Assistant Professor, Political Science
I teach public law and legal studies courses that focus on the relationship between law and society. My classes examine how the Supreme Court influences American politics, the complex ways law matters to people and the political, cultural and economic forces that shape the U.S legal system. My courses have a particular focus on how the Supreme Court’s decisions involving race relations are influenced by the larger structural forces of U.S. society.
My main goal in teaching is to get students to think critically about the U.S. legal system and interrogate its foundational myths, especially the idea of the judiciary's objectivity and impartiality, or the notion that the legal realm transcends and is separate from the other “political” branches of government. After taking one of my courses, I want students to recognize both the ability and the limitations of the law to act as a progressive force in society. While the law can be a powerful system for people to mobilize around to build solidarity and help create a more egalitarian society, it is also important to be critical of the ways the U.S. legal system has and continues to oppress marginalized populations.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
My research interests include law and society, constitutional law, critical legal studies, critical race theory, legal mobilization, legal history, U.S. citizenship and U.S. immigration policies.
My current research analyzes the legal histories of U.S. citizenship legislation for the Pacific unincorporated territories (Guam, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands). Through archival research, my work highlights how the normative values associated with citizenship were “weaponized” by U.S. lawmakers during the Cold War as propaganda against the Soviet Union. One of the reasons why U.S. policymakers extended citizenship to these areas was because it allowed the United States to promote its desired image throughout the world by demonstrating the moral superiority of its democratic, capitalist system of government in response to Soviet criticism of American racial discrimination and state-sponsored white supremacy. My research also explores the relationship between legal mobilization and the extension of citizenship in the Pacific unincorporated territories and the interaction between citizenship and territory throughout U.S. history.
My other current research project involves examining the connections between the political, cultural and economic forces shaping the U.S. criminal justice system and contemporary U.S. immigration policies.