I am Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Washington, Tacoma, where I research and teach about the politics of contemporary culture in the United States. My TEDx talk, “Drugs and Desire,” explores the stigmas surrounding psychoactive drugs, from caffeine to hallucinogens. In my book, High: Drugs, Desire, and a Nation of Users, I explore how drug prohibition and health care have created disparate practices regarding drug use in American life. Within cultural studies, my expertise is in the relation of subcultures to dominant cultures in both social and popular culture. My writing has been published in the Journal of Popular CultureNANO, publications of the Alcohol and Drug History Association, and the edited volumes Conspiracy Nation and The Gangster Film Reader

My research and teaching are motivated by 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.

Current research projects include research about drugs and users and drug policy in the United States:

  • Working with  researchers to identify the constraints on drug research, in particular the need for better data about self-regulating drug users
  • Better understanding the complex set of factors involved in the opiate crisis
  • Developing a language with which to talk about drug use outside of the frameworks of medicalization and criminalization
  • Engaging with drug users of all kinds to share their experiences

More about my publications at Google Scholar:

I work with harm reduction organizations to bring those practices to drug users in South Puget Sound. I also engage with national organizations to help articulate the issues confronting drug users.

More about my teaching at the University of Washington, Tacoma.

When I’m not working, I enjoy running in the muddy trails of the Pacific Northwest. I live with my three-legged cat in the impressive shadow of Mount Rainier.

Photo Credit: Daphne Walsh Photography