Nancy Powers teaches comparative politics and works with the Center for the Study of American Democracy, where her role includes directing the CSAD Student Associates program. 

She is part of a team of researchers studying working and living conditions of Latin migrants in rural Ohio. Her earlier research on democratization amidst poverty resulted in the book, “Grassroots Expectations of Democracy and Economy: Argentina in Comparative Perspective” (University of Pittsburgh Press). Powers has worked as a legislative aide in the Ohio General Assembly; an advocate for immigration reform and farmworkers’ rights; and a grant writer for small faith-based non-profits.

Areas of Expertise

Immigration, Latin American politics, global poverty, democratic theory in comparative perspective, political activism


1995 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Notre Dame

1988 — Master of Arts from University of Notre Dame

1983 — Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College, cum laude

Courses Recently Taught

This course studies political beliefs, electoral behavior and political representation of Latino/a Americans in the U.S.A. We seek to understand what unites and divides voters and political actors of Latin American heritage; to grapple with the representation of shared (and disparate) interests, beliefs or identities; and to examine the variety of ways that leaders and leadership organizations bring Latino identity into the work of politics and democracy. While focused on one pan-ethnic sub-population of U.S. society, the course raises questions about political participation, interests and representation that are fundamental to the understanding of liberal democratic politics more broadly. The course bridges the fields of comparative, international and American politics. This counts toward an elective requirement for the major (but not for the upper-level American politics requirement). No prerequisite. Sophomore standing.

Migration is a worldwide phenomenon posing both opportunities and challenges for immigrants, their families, their countries of origin and the countries to which they move. Immigration policy often inspires virulent debates over border control, national identity, admission and citizenship policies, "guest" workers and bilingualism. The issues raise fundamental questions about human rights, citizenship and a political community’s rights to define and defend itself. The challenges are exacerbated by the fact that contemporary immigration is managed by nation-states, while migrants move in response to global economics and transnational relationships. This course deals with these issues by examining the social, economic and political forces giving rise to immigration today; the different ways nations have chosen to define citizenship and how those rules affect immigrants; the different strategies nations have used to incorporate immigrants; attempts to control immigration and their consequences; and the implications of immigration for recipient societies. About half of the course deals with the immigration experience and controversies in the United States, particularly with respect to migration from Mexico. The other half looks at these issues in Western Europe as well as in the developing world. This course is sometimes taught with a community-based research component, depending on the instructor. This counts toward the comparative politics/international relations requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing.

This course examines key political events and debates in Latin America (1970s to the present) through the lens of film and the pages of fiction, using works by Latin American directors and writers. We examine the works of fiction not from a literary or artistic perspective, but as political arguments that reflect the political debates at the time they are created, contribute to a nation's self-understanding or "collective memory" about critical moments in a nation's life, and influence how readers/viewers understand political issues and questions. Students view films outside of class time. Knowledge of Spanish is not necessary. This counts toward the seminar or comparative politics/international relations requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Sophomore standing. Offered every other year.

This course focuses on contemporary Latin America with emphasis on the institutions and quality of democracies in the region. Focusing on institutions, civil society and norms, we analyze contemporary Latin American democracies from the perspectives of representation, participation, legitimacy, accountability and the rule of law. We examine successes and innovations, as well as problems and challenges for democracy. Readings draw on data and case studies of many countries, but most of the course does not focus on particular countries, rather on core concepts and theoretical approaches used to analyze politics in the region. The course uses advanced readings and a strong emphasis on discussion, in-class presentations and writing. Prior coursework in Latin America or PSCI 240 is recommended but not required. This counts toward the seminar or comparative politics/international relations requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Junior standing.

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