B.A. Psychology, Boston College
M.St. Women’s Studies, Oxford University
M.P.A. Evans School of Public Policy & Governance, University of Washington
Ph.D. Gender, Women & Sexuality Studies, University of Washington
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 Philosophical Explorations of Science Fiction, my courses examine issues of inequality—for example, tenacious poverty among agricultural producers versus corporate power at sites of value-addition; histories of imperialism; and contemporary struggles around gender, race, sexuality, ability, nationality, and class. A primary pedagogical goal is that my students – as well as I, as an instructor – continually strive to develop 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 that raise awareness of everyday forms of privilege and disadvantage.
Recent Courses Taught
BCORE 107 Thinking Beyond Borders: Philosophical Explorations of Science Fiction
BCORE 115 Chocolate: A Global Inquiry
BCUSP 118 Luxury Lives: Consumerism in the 21st Century
BIS 264 Africa on Film
BIS 282 Globalization
BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry: What is the Arctic?
BIS 490 Globalization and the Polar Regions
BISGST 303 History & Globalization
BISGST 397 Gender and Globalization
JSIS 490 Political Economy of Africa (UW Seattle, African Studies)
WOM 200 Introduction to Women’s Studies (UW Seattle, GWSS & Upward Bound)
AES 300 Race, Class, & Gender (UW Seattle, AES)
My research focuses on the politics, economics, and cultures of the global chocolate industry. Drawing on studies of sub-Saharan Africa, commodities trade, colonial histories, advertising histories, development policies, and feminist international political economy, my work is an interdisciplinary inquiry into various aspects of the cocoa-chocolate commodity chain. Specific projects have included: representations of women cocoa farmers in Fairtrade chocolate advertising; representations of West Africa in premium chocolate marketing; Fairtrade impact on women cocoa farmers in Ghana; the meanings of ‘artisan’ within the chocolate industry; and the fast growing segment of US craft chocolate. My current book is entitled Cocoa, and will join the Polity Press “Resources” series, which addresses the geopolitics of key natural resources. For my work on sub-Saharan Africa, I am affiliate faculty with African Studies, UW Seattle.
Based on personal interest, but also my commitment to continually generating fresh comparative perspectives in my work, I have a secondary research and teaching interest in the polar regions. I am interested in the dynamics of human engagement with the Arctic and Antarctic, especially histories of resource extraction and contemporary tourism opportunities. As part of this inquiry, I have undertaken seasonal work at a prominent historic site in Antarctica, Port Lockroy, where my official title was Deputy Postmaster of the British Antarctic Territory. I also contributed to data collection at Port Lockroy for a long-term study of the impact of human presence on local Gentoo penguin reproductive success. For my work on the Arctic, I am affiliate faculty with Canadian Studies, UW Seattle.
Cocoa. Resources series. Cambridge: Polity Press, forthcoming.
‘Artisan’ as Brand: Adding Value in a Craft Chocolate Community, Food, Culture & Society Volume 20, Issue 1 (2017): 37-57.
What Does the Word "Artisan" Mean?, guest blog post for Dandelion Chocolate, October 5, 2016.
Artisan: A ‘worn out’ phrase in US bean-to-bar chocolate?, co-authored with Curtis Vreeland, ConfectioneryNews.com, April 29, 2016.
Why I Teach My Students About Chocolate, guest blog post for Dandelion Chocolate, February 26, 2016.
Craft Chocolate Shakes Up Industry as its Sweet Season Begins, The Conversation: Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair, Economy & Business, October 14, 2015.
Racing the Melt: The Quest for Heat-Resistant Chocolate, The Conversation: Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair, Economy & Business, July 28, 2015.
Labels of Love: How to Choose Chocolate for Your Valentine, The Conversation: Academic Rigor, Journalistic Flair, Economy & Business, February 13, 2015.
Introduction: Research, Risk, and Activism: Feminists’ Stories of Social Justice, 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.
Conclusion: Interdisciplinarity and Privilege, 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.
The Intrigue of Aaron Barthel, Master of the Ephemeral Chocolate Truffle, Alimentum: The Literature of Food, Non-fiction, October 2013.
The Chocolate Fix, yes! magazine, Issue 67 (Fall 2013): 28-32.
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.
The Essence of Chocolate: A Rich, Dark, and Well-kept Secret, co-authored with Andy McShea and Mark A. Smith. Nutrition, Volume 25 (2009): 1104-1105.
The Monolith Science Fiction Short Stories series
Since 2013, IAS faculty David Nixon and I have co-edited a series of science fiction literature entitled The Monolith. The Monolith stories are authored by UW Bothell students and faculty. In 2016, we began mentoring recent IAS graduates to edit and publish The Monolith, and the series continues under their expert stewardship both online and in print.
The Monolith: Science Fiction Short Stories, Volume IV, Mostly Dark Matter, eds. Kyle Piper, Michelle Fessler, and Kristoffer Warren. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2016.
The Monolith: Science Fiction Short Stories, Volume III: What’s In My Head, eds. Kristy Leissle and David Nixon. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2015.
The Monolith: Science Fiction Short Stories, Volume II: Everybody Dies, eds. David Nixon and Kristy Leissle. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2014.
The Monolith: Science Fiction Short Stories, Volume I: Where the Circle Ends, eds. Kristy Leissle and David Nixon. Seattle: CreateSpace, 2013.
Selected film appearances
Penguin Post Office, BBC Nature series, directed by Andrew Graham Brown, AGB Films, filmed at Port Lockroy, Antarctica, 2014.
Bean to Bar, A Film About Artisan Chocolate, directed and produced by Bob Ridgley, Binary Films, 2013.