• Job Placement: Associate Professor of Geography and Women’s and Gender Studies, West Virginia University
  • Webpage: http://geography.wvu.edu/people/faculty/cynthia-gorman
  • Committee: J. Regulska, R. Rodriguez, C. Lee, C. Bunch
  • Dissertation: From Recognition to Regulation: Flood Fears, Gender Violence, and Asylum Law in the United States


Cynthia Gorman received a B.A. in Political Science from Bates College and an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Rutgers University. While at Rutgers, Cynthia directed the Community Leadership Action and Service Project (CLASP) at the Institute for Women's Leadership, a program which she developed through her Master's practicum with the Institute.

After completing her PhD in 2013, Cynthia worked as an Instructor of Leadership Studies at West Virginia University. Her research focuses on the gender politics of nationalisms, the geopolitical context of human rights discourse, refugee-asylum law in the post-Cold War era, and the development of gender-based persecution jurisprudence in the United States. Other interests include community-based activism and feminist pedagogies.


Over the past twenty years, women’s human rights advocates have made significant gains in securing protection for women with gender-related claims of persecution within the United States. However, efforts to expand the legal rubric of refugee-asylum law to include gender-related forms of persecution have aroused controversy about inviting a flood of women from around the world fleeing gender violence. In this dissertation, I explore how fears of a flood of women asylum seekers have shaped the development of gender-based asylum jurisprudence in the United States. While it is envisioned as carrying out a humanitarian mandate, refugee asylum law continues to be embedded in and responsive to state efforts to systematically control the movement of populations across its territorial borders and to screen out asylum seekers deemed to threaten the composition of the nation. Through particular technologies of exclusion justified by flood fears, state actors undermined cases that could open pathways to citizenship for large numbers of migrants. Employing a methodology of feminist legal archeology combined with interviews of impact litigators, I demonstrate how efforts by feminist legal advocates to expand asylum protection to include gender-based persecution became entangled in efforts by state immigration officials and adjudicators to exclude particular women from protection. Thus despite the humanitarian commitments of refugee-asylum law and feminist legal advocates’ success in winning recognition of gender-based persecution, fears of an impending flood of refugees have resulted in exclusionary definitions of who can gain asylum on the basis of gender-based persecution.