How diversity matters and changes institutions –

How diversity matters and changes institutions

By Kristen Smole, To interview and Valeria Sinclair-Chapman, Purdue University

Legislative politics has traditionally been considered a male-dominated subfield of political science. Do you think the landscape has changed or is changing? More broadly, how has your identity as a woman of color shaped the way you navigate the discipline?

I sort of fell into the study of legislative politics. I loved the study of institutions and rules – how knowing how rules work helps protect those already in power, but could also provide opportunities to transform political spaces. I dipped my toe into the study of public policy under Randall Ripley and parties under Paul Beck, but I always seem to come back to legislative studies. My first lessons in legislative politics were with Samuel Patterson. He was well known for the study of comparative legislatures. In a class I took with him, I pitched the argument in an article that there could be democratic principles in one-party legislatures with an examination of Ghana and Japan. I did well on paper, but the feedback I received was mostly dismissive. Now, years later, I can see there were major flaws and a lot of naivety in my argument but, at the time, I mostly felt rejected and out of place.

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