Professor Kristin Bumiller
My scholarship focuses on the classic concerns of socio-legal studies and spans both civil and criminal legal contexts. I have a sustained interest in the empirical analysis of the law, and in particular, in processes of social exclusion that occur through gender and racial discrimination, criminalization, or violence. My scholarship has employed both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to show the incongruity between legal policies designed to protect the disadvantaged and these persons’ own desires for empowerment and greater personal freedom.
More specifically, my projects have and will continue to focus on three areas. My earliest work was concerned with the effectiveness of anti-discrimination law. I have been interested in how people who experience discrimination perceive the law and how these perceptions affect their decisions to pursue legal action. My first book, The Civil Rights Society, demonstrated that antidiscrimination law often serves to reinforce the victimization of women and racial minorities. Instead of providing a tool to lessen inequality, antidiscrimination policies often maintain presumptions about the law as a powerful and effective tool for the powerless. More recently, I have returned to the problem of employment discrimination by investigating how former prisoners’ prospects for employment are affected by the growing use of criminal record checks.
I also have devoted an extensive part of my scholarly career to examining the legal responses to rape and domestic violence. This empirical work, that includes interviews, analysis of court proceedings, and observations of notable trials, is the basis of my book, In An Abusive State. In this book I describe how the feminist campaign against sexual violence was fundamentally transformed by the simultaneous growth of the crime control apparatus and the "therapeutic state," a network of professionals, social workers, and government agents launched to provide services to women. The book presents the argument that the feminist movement became an unwitting partner in fostering a criminalized society—a development with negative consequences not only for minority and immigrant men, but also for women who are subject to greater scrutiny within the welfare state.
My research interests have more recently expanded to disability rights. I have contributed to a growing body of disability scholarship as well as raised new questions about political identity and the social exclusion of the disabled. My publications in this area have examined the “neurodiversity” movement and how individuals associated with this movement evoke a notion of disability that fundamentally disputes the assumption of disablement as a detriment. My research has also looked at the consequences of the cultural, political, and legal trend of understanding disabilities as genetic conditions and how this trend has implications for how we conceptualize gender, sexuality, reproduction, and the role of women as caretakers of the disabled.