Michael Illuzzi is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Lesley University and Director of the Lesley CLAS Honors Program.

Research and teaching interests

Michael Illuzzi’s work in political theory and American politics focuses on racial, gender, and class inequalities and U.S. political movements that have fought against overlapping injustices. His teaching and research interests also include: critical community engagement, populism, peoplehood, and critical storytelling’s potential to challenge dominant narratives. 

Current Research Project

Michael’s current book project—Populism and Peoplehood in America—argues rather than turning to creating new theories for alternatives to right-wing nationalism, we can instead learn from past American actors and activists. Using thousands of historical newspapers, archival sources, and historiographic texts, Michael shows how Lincoln’s redefinition of the American founding, a social gospel urban mayor’s campaign to bring greater economic justice for new immigrants, Martin Luther King’s attempts to save the soul of the American nation, Illinois Black Panther chairman—Fred Hampton’s—efforts to form a cross-racial coalition to fight the racial and economic oppression, and the contemporary Poor People’s Campaign all used invocations to religion, patriotism and sometimes populism to redefine what America meant to their followers and called them to form a coalition to fight to preserve this renewed vision. This history of advocacy suggests that left-wing variations of stories of community building complete with invocations to religion, patriotism, and populism were no less prevalent or powerful as the current right-wing variations and now more than ever we cannot afford to abandon these powerful mobilizing strategies.


At Lesley, Michael teaches the following courses: Introduction to Political Science, Introduction to Political Philosophy, Doing Good or Looking Good: Decolonizing Community Engagement, U.S. Politics, Violence, Markets, and Globalization: Theorizing the Contemporary World, Elections and Democracy, U.S. Constitutional Law, and HBO’s “The Wire”: The Politics of U.S. Urban Inequality.


Michael holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and a B.S. in Culture and Politics from the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.