Dr. Jess Whatcott

Dr. Jess Whatcott (they/them/theirs) is an educator, researcher, and organizer based in San Diego, California (Kumeyaay territory), working with others towards abolition, disability justice, queer and trans liberation, and a world without borders.

(Photograph by Rich Soublet. Description: A black and white photograph of a white, non-binary person with short curly hair wearing a black jacket over a floral shirt and shorts, smiles into the camera. They are in front of a white background.)

Dr. Whatcott is an Assistant Professor of Women’s Studies and an affiliate of LGBTQ+ Studies and the Center for Comics Studies at San Diego State University. They hold a PhD in Politics, with emphases in Feminist Studies and Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, from University of California Santa Cruz. They earned a MA in Social Science, Environment and Community Program, and a BA in Political Science and Women’s Studies from Humboldt State University.

An interdisciplinary scholar, they work in critical disability studies, critical carceral/prison studies, queer studies/queer of color critique, and California history. Dr. Whatcott studies state violence in the U.S., historically and in the present, in jails/prisons, institutions for disability confinement, migrant detention centers, and other eugenics programs. They center abolitionist and anti-eugenics crip and queer epistemologies.

A book manuscript titled Menace to the Future: Carceral Eugenics in California, which theorizes that carcerality is a on-going practice of state-sponsored eugenics, is forthcoming from Duke University Press. Looking historically at the early twentieth century development of the policy of “segregation” (institutionalization) in California, the book examines commitment for the purpose of eugenics at state hospitals, state homes for the feeble-minded, reform schools, and reformatories for women from the turn of the century to World War II. Drawing on archival, public policy, literary, visual, and museum research, the manuscript theorizes the invention of carceral eugenics and makes links with current practices within the criminal legal system. The book uncovers how disabled, mad, neurodivergent, and otherwise queer people locked California institutions enacted abolitionist practices of anti-eugenics in the decades before organized self-advocacy and psych survivors movements.

A huge speculative fiction nerd, Dr. Whatcott has elsewhere written about writers including Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, popular television shows and film, and comics. They argue that pop culture is a site for political education about state violence, eugenics, and neoliberal precarity — past and present. They locate in speculative creations both a diagnosis of “the crisis” and the imagination of transformative abolitionist queer and crip futures.

They identify as a queer, non-binary, neurodivergent, non-disabled white person from a working-class Mormon family of origin. 

Email: jwhatcott at sdsu.edu

Mail: C/O Women’s Studies
San Diego State University
5500 Campanile Drive
San Diego CA 92182-6030