Dr. Leslie Dorrough Smith joined our department in 2009 and teaches courses in World Religions, Islam, Feminist Philosophy and Introduction to Religious Studies. We are happy to announce that starting in the Fall semester 2011, Dr. Dorrough Smith will be a tenure-track Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Avila. For the 2010-2011 academic year, she is a full-time Visiting Assistant Professor of Religious Studies.
Dr. Dorrough Smith's most recent research focuses on the cultural significance of American Conservative Protestant rhetoric, with special emphasis on the Christian Right. Many scholars who study the Christian Right (NCR) often account for the movement's popularity and distinction by pointing to its absolutist moral positions, its religious fervor, and its selective embrace of seemingly anti-modernist platforms. Unlike other theories of conservative power that focus on the allure of such moral absolutes, Dr. Dorrough Smith's work shows how these absolutes are really not the defining quality of the movement. Rather, they are the byproduct of a certain type of rhetoric (which she calls "chaos rhetoric") that uses chaos, rather than order, imagery to induce persuasion and thereby secure social power. Her work focuses on the linguistic engineering involved in producing chaos rhetoric, and how such movements depend on the strategic manipulation of specific cultural symbols to naturalize and "sell" their political interests.