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Karen Kampwirth


Karen Kampwirth

Robert W. Murphy Chair and Professor of Political Science

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Robert W. Murphy Chair and Professor of Political Science

Karen Kampwirth

General Interests

"Throughout my career, I have been interested in people's attempts to radically transform their societies, why those attempts sometimes succeed, and what impact participating in such movements has on the participants."=

I've written two books, Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba and Feminism and The Legacy of Revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, which explain why thousands of women joined armed revolutionary movements starting in the last quarter of the 20th century in Latin America and how that experience of radical egalitarianism led them to found feminist movements after the wars ended. My interest in transformational politics also informed the book I co-edited, Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right, and articles I've written on the Taliban and revolutionary movements in Poland and Iran.

Also, I have edited and contributed to a book entitled Gender and Populism in Latin America: Passionate Politics (Penn State, 2010). The book analyzes the role of masculinity and femininity in the political careers of figures ranging from Evita Perón to Hugo Chávez, considering the relationship between populism, democracy, authoritarianism, and feminism in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, and Venezuela.

My most recent books are LGBTQ Politics in Nicaragua: Revolution, Dictatorship, and Social Movements, (University of Arizona Press, 2022) and a book called Diversidad Sexual en el Pacífico y Centro de Nicaragua: 500 Años de Historia, (San Diego CA, 2021). These books reveal an untold story of sexual diversity in the Global South. By considering regime change over time through the eyes of LGBTQ Nicaraguans, and the elites who have sought to control or co-opt them, I reveal a previously hidden tale of political change in Latin America."

Years at Knox: 1995 to present

Ph.D., Political Science, 1993, University of California-Berkeley.
M.A., Political Science, 1988, University of California-Berkeley.
B.A., Political Science and Spanish, summa cum laude, 1986-Knox College.

Teaching Interests
Comparative politics, Latin American politics, women and world politics, Middle Eastern politics, comparative revolutions, global antifeminism, populism.

Selected Professional Accomplishments


  • ACLS Collaborative Research Fellowship 2017-18, $130,750. 
  • Knox Faculty Research / Creative Work Grant: LGBT Politics in Latin America: Stories from the Global South, 2016-2017.
  • Knox Faculty Research / Creative Work Grant: LGBT Politics in Mexico and Nicaragua: Corporatism, Clientelism, and Co-optation - $300, 2014.
  • Knox Mellon Faculty Career Enhancement Grant - Collaborative Research Grant: Presentations of ongoing research on a century of LGBT politics in Nicaragua - $2500, 2014.
  • Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching, Knox College, 2013.
  • Fulbright Lecturing Award, Argentina, 2009.
  • Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women and Politics, presented by the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for the Study of Women and Politics, Iowa State University, 1999.
  • Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching, Knox College, 1999.
  • First Place, Elsa Chaney competition in gender studies, awarded by the women's studies section of the Latin American Studies Association, 1998.
  • Visiting Research Fellow, Center for United States-Mexican Studies, University of California, San Diego, 1997-1998.


LGBTQ Politics in Nicaragua: Revolution, Dictatorship, and Social Movements. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2022.

Diversidad Sexual en el Pacífico y Centro de Nicaragua: 500 Años de Historia. San Diego, CA.

"The Co-optation of LGBT Movements in Mexico and Nicaragua: Modernizing Clientelism?" Latin American Politics and Society. Vol. 57, Issue 4, Winter 2015. Volume 57, Issue 4, pages 51-73.

"Organizing the Hombre Nuevo Gay: LGBT politics and the second Sandinista Revolution." Bulletin of Latin American Research. Vol. 33. Issue 3. July 2014. pp. 319-333.

Kadinlar ve Gerilla Hareketleri: Nikaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas ve Küba. Istanbul: Mitani Publishers, Esra Eran, translator. 2014 (Translation of Women and Guerrilla Movements in Turkish).

Review: Gendered Scenarios of Revolution: Making New Men and New Women in Nicaragua, 1975-2000, Rosario Montoya. In the Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies. January 2012: Vol 37, Issue 73: 263-264.

"Feminismo, Derechos LGBT y la segunda Revoluci¤în Sandinista en Nicaragua." In Paula Fernández Hellmund (ed.), Nicaragua. Problemas, estudios y debates de la historia reciente, 1979-2011. Rosario, Argentina: Ediciones del CEISO (Colectivo de Estudios e Investigaciones Sociales) /Centro de Estudios de America Latina Contemporánea (2012): 125-180.

Latin American's New Left and the Politics of Gender: Lessons from Nicaragua. Springer, 2011.

Gender and Populism in Latin America: Passionate Politics. Editor. University Park: Penn State, 2010.

"Gender Politics in Nicaragua: Feminism, Antifeminism and the Return of Daniel Ortega." In Nathalie Lebon and Elizabeth Maier (Eds.), Women's Activism in Latin America and the Caribbean: Engendering Social Justice, Democratizing Citizenship. Rutgers University Press, (2010.)

"Memoria y Las Consecuencias No Esperadas de Revolución: Feminismo y Antifeminismo en Nicaragua"
in David Close and Salvador Marti. Eds. Nicaragua y el FSLN: Politica y Sociedad desde 1979 Spain: Editorial Bellaterra, (2009.)

"Abortion, Antifeminism, and the Return of Daniel Ortega: In Nicaragua, Leftist Politics?" Latin American Perspectives Issue 168, 35.6 (November 2008): 122-136.

"Neither Left Nor Right: Sandinismo in the Anti-Feminist Era." In NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America) Report on the Americas 41.1 (January/February 2008): 30-34, 43.

Mujeres y Movimientos Guerrilleros: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas y Cuba (A translation of Women and Guerrilla Movements). Copublished by Plaza y Valdés, Mexico City and Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois 2007.

"Resisting the Feminist Threat: Antifeminist Politics in Post-Sandinista Nicaragua." Journal of the National Women's Studies Association 18.2 (2006): 73-100.

"Revolución, feminismo y antifeminismo en Nicaragua." De lo privado a lo público: 30 años de lucha ciudadana de las mujeres en América Latina. Edited by Elizabeth Maier and Nathalie Lebon. Siglo XXI editores, Mexico City, 2006.

Feminism and the Legacy of Revolution: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas. Ohio University Press, Athens, 2004.

"Marching with the Taliban or Dancing with the Zapatistas? Revolution After the Cold War." The Future of Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization. Edited by John Foran. Zed Press, London, 2003.

"Arnoldo Alemán Takes on the NGOs: Antifeminism and the New Populism in Nicaragua." Latin American Politics and Society 45.2 (Summer 2003): 133-158.

Women and Guerrilla Movements: Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba. Penn State University Press, University Park, 2002.

Editor and contributor, Radical Women in Latin America: Left and Right. Penn State University Press, University Park, 2001.

"Violeta Barrios de Chamorro." Notable Twentieth-Century Latin American Women: A Biographical Dictionary. Edited by Cynthia Tompkins and David Foster. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut, 2001.

"Feminism, Antifeminism, and Electoral Politics in Postwar Nicaragua and El Salvador." Political Science Quarterly, 1998.

"Legislating Personal Politics in Sandinista Nicaragua, 1979-1992." Women's Studies International Forum, 1998.


"Década de diversidad sexual: raices téoricos e históricos del movimiento en Nicaragua" (Decade of sexual diversity: theoretical and historical roots of the LGBT movement in Nicaragua). Presented at the VI Congreso Centroamericano de Estudios Culturales, Universidad Centroamericana (UCA), Instituto de Historia de Nicaragua y Centroamérica (IHNCA-UCA). July 11-13, 2017.

"Paradojas de la política de género en América Latina: ¿revolución gay y contrarevolución feminista? (Paradoxes of gender politics in Latin America: gay revolution and feminist counterrevolution?) Presented at the VIII Jornadas de Investigación en Antropología Social in Buenos Aires, Argentina. July 27-29, 2016.

"LGBT memories of the Sandinista Revolution" Presented at the 2014 Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Chicago, IL May 21 - 24, 2014.

"Miss Nicaragua Gay, the Código de Familia, and the FSLN: Clientelism and its Discontents," Paper. Presented at the Congress of the Latin American Studies Association, Washington D.C. 2013.

"What a 'Real' Left Could Be: The Complicated Relationship between Sandinismo and Feminismo in Contemporary Nicaragua." Paper, 2010 Congress of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA,) Toronto, Canada, 2010.

"Revolution, Feminism, and Antifeminism in Latin America." Lecture. "Shaping the Future of ELT in Argentina" Conference, Universidad Techologica Nacional, November 2009.

"Mujeres y Movimientos Guerrilleros: Nicaragua. El Salvador, Chiapas, Cuba." Lecture. Universidad de las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, December, 2009.

"Revolucion, Feminismo y Antifeminismo en America Latina (con un enfoque en Nicaragua)." Lecture. U.S. Embassy in Argentina. December, 2009.

"Revolución, Feminismo, y Antifeminismo en Nicaragua." Instituto Interdisciplinario de Estudios de Género, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

"Las mujeres, la sociedad civil, y la rebellion zapatista." Centro de Estudios de la Mujer, Universidad Central de Venezuela, Caracas, Venezuela.

Campus & Community Involvement

  • Faculty advisor, Estudiantes Sin Fronteras/Students without Borders.
  • Member, Latin American Studies Association.

What Students Say
"Karen's subject matter requires that she put a lot of information into her lectures, but they are never tedious. She draws on her wide range of first-hand experiences, and this makes her classroom a lively learning environment."
-Sarah Wetmore, International Relations and Economics Major

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Printed on Monday, July 22, 2024