Jessica Kaiser

Jessica Kaiser Profile Picture
American Studies

Mentor / Lab:
Bill Mullen & Ryan Schneider

Specific Research Area / Project:
The Discomfort of Discussion.

Undergraduate Institution:
Indiana University

Research Profile:

My research interests include examining how the discourses of race, gender, and class within academia often operate to create and maintain systems of exclusion, maintaining the hierarchies constructed by societal privilege. I am deeply invested in the project of recreating the academy as an institution that acts for social justice, and I mean that in a very literal sense—my theoretical approach is based in critical theory, critical race theory, and feminist standpoint epistemology, and one of the primary focal points of my work is an insistence that theory lead into practice and thus into action.

As I examine these discourses of race, gender, and class, I particularly consider how they reify or contest privilege during classroom discourse in fields that are not specifically focused on addressing those topics, as part of an effort to oppose the normalization and silencing of discussions of privilege and inequality. Additionally, I seek ways to bring the voices of those who historically have been disregarded into the conversation about acting for social justice. Relegating the topic of race and gender to only those classes “about” race or gender, such as African-American history, Latin American novelists, or feminist literature, implies the cultural assumption that it is possible for an educational institution to be apolitical and colorblind—but “apolitical” equates to supporting the status quo. Finding points of connection and critically examining disparate attitudes about race is vital if the future is to be different from the history.

About Me:

Jessica Kaiser About Me Picture

I’m going to save the world. Not by some grand gesture or ultimate sacrifice, because this isn’t a movie where I get to sweep in and rescue the uneducated masses. I’m changing the world by teaching. Don’t get me wrong; I wouldn’t turn the heroic role down if it were available—but the heroic role is a one-off, and the world isn’t changed by one person’s act one time. Every day, each of us makes decisions that have the potential to make the world better or make the world worse. Both personally and professionally, I do my best to make the decisions that will make the world better. Education describes the world—and by so doing, defines what is and what can be. My goal is to help my students acquire the critical thinking skills and cultural knowledge that will allow them to begin rewriting the definitions.


  • “Navigating Contradictions: Some Feminist Thoughts on the Institutional Experience,” National Women’s Studies Association Conference, Roundtable, November 2011.
  • “Leveling Up: Gee, Gaming, and the Composition Classroom,” Conference on College Composition and Communication: Contesting Boundaries, Paper Presentation, April 2011.
  • “The Pedagogical Problem of Discussion,” Race & Pedagogy National Conference: Creative Engagements of Identity, Identification, and Intersectionality for Teaching and Learning Across the Human Sciences, Paper Presentation, November 2010.
  • “Battlestar Galactica: Is ‘the Other’ Us?”, Southwest Texas Popular Culture and American Culture Association Annual Conference, Paper Presentation, February 2010.


  • Purdue Doctoral Fellowship, 2009-2010, 2010-2011.
  • Best Interdisciplinary Graduate Program Presentation American Studies 2011.
  • Bilsland Strategic Initiatives Fellowship, 2011-2012.
  • American Studies

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