published peer-reviewed articles
"Sunbelt Capitalism, Civil Rights, and the Development of Careral Policy in North Carolina, 1954-1970," Studies in American Political Development (2018).
This article investigates an important yet poorly understood aspect of the origins of the U.S. carceral state. Many explanations attribute the rise of mass incarceration to the conservative tide in American politics beginning in the late 1960s: “tough on crime” policies advanced by southern Democrats and Republicans, white backlash against black civil rights, and the law-and-order politics of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy.” But in focusing on conservatives, prevailing theories have ignored how the changing economic and political landscape of the post-WWII South shaped how policymakers thought about crime. This article examines how key elements of the carceral state emerged in the rapidly growing, metropolitan, and business-minded Sunbelt South between 1954 and 1970, using North Carolina as a test case. Drawing on a variety of archival sources, it unearths how moderate southern politicians with material links to extra-regional sources of capital, political links to northern liberal elites, and ideological links to postwar liberalism pioneered state-level carceral policy. It argues that the swift development of crime policy in midcentury North Carolina was the product of how the state’s moderate elites chose to govern the emerging Sunbelt economy in the wake of Brown v. Board of Education and the civil rights movement. The problems of rampant civil disorder, racial extremism, and lawlessness, they argued, threatened the economic progress of North Carolina and required the implementation of strong yet race-neutral crime policy. This study offers an analysis of how the Sunbelt South, in shedding Jim Crow and entering the national political and economic mainstream, came to help spearhead the carceral turn in American politics.
"American Political Development in the Age of Incarceration," Politics, Groups, and Identities Vol. 6, No. 1 (Winter 2018).
What is the use and purpose of American political development (APD) in the era of Black Lives Matter? This article clarifies the APD’s role in analyzing the institutions to which the Movement for Black Lives primarily responds – racialized surveillance, policing, and incarceration. In particular, I spotlight what the discipline can offer, given the challenges of the current Trump era. The rise of Donald Trump to the presidency and the concurrent popularization of white populist nationalism in mainstream American politics present unique challenges. I argue that today, as scholars strive to understand how we arrived, or arrived again, in an era of overt white supremacist rhetoric, American political development’s focus on historical institutional change offers necessary grounding. In an era of Charlottesville and chants of “Build the wall!”, our collective focus is easily drawn to the spectacular and away from the long-standing and institutional, but black and brown lives also depend on our collective attention to the quieter routines of institutionalized racial violence that developed in post-civil rights era – even, and perhaps especially, in the absence of overt racial demagoguery.
"Covering Legal Mobilization: A Bottom-Up Analysis of Wards Cove v. Atonio," with Michael McCann and George Lovell, Law & Social Inquiry (Winter 2016).
We develop a political history of Wards Cove v. Atonio (1989) to show how Robert Cover’s concepts of jurisgenesis and jurispathy can enrich the legal mobilization framework for understanding law and social change. We illustrate the value of the hybrid theory by recovering the Wards Cove workers’ own understanding of the role of litigation in their struggle for workplace rights. The cannery worker plaintiffs exemplified Cover’s dual logic by articulating aspirational narratives of social justice and by critically rebuking the Supreme Court’s ruling as the “death throe” for progressive minority workers’ rights advocacy. The cannery workers’ story also highlights the importance of integrating legal mobilization scholars’ focus on extrajudicial political engagement into Cover’s judge-centered analysis. Our aim is to forge a theoretical bridge between Cover’s provocative arguments about law and the analytical tradition of social science scholarship on the politics of legal mobilization.
"Untimely Subjects: White Trash and the Making of Racial Innocence in the Postwar South," American Quarterly Vol. 67, No.1 (March 2015).
Using Baldwin's political thought, this article analyzes the role categories of racial transgression (in this case, the reviled and violent “white trash” of the rural South) play in political construction of racial innocence. Using white trash as a lens, this article investigates how the effort to shore up political and economic power in the New South produced blindness towards – innocence of – that very effort.