Faculty and Staff

Kristy Leissle

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B.A. Psychology, Boston College
M.St. Women’s Studies, Oxford University
M.P.A. Evans School of Public Affairs, University of Washington
Ph.D. Women’s Studies, University of Washington

Office: Huskey Hall 1317
Email: kleissle@uw.edu
Phone: 425-352-5418
Mailing: Box 358563, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011-8246


No matter what topic I am teaching, three aspects of my pedagogy remain constant: critical analytical engagement with texts and media, active participation, and dialogues around social justice. From Africa on Film to Philosophy of Science Fiction, my courses examine issues of inequality—for example, trade imbalances between rich and poor countries, histories of imperialism, and contemporary struggles around race, class, and gender. My goal is always to develop, as a class, skills of inclusion, empathy, and dialogue that help us to both broaden and deepen our understanding of social relations. With that in mind, I emphasize the value of transnational approaches that traverse multiple scales of analysis and diverse geographical contexts; social construction theories that combat limiting forms of essentialism; and analytics of race, class, and gender that raise awareness of everyday forms of privilege and disadvantage.

Recent Courses Taught

BCUSP 107 Thinking Beyond Borders: Philosophical Explorations of Science Fiction
BCUSP 115 Chocolate: A Global Inquiry
BCUSP 118 Luxury Lives: Consumerism in the 21st Century
BIS 264 Africa on Film
BIS 282 Globalization
BIS 490 Economics of Ice: Globalization and the Polar Regions
BISGST 397 Gender and Globalization
SISAF 490 Political Economy of Africa (UW Seattle, African Studies)


My research draws upon studies of feminist international political economy, development, global trade, and sub-Saharan Africa, especially that continent’s political-agricultural and colonial histories. Specifically, my work has focused on the cocoa industry in Ghana and the global trade of cocoa and chocolate. I have been especially interested in the ways that West Africa, the world’s largest cocoa producing region, is represented or “sold back” to consumers of chocolate in North America and Europe—or, more typically, left out of consumer discussions entirely. I have also worked closely with emerging artisanal chocolate makers in the US, a market segment that has grown rapidly in the past decade. As part of my broader engagement with global studies and a focused intention to generate fresh comparative perspectives in my research, I have recently begun studies of the polar regions, including four months working at a historic site on the Antarctic peninsula. Alongside my continued engagement with West African culture, agriculture, and political economy, I am interested in the dynamics of human engagement with the polar regions and the increasing resource extraction and tourism opportunities in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Selected Publications

Introduction & Conclusion, co-authored with Julie Shayne, Taking Risks: Feminist Activism and Research in the Americas, ed. Julie Shayne. Praxis: Theory in Action series. Albany: SUNY Press, 2014.

Invisible West Africa: The Politics of Single Origin Chocolate, Gastronomica, Volume 13, Number 3 (2013): 22-31.

Cosmopolitan Cocoa Farmers: Refashioning Africa in Divine Chocolate Advertisements, Journal of African Cultural Studies, Volume 24, Issue 2 (2012): 121-139.

The Politics of Sweet: A Sketch of the Global Cocoa Trade, in Bittersweet: The Chocolate Show, ed. Anonda Bell. Paul Robeson Galleries, Rutgers University, 2010.