In 2008, for the first time in the history of this country, a black woman became First Lady of the United States. During Barack Obama's presidency, Michelle Obama was ever present in the public eye for her advocacy on issues related to health, military families, education, and for promoting the interests of women and girls. This article contributes to ongoing scholarly discourse, as well as extensive media coverage and analysis, regarding Obama's role as wife and first lady by critically examining how the particular model of motherhood she embraced and exhibited, a model firmly rooted in the black American community, was designed to challenge negative stereotypes of black women, maternity, and families. We address the following questions in this work: How did Obama's identity as a black woman influence the policies she championed as first lady? Does Obama's mothering relate to stereotypes of black mothers and help (re)define black motherhood, and if so, how? What does it mean to be a black mater gentis or mother of the nation? Drawing on her speeches and policy initiatives, we reveal how Michelle Obama defied dominant and oppressive stereotypes of black women and mothers while simultaneously (re)defining black womanhood and motherhood for the nation.
Scholars of race, ethnicity, and politics have long questioned why the discipline of political science has taken so long to recognize the legitimacy of the study of the politics of America’s racial minority groups. The answer to this question, we believe, lies in the historical roots of the discipline. This article examines the complex relationship between racial ideologies and the development of the discipline of political science in the United States. Using a genealogical analysis, we analyze the racist origins of the discipline that arose from the work and attitudes of one of the founders of American political science, John W. Burgess. In an effort to legitimize political science as an empirical field rooted in the scientific method, Burgess and other prominent early political scientists turned to existing “scientific” notions of race. The racial ideologies that spurred the early development of political science continue to influence the ways in which issues of race and ethnicity are embraced and understood within the discipline today and contribute to its lack of diversity.
This research project involves a comparative, cross-national study of truth and reconciliation commissions (TRCs) in countries around the world that have used these extra-judicial institutions to pursue justice and promote national reconciliation during periods of democratic transition or following a civil conflict marked by intense violence and severe human rights abuses. An important objective of truth and reconciliation commissions involves instituting measures to address serious human rights abuses that have occurred as a result of discrimination, ethnocentrism and racism. In recent years, rather than solely utilizing traditional methods of conflict resolution and criminal prosecution, transitional governments have established truth and reconciliation commissions as part of efforts to foster psychological, social and political healing. The primary objective of this research project is to determine why there has been a proliferation of truth and reconciliation commissions around the world in recent decades, and assess whether the perceived effectiveness of these commissions is real and substantial. In this work, using a multi-method approach that involves quantitative and qualitative analysis, I consider the institutional design and structural composition of truth and reconciliation commissions, as well as the roles that these commissions play in the democratic transformation of nations with a history of civil conflict and human rights violations. In addition to a focus on institutional design of truth and reconciliation commissions, I use a group identity framework that is grounded in social identity theory to examine the historical background and sociopolitical context in which truth commissions have been adopted in countries around the world. This group identity framework serves as an invaluable lens through which questions related to truth and reconciliation commissions and other transitional justice mechanisms can be explored. I also present a unique theoretical framework, the reconciliatory democratization paradigm, that is especially useful for examining the complex interactions between the various political elements that directly affect the processes of democratic consolidation and reconciliation in countries in which truth and reconciliation commissions have been established. Finally, I tackle the question of whether successor regimes that institute truth and reconciliation commissions can effectively address the human rights violations that occurred in the past, and prevent the recurrence of these abuses.