LeeRay Costa

LeeRay Costa

My research, teaching, and community activism focus on social justice and a desire to understand processes of social change. I have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Thailand on women’s activism and non-governmental organizations, and on transgender youth, and in Hawai`i on the local food movement. My current research explores the intersection of civic engagement and contemplative practices in educational settings and social justice activism. In my teaching I seek to empower students to think critically and self-reflexively, and to create positive change in the world.

Areas of Expertise

  • NGOs
  • Social Movements
  • Social Justice
  • Food Activism
  • Civic Engagement
  • Feminist Pedagogy

Courses Taught

  • Introduction to Gender and Women’s Studies
  • Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality
  • Food, Culture, and Social Justice
  • Spiritual Activism
  • Women and Social Movements across the Globe
  • Senior Seminar in Gender and Women's Studies


  • Ph.D., University of Hawai`i, Manoa
  • M.A., New York University
  • B.A., University of California, San Diego

Publications & Articles

  • "Power and Difference in Thai Women’s NGO Activism." In Theorizing NGOs: States, Feminisms, and Neoliberalism, Victoria Bernal and Inderpal Grewal, eds. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014.
  • "Grassroots Woman Leader." In Figures of Southeast Asian Modernity, Joshua Barker, Erik Harms, and Johan Lindquist, eds. Honolulu: University of Hawai`i Press, 2013.
  • Special Issue of Feminist Teacher on Critical Community Engagement. Co-edited with Karen J. Leong. 22(3). 2012.


Costa is the founder and director of Girls Rock Roanoke, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower girls and women through music, creative expression, and collaboration. From 2014-15 she served on the board of directors of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA). Costa is currently the cochair of Program Administration and Development (PAD) for the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) and has served as secretary of the Southeastern Women’s Studies Association (SEWSA).

Research Interests

Costa’s research interests include women, activism, and social justice, spiritual activism, food activism, local and global food systems, feminist theory, feminist pedagogy, and contemplative practices.