Gender and Politics
Race, Ethnicity and Politics
Emotions And Politics
Feminist Political Theory
History Of Ideas
Politics And Literature
I am a political theorist and Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vanderbilt University for 2017-2018, where I teach courses on democratic theory; feminist theory; and modern political thought. I am also affiliated with the Women's and Gender Studies program.
My research combines the history of political thought and political theory, with an emphasis on early modern and eighteenth-century political thought; emotions and politics; feminist theory; and politics and literature. I am currently completing a book manuscript titled The Lost Passions of Republican Thought: Politics and Emotions of the French Enlightenment, in which I examine the relationship between civic virtue and emotion in the works of Montesquieu and Rousseau.
Rousseau’s embrace of ceremony and festivals in his 'Considerations on the Government of Poland' demonstrates one way for republican political thought to develop a substantive treatment of civic virtue. Differentiating the narcissism of spectacle and theater that Rousseau critiques in the 'Letter to d’Alembert' from the 'Considerations'’ call for a generous affect, I demonstrate that the latter is compatible with a republican ethos premised on civic virtue and patriotic attachment to the nation-state. Rousseau argues for the instantiation of political practices that constantly cultivate political virtue and their associated affective orientations. His treatment of civic ceremonies in the 'Considerations' should be read as an attempt to inculcate patriotic affect in republican citizens via constitutional measures
I read Montesquieu’s 'Persian Letters' as an attempt to theorize a liberated alternative to despotic rule. As Montesquieu argues in 'The Spirit of the Laws,' fear—specifically fear of the ruler’s emotional and material excesses—dominates the life of the despotic subject. Although in the 'Letters' the seraglio is the despotic state’s parallel, the seraglio is the site of overflowing and barely governed passions. Montesquieu’s solution to the excesses of the seraglio is not the eradication of emotion; rather, he offers a template for transforming negative passion—fear—into courage, a prelude to a potentially liberating experience. This transformation is portrayed most clearly in the character of Roxane, the rebellious wife whose courageous actions precipitate the collapse of the seraglio. I argue that Roxane’s insurrection and suicide evoke a model established by the Roman matriarch Lucretia. Though not traditional political actors themselves, both Lucretia and Roxane anticipate the possibility of a personal and political liberation through their refusal of fear-based, despotic politics in favour of alternative emotional regimes based in courage.