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Leslie Dorrough Smith

Leslie Dorrough Smith

Leslie Smith

Curriculum Vitae

Dr. Smith has been at Avila since 2010, where she is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department.  Before coming to Avila, she taught at a number of different institutions, including Missouri State, Drury University, and Pepperdine University.

Dr. Smith’s work is interdisciplinary, drawing from sociological, historical, critical, and feminist theoretical perspectives.  Her primary research is concerned with the ways in which social groups use religious language to create avenues of social influence and political power, with particular focus on American evangelicals.  More specifically, her interest in how language has shaped sex and gender-related public policy led to the publication of her first book, Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America (Oxford University Press, 2014), which provides a rhetorical critique of one of the nation’s largest conservative women’s movements.

Dr. Smith is also interested in the methods scholars use to study groups that they politically oppose, and she has recently finished chapters for two separate, edited volumes that explore everything from feminist scholarly methods to the politics of code-switching.  She is the author of numerous other articles and book chapters, and is a frequent community speaker on various topics related to religion and culture.  Future monograph-length projects include an examination of how sex scandals are handled by the American public, and what impact such events have on the rhetorical conceptualization of the political process.  In addition, Dr. Smith is a member of the Culture on the Edge collective, an international working group of scholars probing questions of politics and identity, and she is an active contributor to the group’s blog.

On Teaching

I think that one of the most popular yet inaccurate attitudes towards education has to do with our misperception that teaching is simply the transmission of facts from one person to another. While there’s no doubt that facts are exchanged in the classroom, I think a better description of teaching is that it’s the event that causes critical thought to become reality…

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I think that one of the most popular yet inaccurate attitudes towards education has to do with our misperception that teaching is simply the transmission of facts from one person to another.  While there’s no doubt that facts are exchanged in the classroom, I think a better description of teaching is that it’s the event that causes critical thought to become reality — it’s where connections, patterns, and contradictions are revealed — and all of these things comprise the analysis that teaching not only provides, but hopefully helps students to create for themselves.  I tend to think of students as scholars in training.  Even though very few of them will go on to become scholars in the academic sense, I hope that what they learn is how to see the patterns that are endemic to the social world, patterns which often go unseen or are simply ignored, and which are fueled by the politics of social life.  The ability to recognize these patterns is an essential component of critical thought.”

Education

B.A., Missouri State University
M.A., Missouri State University
Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

Research and Teaching Interests

Sociology of Religion
American Conservative Protestantism (Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism)
Feminist and Gender Theory
American Religious History (General)
Gender and Religion
Discourse and Rhetoric Studies
Critical Social Theory
Pluralism and Religious Tolerance

Selected Publications

Righteous Rhetoric book

Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America

Interview with Leslie Smith about Righteous Rhetoric

The Normalcy of Emotional Pornography

Pizza Hut: The Best Indian Food Around

We’re All Beautiful

Everything is a Cemetery

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