Kelly Clancy, Ph.D.

Nebraska Wesleyan University

City: Lincoln, Nebraska

Country: United States

About Me:

I am an assistant professor and chair of political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University. I am interested in contentious politics. My first book, The Politics of Genetically Modified Organisms in the United States and Europe, was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015; it looks at the way in which GMOs are objects of contention on both sides of the Atlantic. I'm currently working on a project about youth participation in social movements in the United States and Europe. In the summer of 2019, I led a student research team to Ireland and Northern Ireland to research the movement to legalize abortion services. I teach a variety of classes on comparative politics and politics and culture, including classes on European politics, revolution and rebellion, democratization, global environmental politics, and minority politics. In my spare time I enjoy reading mysteries with sassy female detectives, traveling, and camping. Last summer, my family and I drove 11,000 miles and camped around all of the Great Lakes. 

Research Interests

European Politics

Post-Communist Politics

Political Participation

Environmental Policy

Class, Inequality, and Labor Politics

Race, Ethnicity and Politics

Contentious Politics

Social Movements

Youth Politics

Political Culture

Protest Politics

Teaching And Learning

Countries of Interest

United Kingdom





My Research:

 I am a comparative political scientist. My research interests focus predominantly on Europe, with an emphasis on contentious politics and social movement mobilization. My first book, The Politics of Genetically Modified Organisms in the United States and Europe, was published by Palgrave McMillan 2016. In it, I am interested in the reasons why genetically modified foods remain such a contentious topic capable of mobilizing resistance on both sides of the Atlantic. My book explores the current status of GMOs in European and American public and political life by analyzing the symbolic construction of risk surrounding the process of manufacturing, the GM products that are produced, and the unknown implications of the technology. I compare the state of the debate over GMOs in the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the United States. My subsequent co-authored article, “Growing Monstrous Organisms: The Construction of anti-GMO Visual Rhetoric through Digital Media,” (Critical Studies in Media Communication, 2016), further examines the way the way that the visual dimensions of the anti-GMO campaign contribute to opposition to the technologies. By exploiting the unique characteristics of the internet to create memetic images that can travel freely across linguistic and cultural borders, opponents of the technology have been able to refute rationalist claims about the safety of GMOs.

My current research project continues the focus on contentious politics and policy outcomes. I am in the process of finalizing research for and drafting a book length project tentatively entitled The Kids are Alright: Flexible Politics and Youth Mobilization on the Left. Normal depictions of youth in politics paint a dire picture across the globe; low levels of voter mobilization and turn out, low levels of involvement in civil society, and an overall sense of apathy toward public issues and public life. The book focuses on complicating this depiction of youth political participation, particularly in terms of their interest in targeting specific policy outcomes. I compare the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, the 2015 Irish Home to Vote Campaign, and the 2016 Bernie Sanders primary campaign. In each of these cases, youth involvement and participation, both informally (measured in terms of extra-voting participation) and formally (measured in terms of voting) were far higher than in previous and subsequent elections. To conduct research on for this project, I have been supervising teams of student researchers. I undertook the first round of ethnographic and interview research in Scotland in 2016 with a student team, and anticipate traveling with a second team to Ireland in 2018. The first paper from this project, “’Yes we can,’ but could we again? Linking the electoral politics and social movements of the Obama years” has been accepted for publication in an edited collection. An additional paper from this project, “Flexible politics: Mobilization strategies of youth activists in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum,” was presented at the Midwest Political Science Association conference in 2017.

My interest in youth mobilization and contentious politics is also the focus of a collaborative research project that focuses on cultural issues related to LGBT+ rights in Russia. Our paper, “Putin as Gay Icon? Memes as Tactic in Russian LGBT+ Activism” is forthcoming in the edited collection LGBTQI rights and activism in the Post-Soviet Space. A subsequent paper with the working title “Gayropa and the revival of sexual citizenship in post-communist Europe,” is in progress. Finally, my research focuses on the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning, with a particular emphasis on best practices in integrating diversity and inclusion into the classroom. My co-authored paper “Teaching race and social justice at a predominantly white institution,” is forthcoming in Journal of Political Science Education. In this paper, we argue that adapting course content and pedagogy to the demographic context of the classroom is crucial to achieving success mediating political and social controversies. We develop a concept of “empathic scaffolding” to articulate an approach that integrates diversity and inclusion into each level of the curriculum and throughout the term. A subsequent paper, “Discourse instruction to teach social justice issues in undergraduate political science classes” is in progress; this paper explores the utility of using dialogue in diversity instructive classes in order to more fully engage students in the content.


Journal Articles:

(2018) Creating student-scholar-activists: Discourse instruction and social justice in political science classrooms, (with Bauer, K), New Political Science

This article advocates the use of discourse instruction as a means of integrating issues of social justice into the classroom and trans- cending the debate over politicization in academia. The field of political science is at an uncomfortable juncture; it is faced with an obligation to ourselves and our communities to critically engage and push back against the more toxic components of the political moment, staying relevant and accurate and providing students with the tools they need to process the political world; while, also resisting the dual pressures to either stay apolitical/non- partisan, or to become a current events class, ceding class time to deciphering the day’s political events. We argue that discourse instruction can be used to teach the skills of social justice in political science classrooms. In addition, the infusion of diversity into the classroom through discourse instruction is both a means of enhancing student learning by engaging in high-impact prac- tices of teaching and learning and political activism.

(2017) Teaching race and social justice at a predominantly white institution (with Bauer, K), Journal of Political Science Education

At our predominantly white university, students often shy away from controversial conversations. How can the classroom encourage students to value and engage in potentially explosive conversations? We develop a concept of “empathic scaffolding” to articulate an approach that integrates diversity and inclusion into the classroom. Empathic scaffolding structures content and pedagogy in a way that strategically expands students’ zones of comfort, starting with very personal experiences with the material and expanding to include broader groups of people and course concepts. Understanding and engaging with these concentric circles of students’ relationships to the course material is crucial if students are to hear and engage with voices to which they may have limited exposure. This article documents the best practices of implementing empathic scaffolding in the realms of content and pedagogy, offering a toolkit for professors to critically engage conversations about race and social justice.

(2016) Growing monstrous organisms: The construction of anti-GMO visual rhetoric through digital media (with Clancy, B), Critical Studies in Media Communication

This paper explores the international controversy over genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We argue that the uncommonly high levels of opposition to genetically modified food in both the United States and in Europe can be attributed to the overwhelming success of the online visual campaign against GMOs. By exploiting the unique characteristics of the internet to create memetic images that can travel freely across linguistic and cultural borders, opponents of the technology have been able to refute rationalist claims about the safety of GMOs. In response to the single coherent narrative of scientific certainty, a diffuse set of challenges emerges. The risk of genetic engineering holds within it the potential for catastrophe, leaving the industries that produce and manufacture the technology in a perpetual state of crisis. Instead of a unified narrative of scientific certainty, each challenge presents a multiplicity of diffuse narratives that unsettle the public’s understanding of the risk presented by GMOs. We aim to augment traditional understandings of the way that publics may interact with the “public screen” by explicating one way in which dominance of the visual in mediated political discourse may privilege non-rational political decision making.

Books Written:

(2016) The Politics of Genetically Modified Organisms in the United States and Europe., Palgrave Macmillan

This book examines the puzzle of why genetically modified organisms continue to be controversial despite scientific evidence declaring them safe for humans and the environment. What explains the sustained levels of resistance? Clancy analyzes the trans-Atlantic controversy by comparing opposition to GMOs in the United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Spain, and the United States, examining the way in which science is politicized on both sides of the debate. Ultimately, the author argues that the lack of labeling GMO products in the United States allows opponents to create far-fetched images of GMOs that work their ways in to the minds of the public. The way forward out of this seemingly intractable debate is to allow GMOs, once tested, to enter the market without penalty―and then to label them.

Book Chapters:

(2019) Putin as gay icon: Memes as tactic in Russian LGBTQIA+ activism (with Baker, J and Clancy, B),, Palgrave Macmillan

In 2013, Russian lawmakers passed restrictive anti-LGBT laws. In response, images of President Vladimir Putin’s face, wearing makeup and superimposed on a gay pride flag [Image 1], began to circulate throughout social media, culminating in the 2016 decision by the Central District Court of Tver to ban the image in the Russian Federation. In this paper, we analyze the queered image of Putin, currently enjoying wide circulation as a global internet meme. We center the memetic image of Putin’s face as a case study that explores the political possibilities of the meme as agent of LGBTQIA+ activism in the Russian Federation. According to the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation’s online database of extremist materials, the image is “meant to give the impression of a non-standard sexual orientation of the RF president”1. We contend that this deployment of Putin’s image situates the meme-as-political artifact and its fields of circulation at the center of the LGBTQIA+ struggle to reimagine sexual citizenship in the Russian Federation. This tactic engages on two scales: appearing in pro-LGBTQIA+ protest actions in public space around Russia, and circulating on the internet as an artifact of “queer globalization.” Our reading of Putin’s image is premised on a semiological interpretation of the meme in conversation with four citational fields: pop art, queer iconography, internet meme aesthetics, and the artistic genre of leader portraits. When juxtaposed with the “riff” embodied in the Warholian pop-art aesthetic and the visual narrative of hegemonic masculinity, which Putin constructs through his own portraiture, a dynamic counternarrative of “queer iconography” emerges. We argue that, when enlisted in pro-LGBTQIA+ protest actions, this visual rhetoric presents a highly mutable, politically charged interpretive polysemy for queering institutional narratives, in which Putin may appear at once as a “gay clown,” in drag, and in the pop-art style of Warhol. However, this rhetoric slips from the embrace of homonationalism and universalist narratives: while the aesthetic of the meme may generate vital subversive discourse, this discourse may condense around a construction which contradicts the intended politics of the activist image. We conclude by interrogating this tension, namely how the queered image of Putin reifies pejorative associations between queerness and weakness, pursued through the figure of effeminization. Our analysis offers insight into how the meme’s concerted emphasis on syntactic play can also undermine LGBTQIA+ rights, issues, and activism in post-Soviet space by reaffirming a vision of the heteronationalist state constructed in Putin’s image.


(2019) Reconceputalizing diversity and difference: Teaching US and Comparative Politics in conversation (wih Bauer, K)., Comparative Politics Newsletter

We make three claims: 1. Diversity shifts based on place, and so political science should focus on establishing a common language and set of practices that interrogate difference and the way that institutional structures reify hegemonic practices; 2. A focus on difference can become a way to relax or collapse artificial boundaries be- tween political science subfields and neigh- boring disciplines; 3. The classroom is an ideal laboratory for experimenting with this work.

(2018) Orbán: A Book Review, Journal of Contemporary European Studies

Paul Lendvai begins his excellent book Orbán: Europe’s New Strongman by recalling Isaiah Berlin’s formulation that the certain people, in crucial moments, can change the course of history...

Media Appearances:

TV Appearances:

(2019) 1011 News

Commenting on the 2019 Lincoln mayoral election

Newspaper Quotes:

(2019) Bustle

Protests Outside The White House Could Soon Be Limited & Experts Are Sounding The Alarm By MADHURI SATHISH "But according to Dr. Kelly Clancy, an associate professor of political science at Nebraska Wesleyan University, this proposed rule is yet another effort "to use the National Park Service to continue its practice of stifling dissent." If such a rule had existed previously, Clancy says, it could have affected turnout at many groundbreaking protests, from the March on Washington in 1963 to the more recent Women's Marches. "Protest is a fundamental American right," Clancy tells Bustle. "The National Mall is where we collectively demand that our government do better, that it become more accountable to its people, that it fulfill its democratic ideal. Charging to protest is in direct opposition to that right. The Constitution has no pay to play rule of free speech — it’s absolute.""