lgrattan@wellesley.edu

(781) 283-2460
Political Science
B.A., College of William and Mary; M.A., Ph.D., Duke University
Pendleton Hall East Rm. 230



Laura Grattan
Assistant Professor of Political Science

Researches and teaches political theory, with a focus on grassroots organizing and the politics of race, ethnicity, and culture.


My research is at the intersection of democratic theory and practice, focusing on grassroots politics, social movements, and critical studies of race, ethnicity, and culture. I'm currently writing a book that evaluates contemporary populist politics in the United States in light of a long tradition of populist rhetoric and organizing across the ideological spectrum. I analyze how populist movements today are influencing the development of political imagination, specifically with regard to contests over the changing nature of democracy, political economy, the state, and citizenship. Other key research projects engage debates over post-racialism and the ethics and politics of immigration in the United States.

In my teaching, I approach political theory as a democratic activity. I encourage students to get curious about the roots underlying competing perspectives on concrete problems, to interrogate the limits of the knowledge and assumptions they bring to evaluating those problems, and to deliberate across differences in the classroom to imagine promising directions for political action. Many of the courses I teach—including Race and Political Theory; Politics of the Right, Left, and Center; and Introduction to Political Theory—are thematically designed to facilitate this approach. Other courses, such as Modern European Political Theory and American Political Thought, additionally emphasize how the political theories we have inherited today were themselves produced and contested in specific historical and geographic contexts.

My research and teaching are animated by years of community organizing with the Industrial Areas Foundation in Durham, N.C., and by my longtime association the Charles F. Kettering Foundation. Through my work with the latter, I am co-editor, with John Dedrick and Harris Dientsfrey, of Deliberation and the Work of Higher Education: Innovations for the Classroom, Campus, and Community, which explores issues and practices of civic engagement among college students.