Rachel O'Donnell Headshot

Rachel O'Donnell, PhD

  • Associate Professor

PhD, York University

Office Location
G-138J Rush Rhees Library


Rachel O’Donnell is Associate Professor and joined the Writing, Speaking, and Argument Program in 2017. With a background in Political Science, International Development, and Latin American Studies, Rachel’s writing and teaching are interdisciplinary and have been focused on global feminist politics and Central America. Her research has explored social movements and political violence in Guatemala during the period of regional democratic and neoliberal reform, and her work has been published in the Women and Social Movements International database with Alexander Street Press. Her more recent work on the history and political economy of bioprospecting in the region is part of an international project on abortifacients and plant-based contraceptives.

Rachel teaches courses in the Writing, Speaking, and Argument and Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies programs. Her research in writing studies has been about academic labor, social reproduction theory, and political consciousness. She also supervises honors theses and independent study projects on a range of topics, including international development and transnational feminism.

Courses Offered (subject to change)

  • WRTG 105:  Contemporary Social Movements: Exploring Social and Political Change
  • WRTG 105:  Transnational Feminism: Global Perspectives on Power and Equality
  • WRTG 266:  Words Have Power: Writing for Social Change
  • GSWS 206:  Global Politics of Gender and Health
  • GSWS 293:  Gender, War, and Militarism
  • GSWS 200:  History of Feminism

Selected Publications


  • How Apacín became Petiveria: The Discovery and Disappearance of a Well-Known Abortifacient Plant. Undue Burdens: Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy in the Long Eighteenth Century. University of Virginia Press.
  • Caribbean Healers in the Botanical Archives. Peitho, Journal of the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition. Special Issue (Re)Writing our Histories, (Re)Building Feminist Worlds: Working Toward Hope in the Archives.


  • The Poisoning of Hector Cañas Pershing by Aura Estrada. Translation from Spanish. Denver Quarterly. Volume 58 Issue 3.
  • Maya Women Speak about Warfare and Community in Guatemala in the 1980s. Voices of Indigenous Women in American Empire: North America and the Global South, 1830-2020. Women and Social Movements International, Fall 2024, Vol. 27, no. 2, ed. Kathryn Kish Sklar. Alexander Street Press.
  • Plant Power! A Rebuilding of Women’s Knowledge in the Work of Photographic Artist Ann Shelton. Afterimage: The Journal of Media Arts and Cultural Criticism. Summer.
  • Comfortable and Uncomfortable Spaces for Academic Mothers. International Association of Maternal Action and Scholarship (IAMAS). June.


  • Post-Roe Abortifacients in a Gender and Health Classroom: Teaching Reproductive Justice in 2022 and Beyond. Special Issue on Reproductive Justice. Radical Teacher. Winter, Volume 126.
  • Replica. The Pain Mothers Must Never Expose: Confronting the Silences of Maternal Life, ed. Michelann Parr. Demeter Press.


  • Apacina, a Contemporary Herbal and Ambiguous Tale. Chapbook with K. Verlag, Berlin. Vol. 2 Field Guides for a Preternaturalist.
  • Quarantine Mothering, Teaching, Teeth. Journal of Multimodal Rhetorics. Special Issue on Carework and Writing During COVID, Fall. Awarded the 2023 Michelle Kendrick Award for Outstanding Digital Scholarship.


  • Academic freedom can mean refusing to teach material that is too traumatic. Times Higher Education. 2 September.


  • Transnational Feminist Activism in Latin America and Beyond. Left Turn. Issue 6/7.


  • Biotechnology and Biopiracy: Plant-based Contraceptives in the Americas and the (Mis)management of Nature. Reprint. Climate Chaos: Ecofeminisms and the Land Question, ed. Anna Isla. Inanna Publications.
  • ‘Care Work’ and University Labor Practices: Making Social Reproduction Visible in the Teaching of Writing. Academic Labor: Research and Artistry. Issue 3: Invisible Labor.


  • Figure Drawing. Mothers Without Their Children, eds. Charlotte Beyer and Andrea Robertson. Demeter Press.


  • New Forms of Resistance in the Highlands: Reproductive Control, Biopiracy, and Local Knowledge in Guatemala. Brújula: revista interdisciplinaria sobre estudios latinoamericanos. Special Issue on Environmental Justice, Political Resistance, and Social Movements: Defying Ecological Degradation in Latin America.


  • Biotechnology and Biopiracy: Plant-based Contraceptives in the Americas and the (Mis)management of Nature. Canadian Woman Studies. Special Issue: Women and Social and Environmental Justice. 31:1,2, 76-84.
  • The Politics of Natural Knowing: Contraceptive Plant Properties in the Caribbean. Journal of International Women's Studies. Special Issue Women and Gender: Looking Toward ‘Caribbeanness.’ 17:3, 59-79.
  • ‘This is how to make a good medicine to throw away a child before it even becomes a child’: The Maternal Voice in Jamaica Kincaid’s ‘Girl’ and the Politics of Nature and Knowing in the Caribbean. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative. 7:1, 100-110.


  • Gender, Culture, and Knowledge in New Spain: Sor Juana’s ‘To the Gentleman in Peru.’ Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. 44:8, 1114-1129.
  • Next, the Campus Interview: An Elegy for Graduate Student Mothers. Journal of the Motherhood Initiative. Special Issue on Women in Academe. 6:2, 81-92.
  • ‘The Change was Very Strong’: Rural Mayan Motherhood and Activism During and After the Guatemalan Civil War. Mothers Under Fire: Mothering in Conflict Areas. Demeter Press.