Theresa Keeley

Associate Professor


Theresa Keeley is an Associate Professor of U.S. and the World. Building on her background as a human rights activist and attorney, her interdisciplinary approach to research and teaching embraces several themes: religious and political identity, transnational social movements, war and protest, gender, human rights, and the law. She previously held a joint appointment at Georgetown University in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service and the History Department. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and Colgate University.

Her first book, Reagan’s Gun-Toting Nuns: The Catholic Conflict Over Cold War Human Rights Policy in Central America, won the 2020 Duke Human Rights Center’s Juan E. Mendez Award for Human Rights in Latin America. The book argues that debates among Central American and U.S. Catholics over the Church’s direction influenced Ronald Reagan’s policies toward Central America. The flashpoint for these intra-Catholic disputes was the December 1980 political murder of four American Catholic missionaries in El Salvador: Maryknoll Sisters Maura Clarke and Ita Ford, Ursuline Dorothy Kazel, and lay missionary Jean Donovan.

 Keeley’s work has also appeared in edited volumes and in publications including Diplomatic History, U.S. Catholic Historian, Gender & History, and the Washington Post. Her next project, Suffer Little Children: Health, Harm, & U.S. Foreign Policy, examines how secular and faith-inspired activists used medical aid for children to challenge U.S. foreign policy on moral and religious grounds. Her work is being funded by a sabbatical grant for researchers from the Louisville Institute in 2021-2022.

Her previous work has been supported by the Charlotte W. Newcombe Foundation, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, the Cushwa Center at the University of Notre Dame, the Rockefeller Archive Center, and NYU’s Center for the United States and the Cold War. For her most updated cv, visit her personal website.

Examples of Recent classes taught:

American History II

U.S. Foreign Relations I & II

Reagan’s America

Children, Health, & War

U.S.-Central America Relations