Alix Olson

Assistant Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies (WGSS)

Dr. Olson is thrilled to begin her first year teaching Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Oxford College. Her research interests include contemporary social and political thought, critical theory, feminist and queer politics, and social movements. Dr. Olson's book manuscript The Promise(s) of Resilience: Governance and Resistance in Complex Times offers a critical examination of the rise and circulation of the concept of “resilience” within 21stCentury political life and the ways it is fundamentally re-ordering peoples’ understanding of themselves, the world, and possibilities of action. Grounding her analysis in a wide breadth of empirical case studies—from the United Nation’s refugee policies and post-Katrina “regeneration” programs to self-help literature and social movements—she shows how resilience discourses work to produce a sustainable human infrastructure capable of upholding the crisis conditions of late capitalism.  Dr. Olson has published peer-reviewed articles/chapters in The Journal for a New Political ScienceWagadu: Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies and  in Agitation with a Smile: Howard Zinn’s Legacies and the Future of Activism (Paradigm 2013). She has received the “Christian Bay Award” for the paper presented at APSA that “best exemplifies the goal of New Political Science: making the study of politics relevant to the struggle for a better world.”  She received the Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Olson is currently serving as program chair for the New Political Science division at the APSA 2018 annual meeting.

         Prior to Olson's academic life, she toured internationally for over a decade as a spoken word artist, regularly appearing in media outlets like HBO's Def Poetry Jam, Air America (with Rachel Maddow), NPR, and WXPN. Olson has published widely within popular media including in Ms. and Curve Magazines, co-authoring Burning Down The House (Soft Skull Press, 2002), and editing the first U.S. all-women’s spoken word anthology Word Warriors: 35 Women Leaders in the Spoken Word Revolution (Seal Press, 2007) which bell hooks calls an anthology “to resurrect you.”  She has produced three spoken word albums and poetry books and the award-winning documentary film Left Lane: On The Road With Alix Olson. Dr. Olson has lectured and taught social justice, art and politics, and writing workshops and performed spoken word poetry at over 300 colleges and universities and at political conferences, high schools, prisons across the United States and internationally.




BA| Wesleyan University| 1998

MA| University of Massachusetts, Amherst| 2013

PhD| University of Massachusetts, Amherst| 2018

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies 
  • Feminist Theory 
  • Sexuality Studies 
  • Introduction to Political Theory 
  • American Political Thought 
  • Art and Politics (Discovery Seminar)
  • Feminist Art(s) of Politics 


  • Arts and Social Justice Fellowship, Emory University, 2020 
  • CFDE Teaching Fellow, Emory University, 2019
  • University Dissertation Writing Fellowship, UMass Amherst, 2017
  • Five College Women’s Studies Research Center, Research Associate, 2016-2017
  • Graduate Research Initiative Grant, UMass Amherst PoliSci, 2016 
  • Christian Bay Best Paper Award, American Political Science Assoc., 2014 
  • Center for Research on Families Dissertation Fellowship, 2013
  • University Distinguished Teaching Award, UMass Amherst, 2013
  • Graduate Research Initiative Grant, UMass Amherst, 2013
  • Residential First Year Experience Student Choice Teaching Award, UMass, 2012
  • Distinction, Contemporary Social and Political Thought Comprehensive Exam, 2012
  • Distinction, Interdisciplinary Political Science Comprehensive Exam, 2012


Manuscript in Preparation

  • “The Promise(s) of Resilience: Governance and Resistance In Complex Times”

Peer-Reviewed Articles and Book Chapters                                                          

  • Toni Morrison and Political Theory, Contemporary Political Theory, 2020
  • Queer(y)ing Permanent Partnership. Wagadu: A Journal of Transnational Women’s and Gender Studies, 12, Summer 2014. 
  • Towards A Post-Parsimonious Political Science in Studying Politics Today: Critical Approaches to Political Science, eds. Nancy S. Love and Mark Mattern. London: Routledge, 2014 (reprint).
  • Archiving Optimism in Agitation with a Smile: Howard Zinn’s Legacies and the Future of Activism, eds. Steven Bird, et al. Boulder: Paradigm Publishers, May 2013.       
  • Towards A Post-Parsimonious Political Science. New Political Science: A Journal of Politics and Culture35:3, September 2013.

Articles in Preparation                                                                                                      

  • Resilient Conscripts: Interrogating the U.S. Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness Regime, in preparation for submission to Perspectives on Politics, December 2018.           


COMMENCEMENT SPEECHES                                                                                                

 “The Labor of Social Justice,” Commencement Speaker, Smith College (School of Social Work), August 14, 2015.

 CONFERENCE ACTIVITY                                                                                                          

 Invited Talks 

 “Engaging Politics,” Presented at the invitation of APSA’s Siting and Engagement Committee (SEC) to present at the annual meeting roundtable on the social responsibility of APSA and the profession, Chicago, IL, 2013.

 “On Writing Political Life,” Woodstock Writers Festival, Woodstock, NY. May 10, 2012.

 “The Cost of Decorative Diversity,” 2nd Annual Interrogating Diversity Conference: Representation, Power and Social Justice, American University, Washington, DC, March 13, 2008.

 “Doing Power/Thinking Power,” 5thAnnual Women Power and Peace Conference, Omega Institute, September 14-16, 2007.

 “Against Beauty,” The Student Body: A Celebration of Women's Beauty, Knox College, TN.February 24-26, 2006.

 “Art as Activism,” Feminist Action at Middlebury Symposium: Art as Activism: Exploring the Intersection of Rape, Pornography, and Violence, Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT, April 7, 2005.

 Keynote Speeches

“When The World Is Too Much,”16thAnnual Women and Society Conference, Marist College, October 25, 2007.

 “Recasting Feminism in the Academy,” A Third Wave Feminist Conference, University of Colorado-Boulder, March 10, 2005.

 Invited Panels

 “Can We Stand Together? Thoughts and Perspectives on the Women’s March on Washington,” UMASS Amherst, Feb. 13, 2017.

  “Queering the Generations,” LGBT Life Over the Past 25 YearsUMass-Amherst, October 6, 2010. 

 Papers Presented

 "From Mars to Movements," National Women's Studies Association, Atlanta, GA, 2018

“Resilient Conscripts: Theorizing Resistance in Complex Times,” National Women’s Studies Association, Montreal, Canada, 2016.

 “Pinkwashing Protest,” Midwestern Political Science Association, Chicago, IL. 2014. 

 “Queer(y)ing Permanent Partnership,” American Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, 2013. [Winner of American Political Science Association’s Christian Bay Best Paper Award] 

 “Neoliberalization of the Permanent Partner,” Midwestern Political Science Association Conference, Chicago, IL, 2013.

“Archiving Optimism,” Northeastern Political Science Association, Philadelphia, PA, 2011.