Research Interests

  • Twentieth-century U.S. history

  • Political and legal history

  • History of the carceral state

  • History of sexuality, LGBTQ studies, and queer theory

  • Modern transatlantic history

Book Projects

Project 1: Bad Queers: LGBTQ People and State Power in Modern America (under review, University of Chicago Press)

Bad Queers will be the first monograph-length study of the historical construction of a socio-legal hierarchy of “good” and “bad” LGBTQ people, stratified according to the gender and/or sexual behavior in which they engaged. Between 1948 and 2003, a network of human actors—social and political movements, state officials, experts, and the culture industry—and structural forces challenged and recreated an American campaign against sex crime—the war on sex offenders—and in the process fashioning a legal system of gender and sexual disqualification of bad sex in general and bad queers in particular. The project’s three case studies based on Texas, California, and Massachusetts analyze political struggles over three broad areas of queer conduct, namely “good” gay sexual behavior between consenting adults in private, forms of public and promiscuous gender and/or sexual behavior, and underage sex. My examination brings the field of LGBTQ political and legal history into closer conversation with an interdisciplinary cluster of scholarship about criminalization and the war on sex offenders, and thereby extends scholarly understandings in both of these fields of the domain, periodization, causality, and scale of state power over LGBTQ people.

Project 2: The Children’s Crusade: Governing Child Sexuality in the Modern Transatlantic World

This project studies the history of expert and legal discourses about sex crimes involving children and the contribution of those discourses to the rise of mass incarceration and the invention of a legal system of sexual inequality based on age in the U.S., U.K., Germany, and France. In the 19th and 20th centuries, experts, social activists, and state officials created a set of ways through which to insulate young people from sexual knowledge and activity and to punish and manage precocious youth, pedophiles, and other sexual subjects who violated the expectation of childhood asexuality. Expert and legal discourses about children and sex had effects that were sometimes protective, sometimes coercive, but always productive of the expansion of state and institutional power. 


“The Invention of Bad Gay Sex: Texas and the Creation of a Criminal Underclass of Gay People,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 26, no. 1 (2017): 53–87.

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“The Creation of the Modern Sex Offender,” in The War on Sex, ed. David Halperin and Trevor Hoppe (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017), 247–267.

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