Research

My research agenda coheres around my interests in the meeting points of social impacts of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and historical context of contemporary lives. I use my training in qualitative and quantitative social sciences and in textual and archival analysis to produce scholarship that engages mixed methodologies from an interdisciplinary intellectual standpoint. I have presented my work at a variety of regional, national, international conferences, including the Critical Ethnic Studies Association, American Studies Association, Native American and Indigenous Studies Association, and National Women’s Studies Association conferences. I have also published a queer analysis of identity formation among queer polyamorous women in Sexualities. Additionally, I have an accepted chapter analyzing racial and gendered discourse of threats of violence against Black and Latino boys in the television series Beyond Scared Straight forthcoming in an edited collection that is under contract with Fairleigh Dickinson University Press. I am committed to engaging with potential interlocutors in many different disciplines and interdisciplines and this commitment shapes both my research and the audiences who may be receptive to that research.

The Kids Who Aren’t There: Indigenous Child Removal Through Compulsory Education, Adoption, and Juvenile Justice

My current project, The Kids Who Are(n’t) There: Indigenous Child Removal Through Compulsory Education,scholar Adoption, and Juvenile Justice builds upon my dissertation research. I argue that the removal of Native children in eastern Washington State has been and continues to be a keystone of ongoing settler colonization. As explained further in my dissertation abstract, I use institutional ethnography as a method to engage with legal analysis, archival documents, and interviews to track the shifts in U.S. state policy regarding Native youth removal. These shifts encompass the use of three distinct systems—compulsory education in mission and boarding schools, adoption and foster care outside of family and tribal environments, and juvenile justice—to remove Native children as a part of the process of eliminating and assimilating indigenous ways of knowing and indigenous people. White ideals of gender roles and European understandings of kinship formations and sexual norms justified removals of Native children from the Spokane, Kalispel, and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation. The instruction of the proper white ideals of gender and sexuality were also central to the reeducation and assimilation projects of all three systems. The impacts of the three systems and the everyday understandings of race, citizenship, gender, and kinship that frame them are often examined separately from one another. However, I argue that these systems are discrete and yet connected arms of U.S. policy.

The impacts of the three systems and the everyday understandings of race, citizenship, gender, and kinship that frame them are often examined separately from one another. However, I argue that these systems are discrete and yet connected arms of U.S. policy. Importantly, each of these projects participate in the creation of understanding of Native youth as “youth of color” or “minority youth.” Partly due to Native youth’s relatively small numbers as compared to other youth of color—Native people are less than 1% of the U.S. population—coding them as minority youth produces a situation where Native youth are less likely to have their situations examined. This means that, though Native youth are overrepresented in both the juvenile justice and foster care system, very little critical attention has come to why they might be overrepresented. I argue that data which combines analysis of the status of Native youth in with other racialized youth is, in part, done in the interest of making ongoing colonization less apparent. If Native people and children are statistically insignificant, then drawing any kind of critical conclusion about their status becomes impossible.

This project is the first to consider contemporary Native youth’s juvenile justice system involvement in the context of other settler state policies which impacted Native youth, families, and communities. This project considers the impacts of the transnational and state-to-state nature of all U.S. state engagements with Native youth. This project uses a mixed methodological engagement with historical archives; legal histories and judicial decisions; and interviews with Native youth involved in the justice system, Native adult adoptees who were adopted into white families, and with professionals in the legal and social services systems. I argue that the removal of Native youth from family and tribal homes were and remain central to the ongoing gendered and racialized project of settler colonization in the United States. Through this project, the connected logics of state-sponsored compulsory education, foster care and adoption, and juvenile justice have not only justified removal of Native children, but have shaped our very understandings of American citizenship, race, gender, and sexuality.

Connected to my primary project, I have also a chapter under contract in the edited volume Transnational Perspectives of Sexual and Reproductive Rights, edited by Dr. Tanya Saroj Bakhru. In “Indigenous Reproductive Justice after Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl (2013),” I analyze the 2013 Supreme Court decision to remove a Native child from her Native father’s custody and place her with a non-Native adoptive family chosen by her birth mother. Using reproductive justice as a lens, I explore the context of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 as not just a family-connection bill, but as a legislation which should provide protection for Native parents to have their children parented in indigenous homes. I argue that the Supreme Court’s decision shores up the foundations of a legal system which has never been interested in justice for Native people and which has developed in part out of a need to erode Native sovereignty and self-determination. This, I argue, is an issue of reproductive justice, of the ability of Native families to parent Native children.

In anticipation of the necessary changes in this project to take it from a dissertation project to a monograph, I have already reached out to scholars in Adoption Studies, critical carceral studies, Native Studies, Ethnic Studies, and queer indigenous studies to read selections of my current project and to give me feedback on the reception of various arguments made in my dissertation within their scholarly communities. I also plan to continue presenting aspects of my arguments in this project at national and specialized conferences to continue to develop this project and to get feedback from leading scholars in the fields in which I intervene. This project has been recognized nationally and was awarded an Honorable Mention by the Ford Foundation Fellowship Program in 2016. I am currently refining an article based on this research, which will be submitted to the Wicazo Sa Review in December. I have also discussed my project with editors at University of Illinois Press and University of Washington Press and plan to work on a book proposal to be submitted to presses in 2018 and work on revisions to my manuscript for the next 2 years.

Future Research

In addition, I have begun developing my second book-length project, tentatively tied In A Racist State’s Care: Foster Care and Juvenile Justice of Black and Native Children. This book will explore the legal status of “in state care,” wherein the state is makes medical, educational, and social decisions for a child. This status encompasses both foster care and juvenile justice. My project will be the first to look critically at this legal status and the ways that it blurs criminal and civil law through the framework of care and the “best interests of the child.” I am particularly interested in the impact of a state which was built on dispossession of land and genocide of Native people and inheritable enslavement of Black people “caring” for indigenous and Black youth. This project builds upon existing work in adoption studies to look critically at foster care, a complex and unclear hybrid legal and caretaking system for youth wherein both Black and Native youth are overrepresented. I will also extend the work done on both the foster care system and the juvenile justice system in my first project to analyze how forms of state care of children through foster care and juvenile justice build understandings of race, citizenship, and belonging. I anticipate an article based on this scholarship to be completed and under review by Critical Ethnic Studies by January 2018.

As I engage in my current and future scholarship, I am committed to connecting my research and instruction in the classroom. As my own intellectual passions develop, I am able to bring that into a classroom and think through ideas about race, citizenship, ethnicity, and gender with my students. I have found that there is a beneficial feedback loop for me with connecting my research and teaching when possible, one that not only benefits my teaching but which also benefits my scholarship. I will also continue to present my work in progress at national conferences, including the National Women’s Studies Association, Critical Ethnic Studies Association, American Studies Association, and Native American and Indigenous Studies Association national conferences to get feedback from colleagues in all of these fields as my work develops.

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