My research explores law's cultural power, the complex and often subtle ways in which law shapes and pervades everyday practices, through the study of birth activism and the emergence of independent, non-nurse midwifery in the United States. In my Ph.D. dissertation and my working book manuscript, I investigate how the identity and organization of independent midwifery developed differently in diverse state legal settings and seek to understand the significance of birth activism as a social movement. In a related pair of studies, I investigate how some midwives and birth activists have used legislative settings to advance their cause.
My research in criminology consists of studies exploring contemporary criminological theory and the production of criminological knowledge as a scientific practice. A current study explores the significance of Durkheim and culture for the work of criminologist David Garland. Projects in the sociology of criminology include studies exploring the legacy of the Science and Technology Task Force of President Johnson’s 1967 Crime Commission for the construction of criminal justice as a distinct field of practice, and a study exploring the significance of the recent resurgence of forensics to the field. Ongoing projects include a broad study of the development of criminological knowledge in U.S. sociology and criminology journals from 1940-2000.
Much of my work is shaped by recent methodological and theoretical developments from the field of science studies. My research also aims to contribute to this field through studies of how independent midwives adopt and adapt understanding of “evidence-based medicine” in an effort to acquire professional credibility and to transform allopathic medicine from within. A second area of research investigates how legal settings shape the rhetorical presentation and public reception of science, and how science is used by groups to gain credibility in legal settings.