Leslie Smith, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Religious Studies; Chair of the Women’s and Gender Studies Department. Phone 816-501-3684

Dr. Smith has been at Avila since 2010, where she is currently Associate 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 University, 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.

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