University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign logo

Faculty Research

Lisa Cacho

Lisa Cacho's work demonstrates how race, gender, sexuality, class, nation, and legality work interdependently to assign human value and to render relations of inequality normative, natural, and obvious in both dominant and oppositional discourses. To understand how the rhetoric and discourse of value are both institutionalized and popularized to devastating effect, she analyzes a range of sources, such as ballot measures ascribing “illegality” to persons, legal provisions targeting “criminal aliens,” court documents evaluating degrees of “guilt,” and related media accounts that manage and make sense of racial contradictions. Her book, Social Death: Racialized Rightlessness and the Criminalization of the Unprotected (NYU press, 2012) examines the ways in which representations of race and race relations mediate how we affectively and intellectually apprehend criminal justice and civil/human rights.

Julie Dowling

Julie Dowling is currently working on two projects. The first is focused on what messages Mexican American parents give their children about racial identity and ideology. The second project is an exploration of how US-born Latina women navigate gender roles and the relationship between their beliefs about gender and their racial/cultural identities. In addition to these projects, she is currently in her third year on the US Census Bureau’s National Advisory Committee (NAC). During summer 2016 she completed an 18-month term as convener of a NAC working group focused on enumerating the hard to count populations, including racial/ethnic minorities, homeless persons, immigrants, LGBTQ, and other vulnerable groups. This work culminated in recommendations and a report to assist the Census in reaching these communities.

Jonathan Xavier Inda

Jonathan Xavier Inda is currently working on a project titled Deathscapes: Mapping Race and Violence in Settler States. This is a collaborative, transnational research project with Suvendrini Perera, Joseph Pugliese, Sherene Razack, and Marianne Franklin. It seeks to develop new ways to understand, teach about, and respond to racial violence in the settler states of Australia, Canada, and the United States. The focus of the project is on two defining figures of the settler state, the indigene and the racial stranger at the border. Whereas the deaths of these figures most often tend to be documented and analyzed by experts and authorities working with different disciplinary assumptions about the meanings and implications of such deaths, and deploying different data sets that establish their deaths as unconnected phenomena, we aim to situate the deaths within the shared context of a set of particular institutions and formations, namely those of the settler state. Working across three states, then, this research project seeks to document and analyze the deaths of Aboriginal and racialized people in police, prison and state custody as crucial sites of state responsibility. Dr. Inda and his colleagues are interested in examining how such deaths occur, and to elucidate how legal and social accountability for them is understood and assigned, or disowned. In the context of the structures and institutions of the settler state, they adopt a biopolitical framework to identify the tactics and strategies that serve to preserve the lives of some subjects of the state, while promoting the deaths of others. Through this analytical frame, the violence at multiple sites is connected across the shared repositories of discourses, practices, and policies that make up the nation.

Natalie Lira

Natalie Lira is currently conducting research for her book manuscript tentatively titled “Of Low Grade Mexican Parentage”: Race, Disability, and Sterilization in California, 1920-1950. Her researchuncovers the largely neglected racial aspects of California’s 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, and inherently criminal came together with emerging medical and scientific ideas about sexual deviance, delinquency, and disability to justify institutionalization and sterilization. Combining quantitative 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 is also researching the various ways Mexican-origin patients and their families challenged institutional authorities and sought to prevent sterilization. In doing so, she figures Mexican-origin patients’ experiences of reproductive constraint, institutionalization, and their anti-sterilization efforts as central to twentieth century histories of racial and reproductive struggles.

Isabel Molina-Guzmán

Isabel Molina-Guzmán is working on a project titled The Modern Family Era of Primetime Network Comedy. Next to reality television programming, comedies are the most successful genre in contemporary US network television. The project examines Latina/o representations on network primetime sitcoms from 2005 to the present. It concludes that US Latina/o television audiences are caught between 1) the desires of advertisers and network programmers eager to tap into the Latina/o market and 2) the increasing political, social and cultural tensions surrounding ethnic and racial difference in US life. As a result, Latina/o visibility on primetime network comedies is used as evidence of social and political progress that elides the profit-driven motives of their inclusion. Furthermore, the visibility of Latinas/os in programs such as Modern Family is often mobilized as evidence of ethnic and racial progress thus taking attention away from the structural disenfranchisement of Latinas/os, African Americans and other ethnic and racial minority groups. Another project that Dr. Molina-Guzmán is currently working on a book project titled Assembled Citizenship: US Afro-Latina/o Cultural Visibility 1996-2016. Traditional understandings of cultural citizenship depend on liberal democratic categories of ethno-racial identity. Established identity categories are increasingly unsustainable in the global context of immigration, demographic transformations, and the media’s economic imperative to reach a larger more diverse audience through the commodification of racially ambiguous bodies. The claim that cultural citizenship grounded in traditional ethno-racial identity categories is inadequate does not, however, suggest the United States is post-race; since post- racial ideology also contributes to the erasure of ethno-racial minority groups. Instead, Assembled Citizenship insists on the recognition of unique identities represented as a complex whole of inter-connected and interdependent ethnic and racial identities. Afro-Latina/o assembled cultural citizenship disrupts absence by insisting on being “seen” through a prism of ethno-racial lenses. The book studies the dynamics of assembled cultural citizenship through representations and public discourses by and about Afro-Latinas/os over the past twenty years in three cultural arenas – movies, film and social media.

Gilberto Rosas

Gilberto Rosas is working on a project provisionally titled Brown Death Matters. Drawing on ethnographic work on Central Americans crossing through Mexico in route to the United States, the work of attorneys and scholars aiding Latin Americans seeking asylum in the United States during deportation and related proceedings, and an analysis of film and other popular media, Brown Death Matters ponders the complexities of intellectual work during the beautiful moment of Black Lives Matter. Brown Death Matters pushes for a critical analytics, vocabulary, orientations, and images that honor the political commitments of Black Life Matters, while critically analyzing “disappeared” deportees, the struggles of asylum seekers, and related exemplification’s of anti-Brown death work. That is, how do we critically write of white supremacist violence against non-Black bodies during a moment of Black Life Matters?

Sandra Ruiz

Sandra Ruiz is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled, Ricanness: Staging Time in Anticolonial Performance, which moves from the aesthetic to the political, and the philosophical to the performative, to uncover the existential and phenomenological affinity between Rican conceptual artists and revolutionaries.

Edna Viruell-Fuentes

Edna Viruell-Fuentes is is working on a project titled The Ripple Effects of the U.S. Immigration Policy Environment: Health in a Migrant-Sending Community in Mexico. Ongoing shifts in U.S. immigration policy have implications not only for the health and wellbeing of migrants and their families in the United States, but potentially also for the health and wellbeing of their families in migrant-sending communities abroad. This project qualitatively examines whether and how the U.S. immigration policy climate affects the health and wellbeing of the families of migrants left behind in a sending community in Mexico. Population research on the links between migration and health has focused primarily on the experiences of immigrants at the point of destination, and on how adaptation into a receiving society impacts migrant health. Research in two emerging areas has extended this focus by (1) addressing the effects of out-migration on the health of those still living in sending communities; and by (2) moving beyond adaptation and acculturation frameworks to examine the contextual factors, including the immigration policy environment in receiving communities, that render migrants vulnerable to ill health. These two areas of emerging research have developed independently of each other, even though the effects of migration on health in sending communities are likely to be closely linked to the wellbeing of migrants at the point of destination. By exploring how receiving-country immigration policies affect the health and wellbeing of migrants’ families and communities in their sending country, this timely research bridges these two emerging literatures.