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Sara McKinnon

Professor of Rhetoric, Politics & Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison

I am professor of rhetoric, politics & culture in the Department of Communication Arts, and Faculty Director of Latin American, Caribbean & Iberian Studies. I co-chair UW-Madison’s Human Rights Program and have affiliations in the Department of Gender and Women’s Studies and Chican@ & Latin@ Studies.

My current research examines foreign policy rhetoric in an era of globalization, considering as case studies collaborations between the United States, Mexico, and Central American countries since the 1980s to address regional issues such as drug trafficking, corruption, and migration. I am also working on a collaborative project to expand the legal information about US immigration and refugee programs and legal counsel available to migrants throughout Latin America as they consider safe options for movement and resettlement. You can find more information about this project at

I have published three books. Gendered Asylum: Race and Violence in U.S. Law and Politics (University of Illinois Press, 2016), examines the gender discourse that has emerged in U.S. immigration and refugee law between the 1980 Refugee Act and 2014. In this project I analyzed a range of gender and sexuality-related political asylum cases against public discourse concerning globalization, women’s rights as human rights, displacement, migration, and sexual violence. The book identifies what gender means in U.S. asylum law and it examines the ways gender and gendered subjects as political serve U.S. national and international interests. Text + Field: Innovations in Rhetorical Method (Penn State University Press, 2016) is a co-edited collection that considers a range of approaches for using ethnographic and field-based methods in doing rhetorical research, and I have a forthcoming co-edited collection, Foreign Policy Rhetorics in the Global Era: Concepts and Case Studies with Michigan State University Press.

I regularly teach undergraduate and graduate classes in communication and human behavior, migration and refugee studies, gender and communication, intercultural communication, and conflict studies, and qualitative and text-based research methods.


  • –present
    Professor of Rhetoric, Politics & Culture, University of Wisconsin-Madison