I research and write broadly about the relationship between law, power, and space while taking the rural seriously as a site of governance, legal implementation, and legal experience. As a legal historian, I am interested in the legal remaking of “the rural” at local, state, and federal levels over the course of the twentieth century. By paying careful attention to rural residents’ on-the-ground experience of law, as well as how race and gender alter those experiences, rural law takes shape in my scholarship not as a undeveloped version of American law writ small, but as a field of law that is an integral part of modern American law, full stop. As part of a broader research agenda, my book project examines multiple fields of law, including local government, education, labor, legal practice, and land use, to mark out the scope of rural legal transformation in the twentieth century.
You can find article abstracts of published, forthcoming, and in-progress work below. For more information about my dissertation, "Cows, Cars, and Criminals," click here.
Forced Communities: Rural School Consolidation & Urban School Desegregation
I am in early stages of research for this article, which will put into conversation the better-known legal history of urban school desegregation with the lesser-known legal history of rural school consolidation. Although rural school consolidation was, and continues to be, a central recurring issue for rural local governments, the efforts to reorganize school districts through state-wide legislation in states like Kansas during the 1960s and 1970s reveal how both consolidation and desegregation were intertwined. Legal decisions, legislation, and education policy culminated in the creation of new twentieth-century social and physical communities in both urban and rural spaces. The debates surrounding both school consolidation and desegregation reveal not only how central schools are to community identity, but also how legal resolutions to issues of inequities in education quality—in both rural and urban communities—were forced to confront non-legal political and social questions of who belongs in a community and who gets to define community boundaries.
Legal Landscapes, Migrant Labor, and Rural Social Safety Nets: