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 to build abolition, transformative justice, and decolonization.

(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 Digital Humanities 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 also seek abolitionist and anti-eugenics epistemologies.

Dr. Whatcott is writing a book titled A Menace to the Future: Carceral Eugenics in California, which examines state violence at the intersection of eugenics and carcerality. Looking historically at the early twentieth century development of the policy of “segregation” (institutionalization), the book applies a queer disability feminist framework to theorize what carceral eugenics. The state of California developed policies of commitment for the purpose of eugenics at a variety of institutions including 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 book shows how eugenics theory and practice was integral to developing the carceral logics that defined California in subsequent decades. The book also uncovers traces of how the patient-inmates of California institutions enacted practices of anti-eugenics.

A huge speculative fiction fan, Dr. Whatcott has written about how writers including Octavia Butler and Ursula K. Le Guin, popular television shows and film, and comics offer 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