Courses Taught 2016-17

  • American Political Institutions and Processes (PLTC 115) – Fall 2016
  • The U.S. Presidency: Development and Problems (PLTC 329) – Fall 2015
  • Constitutional Law II: Rights and Identities (PTWS 282) – Winter 2017
  • Political Inquiry: Democracy and Democratization (s49) – Short Term 2017

Other Courses Taught

  • Constitutional Law I: Separation of Powers (PLTC 216)
  • Sexuality Movements (INDS 238) (crosslisted among politics, WGS, and Sociology)
  • Voice, Participation, and Liberty in American Constitutionalism (PLTC 214)
  • American Political Development (PLTC 329)
  • A Politics of Judicial Power (PLTC 351)
  • Political Inquiry: Democracy and Democratization (s49)