Rachel L. Wahl

Associate Professor

  • Ph.D., New York University, 2013
  • B.F.A., Marymount Manhattan College, 2002

I examine how ideas and ideals spread through education and advocacy, particularly in regard to state and civil society efforts to influence each other. My focus has been on how implicit philosophical beliefs about morality, justice, and human nature facilitate and undermine receptivity to dialogue, deliberation, and formal education.  I am especially interested in approaches to changing ideas and behavior that rely on voluntary learning in comparison to those that rely on various forms of public pressure.

Current Research Projects

Most recently, I have examined whether and how people learn from each other across deep divides, including:

Police and Communities

This study examines learning between police and communities of color who engage in deliberative dialogue during public forums. The research investigates whether, how, and when approaches that rely on voluntary learning (as opposed to public pressure) show promise for transforming state-community relations and the unanticipated ways in which such aims may be constrained.

Trump voters and Clinton voters on College Campuses

This study explores whether and how politically opposed university students learn from each other during deliberative dialogue sessions. I examine the beliefs, concerns, and assumptions that facilitate and undermine mutual learning, and the ethical as well as political implications of asking students to learn from their opponents.

My research has also examined similar efforts through formal educational endeavors:

Human Rights Educators and Police in India

This study examined how police in India respond to human rights education and activism related to torture and extrajudicial executions. I explore how police officers' conceptions of justice inform their judgments regarding violence, as well as how these commitments in combination with their concerns, constraints, and interests inform their responses to educators' as well as activists' efforts.

My recent book on this project is:

Wahl, R. 2017 Just Violence: Torture and Human Rights in the Eyes of the Police. Stanford Studies in Human Rights. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Select Media Interviews

Wahl, R. (2021, May 12). Political polarization and constructive dialogue. Sunday Morning Wakeup Call. Interviewed by Rick Moore, WREN.

Wahl, R. (2021, February 1) Is Constructive Political Dialogue Possible In 2021? UVa Today

Wahl, R. (2021, February 5). What Difference Does Talking Politics with Opponents Make? Radio IQ, Virginia Public Radio

Wahl, R. (2017, May 14). The young, the involved, and the hopeful. Interview with 20 by Seventy Politics Podcast , Philadelphia, PA.

Wahl, R. (2017, July 14) Dialogue or Activism? Which Works Best in a Divided Society? UVa Today.

Wahl, R. (2017, July 18). What works, dialogue or activism? Interview with News Radio WINA, Charlottesville, VA.