Officially, my classes are designed to explore the creation of social rules, the transgression of those rules, and the enforcement of those rules. Thus I teach classes on topics such as deviance, illegal drugs, crime, and violence. Unofficially, my classes also emphasize the ways that gender/race/class inequalities are produced and reproduced through social rules and the importance of becoming a critical consumer of media. So, in my drugs class, for example, students learn about how the media’s portrayal of mothers and drug use has lead to a set of laws and practices that are designed to punish poor women for illegal drug use while simultaneously ignoring the licit and illicit drug use among wealthy women.
My own research reflects these same interests. In my dissertation research I conducted a case study of a drug court. Drug courts are alternative sanction programs designed to treat low-level drug offenders addiction problems rather than sending them to jail. In this project, I examine the ways that decision-makers (judges, attorneys, social workers) construct what it means to be recovered from addiction.
In my current research I am analyzing our cultural understanding of addiction using reality television shows (like Intervention and Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab). These shows are useful because they generally picture laypersons and professionals who talk about their beliefs about addiction – where it comes from, what it feels like and how we cure it. I am conducting a content analysis of narratives of addiction and treatment that appear in these reality TV shows. My argument is that our cultural narrative of addiction over-individualizes addiction and treatment and neglects responsibility of family, friends, and community on solving the problem of addiction.
I am also working with my colleague Gini Deibert at Suffolk University on an an analysis of portrayals of girls as delinquents and deviants in film. Together we are conducting a study of representations of delinquent girls in film since 1900. Our general argument is that the public image of "bad girls" feeds upon the stereotypical notion that any girl who is delinquent is also sexually deviant (either whore or lesbian) and that this image is then eroticized so that to the heteronormative male gaze these girls are desirable.