My work focuses on contemporary American culture, particularly the politics of popular forms: film, music, television, comix, art, literature, evolving media forms and fashion. Critically, I explore the negotiation of cultural identity and power as expressed through contested social dynamics and politics.
My research and teaching express a commitment to understanding the systems that create social inequities in the United States and, particularly, what we can do to change them. I believe that the more we seek to understand our own cultural practices, the more clearly we will see their relation to and reproduction of the social systems of law, public health, education, media, etc. that empower and disempower us. I am a community-engaged scholar and activist.
My book, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users, is a cross-cultural study of how we think about, regulate, and use psychoactive drugs in the United States. It asks a fundamental question about drug policy and social norms in the United States: Why do we endorse the use of some drugs while criminalizing the use of others? This illogical separation shapes public policy, the justice system, research, social services, and healthcare in ways that affect all Americans. My TEDx talk, “Drugs and Desire”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p4zw4_qgUw explores the stigmas surrounding psychoactive drugs, from caffeine to hallucinogens.
Previous scholarship has focused on conspiracy theory as a political discourse in American culture as expressed in literature, television dramas (The X Files, The Sopranos), comix, texts featuring Italian mobsters, African-American gangstas and white supremacism.