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Heather Switzer

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Assistant Professor
Faculty, TEMPE Campus, Mailcode 6403
Biography

Heather Switzer has a background in English and gender studies, and she has been teaching undergraduate students at research 1 universities since 1992. She received her doctorate in public and international affairs with a graduate certificate in women's studies from Virginia Tech in December 2009. Switzer joined ASU's faculty in women and gender studies in the School for Social Transformation in 2010.

Switzer's interdisciplinary research combines several fields including critical girlhood studies, critical development and globalization studies (emphasis on East Africa), transnational feminist theory, feminist disability studies, feminist methodologies, and feminist methods (emphasis on: ethnography, qualitative interviewing, and visual and textual analysis).  Her primary research sites are in Maasai communities of southern Kenya (the intersections of girlhood and development) and U.S. university campuses (the intersections of young womanhood and disability/chronic illness). Switzer is also an RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) who served in Ethiopia (1998-1999). She lives in Tempe with her husband, David, a K-12 school administrator, and their dog Kidogo and cat, Waizimu.

Education
  • Ph.D. Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech 2009
  • Graduate Certificate in Women's Studies and Graduate Certificate in Non-profit Management, Virginia Tech 2009

 

 

Research Interests

Professor Switzer's book, When the Light is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya, arrives from the University of Illinois Press in 2018. In it, Switzer uses qualitative data gathered through an ethnographic case study of Maasai schoolgirls’ perceptions of education and development in their everyday lives to complicate seamlessly affirmative development discourse targeting poor, racialized adolescent girls’ lives in the Global South for intervention and investment. The book’s arguments are based on in-depth interviews with over 100 Maasai girls ages 10-20 enrolled in nine rural co-ed government-run primary day schools in Kajiado County, Kenya, key adults in their lives, including interviews with 30 mothers and 30 teachers, along with 10 months of fieldwork observations. Operating at multiple scales, the book critically analyzes transnational development discourse that exceptionalizes educated girls as the “solution” to structurally generated global crises as well as local-level negotiations of global “girl power.” Switzer theorizes “schoolgirlhood” as a relatively new socio-cultural space for Maasai girls who go to school that creates unprecedented opportunities for the negotiation of gendered and generational relations of power while also creating new forms of regulation because the girls are in school. Each chapter offers insight into the production of performance of schoolgirlhood against and within girls’ education discourse, and the conclusion theorizes “GID” (Girls in Development) as a distinct knowledge paradigm in the genealogy of conventional frameworks for thinking about women, gender, and development, WID (Women and Development) and GAD (Gender and Development). 

Her work is published in Girlhood Studies Journal, Feminist Theory, Feminist Formations, Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies, and Gender Issues. She is co-editor of the Transnational Girlhoods book series along with Claudia Mitchell and Bodil Formark published by Berghahn Press.

Dr. Switzer is currently at work on three projects.

One extends her ethnographic work in Maasai communities in rural Kajiado County, Kenya with a specific focus on the experiences of secondary schoolgirls who leave school for pregnancy. Interested in the cultural politics of schoolgirl pregnancy, this study centers girl-mothers’ embodied social experience of pregnancy, motherhood, schooling, and girl-woman-hood in the context of moral panic discourse surrounding schoolgirl drop-out at local and global levels.

A second project focuses on the intersectional cultural politics and embodied experience of invisible disability (e.g. Lupus, endometriosis, AD/HD, depression, and so on) and young womanhood among traditionally aged (18-24) undergraduate women. Along with Dr. Anastasia Todd (WGS Postdoctoral Scholar), this project focuses on understanding how full-time US undergraduate students who identify as women manage and experience chronic illnesses and disabilities that are invisible to others. Switzer and Todd consider, for example, how young women work (often through the management of affect, or emotion, mood) to “pass” as “normal” while they also negotiate the often fraught experience of “coming out” as disabled.

Her third project, along with co-editors Dr. Emily Bent (WGS, Pace University) and Dr. Karishma Desai (Education, Rutgers University) is an edited collection of original research focused on girls in development. See CFP below.

Dr. Switzer teaches courses on girlhood, visual and narrative cultural analysis, feminist methodologies, and global feminist theory. She’s supervised doctoral research concerning a range of topics, including:

  • feminist cultural studies analysis of disabled girlhood as an ideological formation in contemporary US media culture [Gender Studies PhD.] 
  • feminist cultural studies analysis of transgender youth as objects of, and creators of, US media culture [Gender Studies PhD.]
  • feminist rhetorical analysis of circulations of Title IV and US postfeminism through circulations of women’s sport across several mediated sites [English, Rhetoric and Composition PhD.]
  • feminist Foucauldian intersectional analysis of representations of women sportscasters as well as qualitative investigations of women sportscasters’ experiences [Global Mass Media PhD.]
  • intersectional analysis of the relationships among local nonprofits that support girls of color in STEM, their funders, and the communities they serve [Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology PhD]
  • feminist genealogic analysis of girls’ serial literature, 1900-2008, written and consumed in the US (from the Dorothy Dale series through Sweet Valley High) [Gender Studies PhD]

 

Research Group

Dr. Switzer, Dr. Karishma Desai (Rutgers University) and Dr. Emily Bent (Pace University) are currently preparing an edited collection for possible publication in a new book series, Transnational Girlhoods published by Berghahn Press. See the Call for Chapter Proposals here:

Girls in Global Development: Theoretical Contestations, Empirical Demands

Over the last several years scholars from the range of disciplines associated with girlhood studies have critiqued neocolonial assumptions embedded in international development agendas that exceptionalize poor, racialized adolescent girls in the Global South as ideal sites for intervention based on regimes of truth which authorize their potential to multiply investment, interrupt intergenerational poverty, and predict economic growth. Scholars have also critiqued how girls in the Global North are problematically positioned as “empowered” relative to girls in the South through affective appeals to (post)feminist (neo)liberal sensibilities that reinforce the status quo rather than disrupt geopolitical relations of power. By attending to the cultural production of girlhood(s), this interdisciplinary literature sheds important light on the ideological operations that enable the “girl-powering” of development. According to these arguments, all girls in a global system are variously targeted by a complex web of institutional actors including multinational corporations, bilaterial aid agencies, multilateral financial institutions, and transnational non-governmental organizations with uneven effects. Girls and their girlhoods in the context of global development as a transnational process are now the subjects of inquiry across a range of empirical sites, theoretical frameworks, and institutional domains, indicating the “coalescing” of “Girls in Development” as a distinctive body of discourses.

The editors of the proposed collection take as our starting point the need to map this theoretical and empirical terrain. We propose GID (Girls in Development) as an emergent knowledge paradigm and category of analysis for thinking about the production of girlhoods and girls’ lives transnationally that overlaps with and also diverges from the enduring, and contested, conventional paradigms for thinking about women, gender and global development: WID (Women in Development) and GAD (Gender and Development). A primary goal of the collection is to develop a critical genealogy of GID, map its theoretical and empirical scope, and address its possible futures.

This collection will consider the impact and implications of GID in a variety of geo-political locations. Taken together, contributions will define, refine, and frame what GID means presently and speculate about its future(s). We look to bring together disparate readings of GID as an analytic framework, while simultaneously investigating how GID informs development work and activism involving girls across global systems of power. We encourage inter/transdisciplinarity approaches and seek contributions that decenter the Global North while acknowledging the powerful role Western nations play in shaping global development paradigms, policies, practices, discourses. Finally, this collection will take a critical transnational feminist approach to GID. We see this collection as an opportunity to complicate normative assumptions about girls and girlhoods in global development discourses and practices beyond the increasingly hegemonic edict to “invest in girls” as “smart economics.”

Against this backdrop, the editors seek abstracts for chapters that examine and engage broad, interrelated, and mutually informing foci:

  1. Conceptual analyses that historicize and theorize what we are calling GID (Girls in Development), particularly as this paradigm relates to WID and GAD (and WAD), and related concepts such as empowerment, agency, race, mainstreaming, and so on, including theorizations of GID futures.
  2. Visual and textual analyses of “girlhood” as a constructed category produced within and through international development processes.
  3. Empirical studies of girls’ lives and experiences as a part of global development processes (e.g. education, health, microfinance, post-conflict reconstruction and so on) in any geopolitical location.

Chapters should engage the multifaceted and complex experiences of girls in development and/or the production of girlhood(s) in these processes across a range of sites including digital or social media, film and television, marketing or consumption practices, fundraising and awareness raising campaigns as well as through funding mechanisms and development projects (e.g. workshops, trainings, school curricula, girls’ clubs, sports, etc.), development policies and practices at multiple (and interrelated) scales (local, national, transnational), across development sectors (e.g. education, health, micro-finance, political participation, etc.), and in any geopolitical location.

Possible topics for chapters include: 

  • Historical research that attends to the legacies/reconstitution of colonialism in contemporary global development processes focused on girls and/or girlhoods.
  • Analyses of girlhood(s) in global development processes as constructed in film, television, and/or digital media.
  • Analyses of girlhood(s) as constructed in development policies, programs, etc. at any scale (local, national, transnational).
  • Examinations of adolescence as a gendered, racialized, and biosocial process in the context of global development policies and processes (e.g. constructions of “adolescence” in development discourse; examinations of how “adolescent” girls experience “adolescence”).
  • The intersections of specific social categories based on social location with girlhood(s) (e.g. class, caste, age, sexuality, dis/ability, ethnicity, linguistic community, nationality, indigeneity, religion, refugee or displaced person status, combatant, marital status, motherhood, migrant, etc.) in the context of global development processes.
  • Examinations of (in)visibilities produced by development discourses and processes (e.g. disabled girlhood; queer girlhood; transgirlhood; affluent/elite girlhood; pregnant schoolgirlhood; girl-motherhood).   
  • Critical examinations of development discourses around girls’ rights, empowerment, leadership, agency, opportunity (e.g. Can these concepts be reclaimed for radical purposes?).  
  • Critical examinations of the role of celebrity humanitarianism in girl-centered development agendas.
  • Critical examinations of girls’ activism and/or girl-driven social justice movements (e.g. “young feminism,” #youngfems) that focus on global development.
  • Analyses that attend to affect(s) in global development sites, processes, practices.
  • Elaborations of methodological innovations for researching girls, and girlhoods, in global development processes.

We welcome individual and co-authored abstracts and chapters from established and emerging scholars internationally, including graduate students and scholars outside traditional academic spaces.

Abstracts of 200-250 words (not including works cited) are due on April 30, 2018.

We anticipate notifying selected contributions by May 15, 2018.

Full length final chapter submissions of 6,000 – 8,000 words (including notes and references) are due on August 1, 2018.

Please submit chapter abstracts to the editors of the collection:

Dr. Heather Switzer, Dr. Karishma Desai, and Dr. Emily Bent

at girlsindevelopment2018@gmail.com with the subject line: Chapter Abstract.

This edited collection will be considered as part of a new blind peer-reviewed book series by Berghahn Press entitled, Transnational Girlhoods, edited by Claudia Mitchell (McGill University); Ann Smith (McGill University); Bodil Formark (Umea University); and Heather Switzer (Arizona State University).

 

 

 

Publications
  • Switzer, Heather. Forthcoming, October 2018. When the Light is Fire: Maasai Schoolgirls in Contemporary Kenya. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

  • Switzer, Heather, Emily Bent, and Crystal Endsley. 2016. “Precarious Politics and Girl Effects: Exploring the Limits of the Girl Gone Global.” Feminist Formations 28(1): 33-59. DOI: 10.1352/ff.206.0014.

  • Bent, Emily and Heather Switzer. 2016b. “Oppositional Girlhoods and the Challenge of Relational Politics.” Gender Issues DOI: 10.1007/s12147-016-9161-x

  • Switzer, Heather. 2013. “(Post)Feminist Development Fables: The Girl Effect and the Production of Sexual Subjects.” Feminist Theory 14(3): 345-360. DOI:10.1177/1464700113499855.

  • Switzer, Heather. 2010. “Disruptive Discourses: Kenyan Maasai Schoolgirls Make Themselves.” Girlhood Studies Journal 3(1): 137-155. DOI:10.3167/ghs.2010.030109.

  • Leong, Karen, Roberta Chevrette, Ann Hibner Koblitz, Karen Kuo, and Heather Switzer. 2015. “Introduction.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women’s Studies 36(3): vi-xv.

Summer 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 300Women & Gender Contempry Soc
WST 378Global Feminist Theory
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 498Pro-Seminar
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 590Reading and Conference
WST 592Research
WST 593Applied Project
WST 599Thesis
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 300Women & Gender Contempry Soc
WST 421Girlhood and Adolescence
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 498Pro-Seminar
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 590Reading and Conference
WST 592Research
WST 593Applied Project
WST 599Thesis
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Summer 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 378Global Feminist Theory
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 498Pro-Seminar
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 590Reading and Conference
WST 592Research
WST 593Applied Project
WST 599Thesis
WST 603Engendering Methodology
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 421Girlhood and Adolescence
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 498Pro-Seminar
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 592Research
WST 593Applied Project
WST 599Thesis
WST 640Visual & Narrative Culture
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Summer 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Spring 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 378Global Feminist Theory
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 603Engendering Methodology
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Fall 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 191First-Year Seminar
WST 421Girlhood and Adolescence
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Summer 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 790Reading and Conference
Spring 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 421Girlhood and Adolescence
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 603Engendering Methodology
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Fall 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 498Pro-Seminar
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 640Visual & Narrative Culture
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Summer 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 790Reading and Conference
Spring 2014
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 493Honors Thesis
WST 499Individualized Instruction
WST 603Engendering Methodology
WST 690Reading and Conference
WST 790Reading and Conference
WST 792Research
WST 799Dissertation
Fall 2013
Course NumberCourse Title
WST 100Women, Gender, and Society
WST 421Girlhood and Adolescence
WST 492Honors Directed Study
WST 690Reading and Conference
Presentations
  • Switzer, Heather. "Girls’ Studies in the United States and Abroad". National WOmen's Studies Association annual meeting (Nov 2013).
  • Switzer, Heather. "Moving Targets: the sexual economy of schooling and limit(s) of schoolgirl agency,". African Studies Association annual meeting (Nov 2013).
  • Heather Switzer and Larisa Warhol. "In Her Mother(’s) Tongue: Language Use, Gender Identity and Education in Kenya’s Maasailand,". Western Regional Comparative and International Education Society Western Regional Conference, Octobe (Oct 2012).
  • Heather, Switzer and Emily Bent. "When Girl Meets Girl Child: A Critical Literature Review of Girlhoods in a Global Context,". National Women’s Studies Association annual meeting, Oakland, CA, November 2012 (Sep 2012).
  • Larisa Warhol and Heather Switzer. "School(ing) Girls: Localizing Transnational Gender Identities in Kenya’s Maasailand,". American Association for Applied Linguistics 2012 Conference, Boston, Massachusetts, March 24-27, 20 (May 2012).
  • Heather Switzer. paper: "Girl Effects: Feminist Fables or Cautionary Tales?" panel: "The Clock is Ticking": (Re)Thinking "The Girl Effect". National Women's Studies Association Annual Conference (Sep 2011).
  • Switzer, Heather. "Examining the "New" Enkanyakuai: Localizing the Schooling Imperative and Producing Gender Categories in Southern Kenya’s Maasailand". African Studies Association, 53rd Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 18-22, 2010 (Oct 2010).
  • Switzer, Heather. "How the Schooling Imperative Effects Local Gender Categories". 10th Annual Africa Conference 2010: Women, Gender, and Sexualities in Africa (Mar 2010).
Honors / Awards

AAUW (Association of University Women) Disseration Fellowship, 2008-2009

Finalist for the National Women's Studies and University of Illinois Press First Book Contract Prize, 2011.

 

 

Editorships

Co-editor of book series, Transnational Girlhoods, for Berghan Press (with Claudia Mitchell, McGill Univ, Canada; Ann Smith, McGill Univ, Canada; and Bodil Formark, Umea Univ, Sweden.

Professional Associations

ASA (African Studies Assocation); NWSA (National Women's Studies Association); Girls and Girls' Studies Caucus (Caucus Co-Chair, 2013-2016); CIES (Comparative and International Education Society)

 

Graduate Faculties / Mentoring History

See Research tab

Service
  • National Women's Studies Association Girls's Studies Caucus, Member (2010 - Present, Caucus Co-chair (2012 - 2015))
  • African Studies Association
  • Comparative and International Education Society
  • DREAMzone Alley, DREAMzone Alley (2013 - present)
  • Gender Studies Doctoral Qualifying Exam Committee (2012-present)
  • Fulbright Review Committee for Students Applying to Africa, Boren Award Review Committee (2011-present)
  • Gender Studies Graduate Committee (present)
  • Ad Hoc Reviewer for several refereed journals (Feminist Formations; Feminist Review; Third World Thematics; Studies in Social Justice; Journal of Youth in Society; Feminist Media Studies, and others)
  • Faculty Liasion to Barrett, the Honors College (2010 - 2012)
  • Instructor Review Committee, Member (2012 - 2012)