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Dr. Natalie Lira

Assistant Professor

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Contact Information

  • Address: Department of Latina/Latino Studies
    1207 W. Oregon
    M/C 136
    Urbana, IL 61801
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Research Description

Natalie Lira's research uncovers the largely neglected racial aspects of California‚Äôs eugenic sterilization program by providing evidence of the disproportionate institutionalization and sterilization of Mexican-origin women and men in state hospitals for the disabled during the first half of the twentieth  century. Mobilizing an interdisciplinary mix of feminist, critical racial, and historical lenses, Dr. Lira's research illustrates how stereotypes of Mexican-origin women and men as mentally inferior, hypersexual, criminal and unfit for citizenship came together with emerging medical and scientific concepts of deviance, delinquency, and disability to justify institutionalization and reproductive constraint. Through statistical and discursive analyses of thousands of sterilization requests, consent forms, institutional publications, and social science theses her work shows how eugenic ideas about  national and racial health, disability, and immigration determined the reproductive future of institutionalized populations. In addition to  documenting Mexican-origin women and men's experiences of institutionalization  and sterilization, Dr. Lira's research unearths the various ways Mexican-origin  patients and their families challenged institutional authorities and sought to  prevent sterilization. In doing so, her work figures Mexican-origin women and  men's experiences of reproductive constraint, institutionalization, and their anti-  sterilization efforts as central to twentieth century histories of racial and  reproductive struggles. 

Specializations / Research Interest(s)

  • Latina/o and Ethnic Studies
  • Disability Studies
  • The politics of reproduction
  • Chicana feminism
  • Histories of racial and reproductive justice
  • Histories of medicine and public health


  • BA Latin American and Caribbean Studies, University of Illinois, 2008
  • MA American Culture, University of Michigan, 2011
  • PhD American Culture, University of Michigan, 2015