Skip to main content

A Virtual Review: Gender, Race, Ethnicity, and Diversity in American Political Science Association Publications

APSA Eds 1017 i

Dianne Pinderhughes and Maryann Kwakwa, University of Notre Dame


The APSA Presidential Task Force Report Political Science in the 21st Century, led by co-chairs Luis Fraga and Terri Givens and 2007–08 APSA President Dianne Pinderhughes, addressed the status of the discipline when the report was published in 2011.[i] “Is political science positioned to embrace and incorporate the changing demographics, increasing multicultural diversity, and ever-growing disparities in the concentration of wealth present in many nation-states? Can political science do so within its research, teaching, and professional development?"[ii]  The report concluded Political Science was “often ill-equipped to address in a sustained way why many of the most marginal members of political communities around the world are often unable to have their needs effectively addressed by governments. Just as importantly, political science is also ill-equipped to develop explanations for the social, political, and economic processes that lead to groups’ marginalization” (1).[iii]  The Political Science in the 21st Century report, now just over five years old, offered a number of recommendations to the discipline including several related to political science research on diversity and racial, ethnic, and gendered marginalization. 

We were recently invited by the association to briefly review these issues associated with research, to remind the discipline of this taskforce report, and to identify some of the articles that have appeared in the association’s journals in recent years that engage issues of race and gender, to see where we are now in comparison to where we were around 2010, as we readied the taskforce report for publication.

An introductory caution: this essay is not intended to be a comprehensive survey of all such articles published in all APSA journals (whether by the association or published by organized sections), but is an innovative approach to exploring some of the work that has appeared around a specific topic. (This review essay does not include articles from the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics (JREP), the official journal of the Race, Ethnicity, and Politics section. We concluded our search for articles to include in this review in spring 2016, around the same time as the first issue of JREP was published. Readers are encouraged to review the JREP articles published in 2016 and 2017). Seventeen articles (table 1) were selected as appropriate for discussion for this exercise. The articles were categorized along two dimensions: (1) by the journals in which they appeared: PS: Political Science & Politics, American Political Science Review, Perspectives on Politics, and Politics and Gender, and (2) sorted into five general areas that reflect the search terms used to locate relevant articles:  diversity; race and ethnicity; race and minority; teaching and learning; and textbook portrayal. Table 2 sorts and summarizes these by category and specific journals.

The first approach to identifying the articles involved analysis of all articles suggested; Pinderhughes and Kwakwa[4] reviewed, categorized, and selected those that seemed most appropriate, both in terms of substantive interest as well as most useful for introducing the broader political science discipline to the work that has been recently published.

It is intriguing to note the distribution of articles across the four journals from which articles were drawn.  Most of the articles appeared in PS: Political Science & Politics (13), followed by the APSR (2), and Perspectives on Politics and Politics and Gender with (1) each.  Obviously these journals publish very different types of work, with great variation in length, methodology, and types of literature, so they are not strictly comparable.  And it is also important to reiterate that these articles are not representative of, nor a comprehensive review of, all articles published on this range of subjects in these journals from approximately 2005 to 2015.  Even with these acknowledgments, the number of articles is low.

A second analysis by journal shows that only PS has published across four out of five of the identifiable categories; PS published no articles in the race and ethnicity category of those reviewed.  This broad distribution is easily explained by the diversity of coverage represented in the journal, in comparison to the more focused and methodologically specific interests of the other journals.  The APSR and Perspectives on Politics only published in the race and ethnicity category, and Politics and Gender only included one article in the textbook portrayal category. Thus, of those reviewed, the articles selected come from a range of categories, but were largely published from just one of the APSA’s journals.

What are these five categories into which the publications have been placed?  Textbook portrayal and teaching and learning involve practical, pedagogical, and professional activities of daily interest to political science faculty.  The other three - diversity, race and ethnicity,  and race and minority - are somewhat descriptive, but also theoretical categories useful in identifying racial and ethnic groups and describing policy frameworks, which have come into common, popular use in recent years. The 17 articles sit somewhat more evenly across the five categories than their distribution across journals, and their appearance in this introduction follows the category sequence displayed in the table.  Within each category, the articles appear in alphabetical order by author.

I. Diversity

Diversity is one of the most frequently used administrative terms to describe institutions, whether educational, governmental,  or economic  engaged in the process of transformation from a homogeneous to a more heterogeneous body, whether based on race, ethnicity, language, and/or gender. The four articles in this category, all from PS, are drawn from major APSA efforts to address diversity and inclusion.  Allen, Gordon, and Mathews-Gardner’s “2008 APSA Teaching and Learning Track Summaries —Track Three: Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Inequality” grows out of the association’s Teaching and Learning organized section and from its Annual Teaching and Learning Conference.  The authors offer strategies for integrating teaching about diversity, inclusiveness, and inequality in education (DIIE) into college curriculums and argue that APSA’s Teaching and Learning Conference is an important framework for graduate students and faculty who seek to teach in this field.

Next, former APSA President Rodney Hero (2014–15) framed a symposium “How Political Science Can Become More Diverse.”[5]   Hero’s article was selected because of its focus “Reflections on ‘How Political Science Can Be More Diverse’” (2015), and his summary of the articles written for the larger symposium. The remaining two articles by Mershon and Walsh (2015) and Sinclair-Chapman (2015) are drawn from the same symposium of articles on diversity.  Mershon and Walsh, who organized a National Science Foundation-(NSF)-funded conference on issues of diversity, note that “The contributions comprising this symposium apply political science insights about how to diversify institutions to the discipline itself…” (442). Sinclair-Chapman’s “Leveraging Diversity in Political Science for Institutional and Disciplinary Change” grounds her discussion in her research on minority representation in US  legislatures to show how “…women, racial/ethnic minorities, and their allies can promote diversity and inclusive practices to bring about lasting change in the discipline” (454).

II. Race and Ethnicity

The three articles in the race and ethnicity category are, with one exception, the only pieces that appear in the APSR and Perspectives on Politics among those reviewed.  Chong and Kim’s “The Experiences and Effects of Economic Status among Racial and Ethnic Minorities” (2006) and White, Laird, and Allen’s (2014) ”Selling Out? The Politics of Navigating Conflicts between Racial Group Interest and Self-Interest” appeared in the APSR, while Hancock’s “When Multiplication Doesn’t Equal Quick Addition: Examining Intersectionality as a Research Paradigm” (2007) was published in Perspectives.  Chong and Kim and White, Laird, and Allen offer empirical explorations of the tensions between racial and ethnic group interests and individual experiences.  Chong and Kim focus on changes in economic status, finding that “(c)ompared to Latinos and Asian Americans, African Americans are least responsive to changes in economic circumstances because they are on the whole more pessimistic about their life prospects and more likely to encounter discrimination” (335).   White, Laird, and Allen engaged in “behavioral experiments that offer black subjects individual incentives to defect from the position most favored by black Americans…”; they found “that racialized social pressure and internalized beliefs in group solidarity are constraining and depress self-interested behavior” (783).  Hancock’s work explored the “research on race and gender across subfields of political science [feminist theory, social movements, international human rights, public policy, and electoral behavior research] to present a coherent set of empirical research standards for intersectionality” (63).

III. Race and Minority

Articles published in PS by Alexander-Floyd, D’Andra Orey, and Brown-Dean (2015) and Lavariega Monforti and McGlynn (2010) were placed in the race and minority category.  Alexander-Floyd, D’Andra Orey, and Brown-Dean’s “Professional Conferences and the Challenges of Studying Black Politics” contrast “group-specific conferences [which] focus on topics associated with singular or intersectional group-based identities” with those which emphasize “a universal set of concepts that are assumed to apply to broad categories with little regard to subgroups or context” (319).  They note the positive environment afforded by meetings that are organized by groups, such as the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (NCOBPS), in which scholars have better opportunities to discuss their research in depth and build professional relationships with their peers.  Lavareiga Monforti and McGlynn examined “29 introductory US government and politics textbooks…to assess the level of coverage and treatment of Latinos/as, the fastest growing racial/ethnic group in the country.” They found “that the discussion of Latinos…is incredibly brief and often limited to the civil rights chapters …[and] are primarily mentioned in the discussion of immigration…” (309).

IV. Teaching and Learning

All four of the articles in the teaching and learning category appeared in PS, and focus on gender (DiStefano 1997), “active citizenship” (Smith and Graham 2014), Native Americans perspectives (Wilmer, Melody and Murdock 2011), and the appropriate doctoral methodology offerings (Schwartz-Shea 2003).   DiStefano asks “How might democracy be made not only accessible, but safe for women?” (206). But the author not only addresses women, but also the distinctions between “gender,” ”women, “and ‘”feminism” in her discussion of marginalization as well as “the opportunities and liabilities of gender-coded subjects” (204). Smith and Graham’s article, “Teaching Active Citizenship: A Companion to the Traditional Political Science Curriculum,” turns away from the past 50 years when civics, government, and political science were deemphasized.  Instead they argue high school government teachers should emphasize “learn-by-doing,” “civic-duty orientation” to “move beyond the self-interest model of political behavior.”  They argue that “President Jefferson’s mandate was for all citizens, not limiting education to those with preexisting interests in politics, college credit, or good grades” (708).  Wilmer, Melody, and Murdock’s “Including Native American Perspectives in the Political Science Curriculum,” (1994) emphasizes the need for Native American perspectives within political science courses; examining 12 American government textbooks, they reach conclusions similar to those of authors in the next section which focuses on textbook portrayal. According to the authors, the texts “neglect native issues and contributions…” and display “[T]he worst kind of elitism…which ignores other cultures, other peoples, other political or economic systems” (270, 269 respectively).  Schwartz-Shea’s “Is This the Curriculum We Want? Doctoral Requirements and Offerings in Methods and Methodology” calls for “methodological pluralism inclusive of qualitative research based on an interpretive epistemology” within the discipline (379).  She argues that “(r)ather than a priori judgments about the work of particular methodologies, qualitative methodologies need to be more widely recognized as useful to the study of politics and thus deserve to be taught as part of what political scientists do” (384).

V. Textbook Portrayal

The four articles in the textbook portrayal category reviewed political science textbooks for their use of gender (Cassese and Bos, 2013), for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) sociopolitical content (Novkov and Gossett, 2008), for African American portrayal in introductory American government texts (Wallace and Allen, 2008) and for Asian Pacific Americans in widely used -introductory American government textbooks (Takeda 2015). The reviews are not positive; all note the relatively limited discussion of women, LGBT citizens, African Americans, and Asian Pacific Americans, and that is usually confined to the “civil rights chapter.” Takeda notes that Asian Pacific Americans’ mention is a mean of approximately 1.13 pages in the entire textbook, although many texts have no mentions at all. He reports the longest discussion is 2.68 pages

(Takeda 2015, 433).  Wallace and Allen (2008) note that the textbooks treat African Americans as a“…separate entity from the rest of the country’s development” (Wallace and Allen 2008, 154–55). African Americans’ presence is addressed largely through “a historical-institutional approach… with Rosa Parks and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., being the most oft-mentioned African American political actors” (157). The LGBT community is presented as “structurally disempowered,” bisexuals “are almost universally invisible, and the transgendered are nowhere to be found” (Novkov and Gossett, 393).  Cassese and Bos’s (2013) review of texts for gender, shows this is more likely to mean women, although that is often “synonymous” with “people” or “citizens.” Following from that point, ” the majority of introductory US politics textbooks fail to discuss women’s political behavior in particular, and the authors recommend “the broader inclusion of content pertaining to women’s behavior at both the mass and elite levels” (Cassese and Bos, 221).

The editors of this virtual issue both have experience using a variety of textbooks, readings, and discussion strategies in the political science classroom. However, the editors are from dramatically different generations in the field:  Pinderhughes is a senior faculty member and former APSA President, while Kwakwa is in the early stages of dissertation research.  We think it would be useful to share some first-hand classroom experiences teaching on issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and marginalization. Next, Kwakwa offers some specific thoughts that represent her own lessons learned in recent years on these related subjects, specifically, the issue of race, ethnicity, and American politics and society. These reflections may be useful for readers who are interested in strategies for incorporating current affairs that are related to race, ethnicity, gender, and marginalization into their teaching and research.

Trayvon Martin Forum. If I learned one thing from the “Trayvon Martin Forum” that  was held at the University of Notre Dame in the fall semester of 2014, it is that, even on campuses where the majority of students are white and/or financially privileged, the desire to have discussions about race is prevalent. The forum was not only well attended but, in addition, the students seemed to have informative, complex thoughts on the social, legal, and political processes that contributed to the death of Trayvon Martin. I viewed the students’ interest at the forum as an opportunity for sociologists and political scientists alike to create classes in which they could discuss how discrepancies in racial treatment contribute to unequal outcomes within the United States at greater length. In other words, there was great interest for classes related to contemporary race and ethnic relations within American culture and politics in spite of many departments’ insistence that classes of this sort are typically under-enrolled.

Observing a Racial/Ethnic Political Science Course. In the spring of 2016, I was a teaching assistant for a course, Race/Ethnicity in American Politics. After observing the course, I found that there is serious selection bias when it comes to race/ethnicity courses. On average, open-minded, racially sensitive students tend to enroll and remain in these courses. This makes for a safe, collegial environment in which to discuss sensitive issues. However, it also means that students who are already knowledgeable about these subjects are doubling down on their knowledge while their counterparts are able to avoid the subject all together. More than anything, this phenomenon demonstrates why courses on race and ethnic politics need to be a core requirement for political science majors, not an elective.

VI. Conclusions

After reading articles that have been written on the aforementioned subjects in the years prior to and following the APSA taskforce report Political Science in the 21st Century, we argue that, while there have been important steps toward increasing multicultural diversity in political science research and teaching, the barriers that contributed to its marginalization in the past continue to exist. In spite of the APSA’s recent emphasis on inclusion, the literature on these topics, journals’ propensity to publish research in this area remains low.  The discipline would be well-served with a greater collection of published scholarly articles on diversity, race, ethnicity, and gender topics. In recent years, there has been an increase in discussions on these important topics, as they pertain to the study of politics and society—both in and outside of the classroom. We are hopeful that these discussions, coupled with continued efforts to increase diversity within the discipline and diversity in approach and methodology, will result in an increased demand for and an increase in the presence of scholarly published pieces on the topics addressed by the taskforce report and the articles included in this virtual issue.

When Pinderhughes was APSA President she conceived the taskforce as a mechanism for helping the discipline reflect on its status in light of an increasingly diversifying nation:  “Is political science positioned to embrace and incorporate the changing demographics, increasing multicultural diversity, and ever-growing disparities in the concentration of wealth present in many nation-states?” The taskforce concluded that the discipline and association was “often ill-equipped” to address these challenges.  The taskforce also noted that research and graduate training needed to incorporate attention to these topic areas as well. This review confirms the need to reaffirm this point. Revisiting the recent work that has been published in the association’s journals is an important exercise in understanding the changes that have occurred within the last few years.  We judge that much work remains to be done.  We have provided a framework for recognizing what has been published and the contribution that has been made to the broader political science profession and the discipline as a whole.

About the virtual issue editors

Dianne Pinderhughes is Notre Dame Presidential Faculty Fellow, and Professor.  She chairs the Department of Africana Studies, and is a member of the faculty in the Department of Political Science. Her research addresses inequality with a focus on racial, ethnic and gender politics and public policy in the Americas. She was President of the American Political Science Association 2007-08, and the APSA Task Force she appointed completed its report in 2011:  Political Science in the 21st Century.  She can be reached at

Maryann Kwakwa is a fourth-year Ph.D. candidate in American Politics in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame. She completed her undergraduate education at Oberlin College, where she graduated with a degree in Law and Society in 2014. The title of her dissertation is "The Ambiguous Cohort: How Alternative Undergraduate Experiences Impact Civic Engagement." She can be reached at

[1] Pinderhughes and Kwakwa offer their thanks to Kimberly Mealy, APSA Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion Programs.  Mealy also worked with the Political Science in the 21st Century Task Force.

[2] APSA Task Forces website,

[3]  Task Force on Political Science in the 21st Century. 2011. American Political Science Association.

[4] Maryann Kwakwa is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Political Science at the University of Notre Dame.

[5] Task Force on Racial and Class Inequalities in the Americas. Co-chairs Juliet Hooker and Alvin Tillery, September 2016, American Political Science Association.

Table 1. 2011 Taskforce Report Revisited (Virtual Edition) Article Selections

1.Allen, Marcus D., Kea Gordon, and Lanethea Mathews-Gardner. 2008. “2008 APSA Teaching and Learning Track Summaries —Track Three: Diversity, Inclusiveness, and Inequality.” PS: Political Science & Politics 41(3): 615–16.
2.Hero, Rodney. 2015. “Reflections on ‘How Political Science Can Be More Diverse.’” PS: Political Science & Politics 48(03): 469–71.
3.Mershon, Carol, and Denise Walsh. 2015. “How Political Science Can Be More Diverse.” PS: Political Science & Politics 48(3): 441–44.
4.Sinclair-Chapman, Valeria. 2015. “Leveraging Diversity in Political Science for Institutional and Disciplinary Change.” PS: Political Science & Politics 48(3): 454–58.
5.Chong, Dennis and Dukhong Kim. 2006. “The Experiences and Effects of Economic Status among Racial and Ethnic Minorities.” American Political Science Review 100(3): 335–51.
6.Hancock, Ange-Marie. 2007. “When Multiplication Doesn’t Equal Quick Addition: Examining Intersectionality as a Research Paradigm.” Perspectives on Politics 5(1): 63–79.
7.White, Ismail K., Chryl N. Laird, and Troy D. Allen. 2014. “Selling Out?: The Politics of Navigating Conflicts between Racial Group Interest and Self-Interest.” American Political Science Review 108(4): 783–800.
8.Alexander-Floyd, Nikol G., Byron D’Andra Orey, and Khalilah Brown-Dean. 2015. “Professional Conferences and the Challenges of Studying Black Politics.” PS: Political Science & Politics 48(2): 319–23.
9.Monforti, Jessica Lavariega, and Adam McGlynn. 2010. “Aquí Estamos? A Survey of Latino Portrayal in Introductory U.S. Government and Politics Textbooks.” PS: Political Science & Politics 43(2): 309–16.
10.Di Stefano, Christine. 1997. “Integrating Gender into the Political Science Curriculum: Challenges, Pitfalls, and Opportunities.” PS: Political Science and Politics 30(2): 204–06.
11.Smith, Michael, and Bob Graham. 2014. “Teaching Active Citizenship: A Companion to the Traditional Political Science Curriculum.” PS: Political Science & Politics 47(3): 703–10.
12.Wilmer, Franke, Michael E. Melody, and Margaret Maier Murdock. 2011. “Including Native American Perspectives in the Political Science Curriculum.” PS: Political Science and Politics 27(2): 269–76.
13.Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine. 2003. “Is This the Curriculum We Want? Doctoral Requirements and offerings in Methods and Methodology.” PS: Political Science and Politics 36(3): 379–86.
14.Cassese, Erin C. and Angela L. Bos. 2013. “A Hidden Curriculum? Examining the Gender Content in Introductory-Level Political Science Textbooks.” Politics and Gender 9(2): 214–23.
15.Novkov, Julie, and Charles Gossett. 2008. “Survey of Textbooks for Teaching Introduction to US Politics:(How) Do They See Us?.” PS: Political Science and Politics 40(2): 393–98.
16.Takeda, Okiyoshi.  2015. “A Forgotten Minority? A Content Analysis of Asian Pactific Americans in Introductory American Government Textbooks.” PS: Political Science & Politics (3): 430–39.
17.Wallace, Sherri L., and Marcus D. Allen. 2008. “Survey of African American Portrayal in Introductory Textbooks in American Government/Politics: A Report of the APSA Standing Committee on the Status of Blacks in the Profession.” PS: Political Science & Politics 41(1): 153–60.

Table 2. Summary of Articles Reviewed by Journal and Category

PS: Political Science & PoliticsAmerican Political 
Science Review Perspectives on Politics Politics and Gender
DiversityAllen et al. (2008) Hero (2015) Mershon and Walsh (2015) Sinclair-Chapman (2015)

Race and Ethnicity
Chong and Kim (2006) White et al. (2014)Hancock (2007)
Race and MinorityAlexander-Floyd et al. (2015) Monforti and McGlynn (2010)

Teaching and LearningDi Stefano (1997) Smith and Graham (2014)
Wilmer et al. (1994) Schwartz-Shea (2003)

Textbook PortrayalNovkov and Gossett (2007) Wallace and Allen (2008) Takeda (2015)

Cassese and Bos (2013)