Hill, Leslie I.
Associate Professor of Politics
B.A., Barnard College (Columbia); M.A., Atlanta University; Ph.D., The Union Institute
- Shifting Frames: Black Women’s Political Activism in South Africa
- “Doorways to Curriculum Change: Internationalizing Women’s Studies, Integrating Women into Global Studies,” (Transformations1998)
- Comparative Politics, Gender and Politics
I embarked on study of Politics and political science in graduate programs (Emory University and Atlanta University) where I studied theories, histories, and dynamics of international politics and comparative politics of the “developing world”, along with scholarship focused on domestic political institutions and behaviors. Something was missing. Then, and significantly still, important subjects and perspectives have been missing from or on the margins of the study of politics. I pursued additional graduate work through an interdisciplinary program at the Union Institute University where I earned a Ph.D. in Political Studies.
My study of politics – how power is distributed, used, challenged and negotiated – brings together the study of states – individually and on a global stage – with a view of people as gendered (racialized, sexualized, and classed) subjects. Implicit in and intertwined with this approach is the knowledge that political subjectivity, experience, and perspective are everywhere shaped by salient social identities, some made more relevant to power than others in various historical contexts and locations.
Recognizing that women are half of the world’s population, and like LGBTQ people, are political subjects, I ask what they are thinking, advocating, and conveying to their communities and governments and to the world about democracy and about how politics should be organized and conducted. My research begins with the assumption that women – however marginal on the political stage – make the conduct of politics possible. It, then, probes the interplay of gender relations and politics, especially how each shapes, that is constructs and (re-)constructs, and is shaped by the other.
Like gender, race has been and is made and made consequential through politics – in legislation, judicial decisions, and the everyday practices of bureaucrats. When members of a population engage state actors and institutions they animate the politics of race. I offer courses probing activist engagements with power to understand how racialization is advanced and challenged in U.S. politics.
I have studied and written about South African women’s resistance to apartheid and their impact on transition and governance as regime change took hold. Focusing on Sub-Saharan African societies more generally in the comparative study of politics and investigating women’s political activism, I aim to learn more about the dynamics of political change and forces that propel both masculinist politics and changes in the gender order, including women’s status and participation.
More recently, I have become intrigued by the impact of militarization. Currently, I am writing an essay commissioned by the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History on “African Women and Militarism,” which surveys scholarship on how militarization and militaristic values affect gendered subjects, shaping identities, roles of, and access to resources by men and women, as well as the impact of conflict on them. Related is my ongoing interest in the impact of U.S. military forces on African politics and governance, via AFRICOM. I ask whether the increased presence of women in many Africa parliaments and executive branches is able to harness (or sustain) only recently-established attention to women’s issues and gender justice.
My teaching in comparative politics focuses on the politics of Sub-Saharan Africa and on the gendered politics of states and societies. I guide students to examine an array of political systems to consider how social arrangements and cultural frameworks construct regimes and institutions through which states govern. Students review power arrangements within societies as they think about how global processes influence domestic dynamics. Materials include the ideas and perspectives of citizens as well as political elites so that learners may study how people engage with politics and government as well as examine how political actors mobilize (or alter) notions of identity and difference (gender, class, national, sexual, and racial-ethnic) to be pursue equity, access to resources, and political power.
My research interests dovetail with and support my course offerings in these areas of study:
• Comparative Politics of Africa
• Women, Gender, and Politics
• African American/ American Cultural Studies
• African Studies
• Gender and Sexuality Studies
In the fall 2018 semester I will teach two courses: Gender and Sexuality Matter(s) in U.S. Politics and Colorblind or Racialized? Law and Policy in the Making of Race. ‘Gender Matter(s)” scrutinizes the political status and participation of gendered subjects, from multiple life experiences. Materials feature the voices and experiences of political actors from varying racial and cultural communities, the goal being for students to encounter a range of positions from which gendered political actors experience politics and engage with power.
The course on race, policy and justice invites students to examine government policies and politics have constructed racial categories and continue to shape citizens’ lived experiences and persistent inequalities in American life. Pedagogical strategies for these courses include fostering students’ recognition of their agency as young scholars, in the classroom and in the lives of their communities. I incorporate community engagement learning projects to encourage learners to “connect scholarship with the street”, their emerging knowledge of politics with what people perceive and experience in their communities.
In the Winter 2019 semester I will teach “Global Feminisms” with Professor Rebecca Herzig and “Politics of Southern Africa.”
I have served on several college committees and performed administrative duties as chairs of (what was then named, “Women’s Studies”) and the Interdisciplinary Studies division. From 2007 until 2011worked as Special Assistance to the President for Diversity and Inclusion to help Bates bring its 21st century practices in line with its stated mission to diversity, equity, and inclusion.