Each March, the nation celebrates Women’s History Month, which honors the contributions of history-making women to our culture and society. This month, the Hamilton Lugar School will honor the trailblazing women in our community who lead the way for change—at the school, in the nation, and around the world.
This post will be updated frequently.
Professor Clémence Pinaud is an expert on South Sudan and Africa. Her research concerns the history of the relationship between women, civilians at large, and the armed groups in South Sudan’s second and third civil wars. Pinaud spent ten years researching her most recent book, War and Genocide in South Sudan for which she interviewed more than 550 civilians, particularly women, who experienced the heaviest amount of violence.
“I’ve always been privileged in my research talking to ordinary people, mostly women, over the elite, mostly composed of men. That has given me a different perspective on politics and military affairs in South Sudan.”
Learn more Pinaud’s work:
- Book: War and Genocide in South Sudan
- Genocidal Rape In South Sudan: Organization, Function, and Effects
- Patterns of Genocidal Rape in South Sudan
- Op-Ed in Le Monde
Dean Shruti Rana is a legal scholar, professor, and outspoken advocate for women’s rights, immigrant rights, and international human rights law. She directs and helped build the Hamilton Lugar School’s International Law and Institutions degree program and serves as the school’s Assistant Dean for Curricular and Undergraduate Affairs and Diversity Officer. Previous roles include a position as a Social Affairs Officer at the United Nations, where Rana worked on international women’s human rights issues and treaties.
“I bring my perspectives and experiences of various forms of marginalization to all the work that I do, and these experiences have helped fuel my desire to create change and work for equality as a scholar, teacher, and community member.”
Learn more Rana’s work:
- Covid-19’s Gendered Fault Lines And Their Implications For International
- The Pandemic Paradox in International Law
- Global Panel Launches Toolkit for Advancing Women’s Land and Property Rights
Professor Maria Hamilton Abegunde has been in the field of academia for 30+ years and is the first person to earn a PhD in IU’s Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies (AAADS). She is the founding director of The Graduate Mentoring Center for the Bloomington campus and a faculty member in AAADS. Her work spans multiple mediums, including podcasts, books, essays, and poetry performances.
“I am a priest, poet, healer, Memory Keeper, and Black Studies practitioner. I am committed to helping people heal themselves and historical traumas related to slavery, violence, oppression. I invite people to consider the power of memory to shape who we are, and the importance of knowing our histories, but not allowing ourselves to be tethered to them in ways that do not help us move forward… Your ancestors walk with you. If you listen closely, they will also guide you. Learn what your voice and ideas sound like to you, then trust them. Know that your sister-friends will support you and help you to develop and hear that voice. They will also remind you when you need not be silent and when you should scream out loud. Know what is un-negotiable for you and why. Choose when and where you enter, and with whom.”
Learn more about Abegunde’s work
Dr. Betty Dlamini is a senior lecturer in the HLS African Studies Program, as well as an author, performer, and expert in the theatrical arts. Her work entitled “Using the Arts for Social Change” helped launch her career and interdisciplinary focus and was instrumental in her winning an invitation to an event with Her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II.
“All my work has connected to my identity in one way or another. From my very early days as a “young researcher” in the Southern African Research and Documentation Centre, I have been interested in research that relates to the development (betterment) of women and the people that matter to them (all people). Exploring that has called for a focus on the histories and cultures of the communities I am part of, which is Africa.” She wants emerging scholars to know that it is “important not to lose yourself as you embark on the scholarly journey. Maintaining a balance of all that matters to you is important because this is not a rehearsal of life.”
Learn more about Dlamini’s work
- Because of Gogo Mhlatase Ruth Tfwala (HLS blog)
Professor Jessica O’Reilly is a professor in the HLS Department of International Studies and an anthropologist studying the intersection of climate scientists and policymakers and. Her work is nuanced and complex, as she studies not just the objective truths of climate change but also the lives and biases of the people that are trying to reverse it.
“There are incredible role models and allies in climate action, science, and policy. Marginalized people were the first to grasp the implications of emerging climate science on people’s lives and have been advocating to solve the crisis since then. This includes women and youth, who have become climate leaders across the spectrum–leading marches, conducting research, writing policy, and running for office. People in the climate community understand that we cannot solve anthropogenic climate change by technical means only; it also requires attention to solving social, cultural, political, and economic inequalities and inequities, which are products of the same systems that have brought us to this point.”
She finds that her own identity offers her new perspectives within this research, saying, “I study scientists, who generally strive to eliminate subjectivity in their research as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean that subjectivity doesn’t matter. Science is a human endeavor, and increasing diversity–not simply representation, but actually improving understandings among people with different perspectives–has improved the questions that are asked, the solutions that are proposed, and the quality of research experiences. I hope that my research, which explores the cultural dimensions of science, sheds some light on that.”
Learn more about O’Reilly’s work:
Professor Asma Afsaruddin is an expert on Islamic studies, specializing in Islamic religious and political thought, contemporary Islamic movements, gender roles, and Islam in modern society. She has written several books and articles and is currently editing a Handbook on Islam and Women, forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
Afsaruddin’s research emphasizes the importance of knowing the past to better understand the present. Her holistic perspective is particularly valuable when writing about the phenomenon of jihad in Muslim-majority and Muslim-minority societies. She notes that taking a longer historical perspective not only helps trace jihad’s evolution through time but also helps contextualize the various perspectives that have developed through the centuries. She also advocates looking at literature produced by non-elite and dissenting groups to retrieve the broadest range of perspectives that exist on any given topic, giving voice to those on the margins of society.
One of Asfaruddin’s most significant research projects involved excavating the lives and contributions of Muslim women scholars living in the pre-modern Arab world. The project helped her realize that though many things have changed over the centuries, there remain some constants for women in the academy: difficulty gaining fulsome recognition of their scholarship and work being less valorized compared to men.
Learn more about Afsaruddin’s work:
- “Contemporary Muslims and the Challenge of Modernity”
- “What Sharia Law Means: Five Questions Answered”
- “Reconceptualizing the Military Jihad on the Basis of Non-Legal Literature”
Professor Jessica Steinberg is a trained political scientist whose research focuses on the political economy of development, local politics of natural resource extraction, territorial sovereignty, and violent conflict. In particular, she employs a mixed-methods approach, including game theory, comparative case analysis, and statistical methods, and she has conducted fieldwork in Congo-Brazzaville, Zambia, DRC, Senegal, and Mozambique. Since 2014, she has regularly taught courses on economic development, natural resources, research design, and models here at HLS.
In her first book, “Mines, Communities, and States: The Local Politics of Natural Resource Extraction in Africa”, she explored the environmental consequences of extraction and how they are mitigated through local communities. This book won the International Studies Association’s 2020 Harold Sprout Award for the Best Book in Environmental Politics. The project she is most proud of is her article in the Journal of Theoretical Politics entitled “Strong’ states and strategic governance: A model of territorial variation in-state presence.” It is this project in which she developed a formal model that explores when strong states might strategically retain regions of limited state presence or subcontract state functions to non-state actors.
When discussing how fieldwork and data collection was influenced on personal levels, she said this: “I have found that my identity has afforded me unexpected benefits on occasion – people’s willingness to engage or provide assistance has been extensive, especially in places where I stood out and where I was not perceived as a threat. However, there were other times where this identity has occasionally created some obstacles… I think this is because I stood out more than I might otherwise because I identify as a woman. Some of these experiences were predictable, but others caught me by surprise. Regardless, as a white, American, cis-woman, I usually experience more privilege than the majority of people I see and meet while conducting fieldwork – this requires my ongoing reflection of their role in my scholarship and my representation of their voices.”
Learn more about Professor Steinberg’s work:
- Mines, Communities, and States: The Local Politics of Natural Resource Extraction in Africa
- Book review
- Strong’ states and strategic governance: A model of territorial variation in state presence
Professor Nicole Serena Kousaleos is a senior lecturer here at HLS whose research focuses on sexual violence, recovery, and empowerment, and my current research interest is in addressing interpersonal violence both locally and globally using creative and phenomenological ethnographic methods.
After living for 10months in rural village Cote d’Ivoire in a fieldwork team aiding my partner’s Fulbright research, she developed an intersectional feminist approach to community-based ethnography that foregrounds the voices and experiences of women. With a grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health, she conducted long-term ethnographic research on the aftereffects of gender violence among diverse populations of women in the Midwest. She has utilized this ethnographic method in community-based social research studies of gender and youth violence in North Carolina (UNCG Center for the Study of Social Issues) and Bloomington.
Professor Kousaleos is dedicated to research that solves social problems while empowering those experiencing violence to transform their lives and identities. As an artist, writer and dancer, she is particularly interested in the use of the creative artistic expression in local empowerment strategies. She wants emerging woman-identifying scholars to know that she believes we do our best work when we are listening to our students and ourselves. “The linear path is not always the best or even accessible, but every struggle can be turned into the work that challenges the structural issues we want to address.”
Below is a poem that Professor Kousaleos believes is the best way she can represent what her scholarship means and how she thinks about it.
Turkish cigarette (reflections on an unexpected gift) 3.2020
Standing in the upper deck of the parking lot overlooking the stream by the big, old twisted tree; The industrial metal of SUVs hulk around me like retired rugby players at the neighborhood pub.
I light a Turkish cigarette and inhale deeply, captivated by how quickly it burns down toward the filter.
This thin roll of paper and tobacco is a fitting vessel for nostalgic memories and radical hopes—yet it was given so generously in this place where everyone hides and no one gives. A small gift placed quietly on my desk after a lecture.
This has become my home, my battleground, a space of loneliness and liminality I inhabit and steel myself against, all the while hoping that my anarchist will and resistance translates to my students in this coded language we are forced to speak.
The thin wafting cloud of smoke envelopes my face and disappears out across the green, floating away like the dreams, anger, and expectations I lit on fire—my first Turkish cigarette clumsy between my fingers at 19.
Then, on a rotting balcony jutting out above the street I rebelliously tore open a box of Turkish cigarettes thinking I could burn away the abuses of the white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy with a match and finely rolled tobacco.
Now I use my lectures as my weapon, I burn down ideas and fight ghosts, challenging my students to take up the revolution, my vulnerable presence, my arsenal, and my legacy.