"You can't think about politics without considering the people on the ground -- the ones who are represented, particularly those who are often homogenized and marginalized."
When you ask Atiya Stokes-Brown how she got involved in her chosen field, she says that it's in her blood. "My parents were very politically active," she explains, "and people were always at our house, sitting around the table, discussing different issues. It's all I ever thought about doing."
Stokes-Brown, a member of the Bucknell faculty since 2008, pictured herself teaching in a liberal arts college. "I like the teacher-scholar model, and I like that the students are held to a rigorous academic standard," she says, adding that her main objective in teaching is to leave students with a more realistic concept of how the world works politically.
"When people think politics and political science, they think about Congress, the presidency, or the judiciary," she says. "However, you can't think about politics without considering the people on the ground — the ones who are represented, particularly those who are often homogenized and marginalized. They need to be understood to get a full picture of the political system."
To achieve the broad perspective that assists with political understanding, Stokes-Brown explores the question of identity in politics. "Identity is the way we see ourselves, but the way we see ourselves might not be our own choice," she says. "I'm interested in the subjective way in which identity is created, and the external forces pushing and molding our self-images."
Stokes-Brown's work was recently published in The Politics of Race in Latino Communities: Walking the Color Line (Routledge 2012). It explores the role of race in contemporary Latino politics, examining the development and political consequences of Latino racial identity. Before the book had even gone to final proof, the avid political scientist began compiling research for her next project, which explores gender politics and identity.
"There's a phenomenon that occurs called symbolic mobilization, meaning when you see someone you can identify with, you're more likely to get involved in politics. For women, seeing a 'Hillary' motivates them to greater involvement. I want to turn my focus to the effect symbolic mobilization has on African-American women. Identity matters in political decision-making in so many ways."
Posted September 2012
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