Area(s) of Interest
Gender & Sexuality, Sociology of Law, Law & Society, Sociology of Science and Knowledge, Feminist & Queer Theory, Criminology, Political Sociology, Culture
Biography:My research is broadly concerned with the constitutive relationship of law and science and processes of legal and scientific measurement and categorization, particularly in regard to gender and sexuality. My dissertation, “Ruling Sexuality: Law, Expertise, and the Making of Sexual Knowledge,” asks how legal complexes attempt to objectively measure the subjective phenomenon of sexuality for legal decision-making in the United States in order to analyze how measurement and classification processes get institutionalized in the law. Through a comparative analysis of asylum claims by sexual minorities and civil commitment evaluations of sex offenders—two arenas where courts must adjudicate individuals’ sexualities—I argue that science and law coproduce sexuality as a regulatory category and cooperate to render sexual subjects legible to, and thus manageable by, the state. A triangulated methodological approach using data drawn from an original archive of legal decisions, interviews with legal and scientific actors, and multi-sited ethnographic observation allows me to offer a fine-grained examination of how different conceptions of sexuality are produced within the law. I demonstrate that different networks of expertise formed to support competing understandings of sexuality and to legitimate the prevailing institutional goals of each legal complex. In the case of sex offenders, forensic psychology offers largely essentialist explanations of sexuality drawn from technologies meant to read the body, such as polygraphs and penile plethysmographs, which make for easier assignations of criminal blame and individual pathology. Conversely, asylum advocates forward more constructionist accounts of sexuality that are sensitive to sexuality’s social determinants and more conducive to humanitarian relief.
I am currently working on several other projects that further examine the relationship between sexuality and state power, including a study of asylum claims by transgender people (which are often conflated with sexuality-based claims) and an analysis of the shifting relationship between the “psych” disciplines and penal institutions in the management of sexual deviance.
Publications:(* indicates peer-reviewed)
Forthcoming. Review of Gendered Asylum: Race and Violence in U.S. Law and Politics by Sara McKinnon. International Migration Review. Online first: DOI - 10.1111/imre.12337
2017. “Interview with Tiana Paschel.” Amici: The Newsletter of the Sociology of Law Section 25(2):13-15.
*2016. “Legally Queer: The Construction of Sexuality in LGBQ Asylum Claims.” Law & Society Review 50(4):856-889.
*2016. “Welcoming Diversity? Symbolic Boundaries and the Politics of Normativity in Kansas City’s LGBTQ Communities.” Journal of Homosexuality 63(2):169-92.
2014. “Queer Nation.” Pp. 570-572 In Encyclopedia of Social Deviance, edited by Craig Forsyth and Heith Copes. London: Sage.
Grants and Awards:
2017 Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship ($38,000)
2016 Martin P. Levine Memorial Dissertation Award from ASA Section on Sexualities
2016 Sexualities Project at Northwestern Summer Research Grant
2016 Northwestern University Research Grant
2015 Buffett Institute Dissertation Research Travel Award
2015 Sexualities Project at Northwestern Dissertation Fellowship (1 year of funding)
2013 Sexualities Project at Northwestern Summer Research Grant