My research interests center on projects of future-making in the context of American inequality, and consider reproduction, gender, the body, ecology, and epistemology, with particular attention to California's unique place in the national imagination. I draw from cultural, medical, and environmental anthropology, feminist philosophy, science and technology studies, and political-economic critique.
My book manuscript, Near Birth: Embodied Futures in California, lays out the terrain of childbearing in the California Bay Area, arguing that this place has a particular role in the national imagination as a vibrant site that generates utopian and dystopian futures. Given this, the book shows how issues surrounding birth refract outward into larger national politics. Ultimately, it argues that navigating the cultural terrain near birth is not just about making a new life, but making new selves and new worlds in ways that are deeply resonant with the contemporary American moment. Near Birth builds out from nearly three years of ethnographic fieldwork (2013-2016) during which I practiced as a birth doula, conducted interviews and media analysis, wrote for a medical blog, and engaged in participant observation at birth classes, professional meetings, volunteer organizations, and people’s homes. Near Birth grapples with what constitutes legitimate knowledge about bodies, and how people reconcile imaginaries of technology and nature in their own reproductive lives. It analyzes the gender politics of responsibility and vulnerability, and shows how reproduction gets used to advocate for more ethical distribution of resources, opportunities, and risks. Throughout, it illuminates tensions near birth in California as symptomatic of competing fantasies of utopian and dystopian American futures, mediated through birthing bodies.
"Reproducing a Toxic World"
My second project, Reproducing a Toxic World, examines reproductive inequalities through the lens of toxicity, multi-species embodiment, and late-liberal social conditions. What are the implications of bearing children under increasingly toxic circumstances? During my dissertation research, the communities I worked with expressed burgeoning concerns with chemicals, microbial life, and stress, and I am looking forward to more fully engaging these issues with new ethnographic data. Risks and exposures are unevenly distributed by class and race, which happens via geography, economic access, and the embodiment of historical traumas. I am deeply concerned with the way raced and classed bodies are differently valued, protected, and endangered at home and at work; I also take seriously how toxicity confounds geographical boundaries, human-centric thinking, and the consumer politics of buying safety and health. As such, toxicity both entrenches and transgresses lines of embodied privilege, providing fertile ground for reimagining collective and enduring well-being. Actors in my field site imagine childbearing populations as in a unique position to respond to threat, risk, and damage, and I am eager to engage these theoretical and pragmatic issues.