Assistant Professor of Latina/Latino Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Natalie Lira's research uncovers 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, criminal and unfit for citizenship came together with emerging medical and scientific concepts of deviance, delinquency, and disability to justify institutionalization and reproductive constraint. Through statistical 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's research unearths the various ways Mexican-origin patients and their families challenged institutional authorities and sought to prevent sterilization. In doing so, her work figures Mexican-origin women and men's experiences of reproductive constraint, institutionalization, and their anti- sterilization efforts as central to twentieth century histories of racial and reproductive struggles.

Experience

  • –present
    Assistant Professor of Latina/Latino Studies, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign