Area(s) of Interest: Gender, Sexuality, Law, Immigration, Sociology of Science and Knowledge, Feminist and Queer Theory
My dissertation examines how law and science cooperate to render sexual subjects legible to state institutions through measuring, classifying, and categorizing sexuality. Through the comparative study of asylum claims by sexual minorities and risk evaluations of sex offenders, my dissertation asks how legal institutions attempt to objectively measure the subjective phenomenon of sexuality. Drawing on an original archive of court decisions, interviews with legal and scientific actors, and multi-sited ethnographic observation, I find that these two legal domains measure sexuality quite differently and in ways dependent upon the structure of the legal arena and the type of expertise bearing on the decision-making process. In the case of sex offenders, forensic psychologists offer largely essentialist explanations of sexual deviance drawn from technologies meant to read the body, such as polygraphs and penile plethysmographs. Conversely, asylum advocates forward more constructionist accounts of sexuality that are sensitive to sexuality’s social determinants. I ultimately argue that distinct historical circumstances and institutional configurations laid the foundation for different networks of expertise to establish themselves in each domain, which, in turn, lead to divergent interpretations of sexuality and disparate governance outcomes.
Forthcoming. “Legally Queer: The Construction of Sexuality in LGBQ Asylum Claims.” Law & Society Review.
2016. “Welcoming Diversity? Symbolic Boundaries and the Politics of Normativity in Kansas City’s LGBTQ Communities.” Journal of Homosexuality 63(2):169-92.
Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Award from ASA Section on Sexualities, 2016
Sexualities Project at Northwestern Dissertation Fellowship, 2015