Natalie Lira

Profile picture for Natalie Lira

Contact Information

Department of Latina/Latino Studies
1207 W. Oregon Street
M/C 136
Assistant Professor

Research Interests

  • Latina/o and Ethnic Studies
  • The politics of reproduction
  • Disability Studies
  • Chicana feminism
  • Histories of racial and reproductive justice
  • Histories of medicine and public health

Research Description

Natalie Lira's research uncovers the largely neglected racial aspects of California’s eugenic sterilization program by providing evidence of the disproportionate institutionalization and sterilization of Mexican-origin women and men in state hospitals for the disabled during the first half of the twentieth century. Mobilizing an interdisciplinary mix of feminist, critical racial, and historical lenses, Dr. Lira's research illustrates how stereotypes of Mexican-origin women and men as mentally inferior, hypersexual, criminal and unfit for citizenship came together with emerging medical and scientific concepts of deviance, delinquency, and disability to justify institutionalization and reproductive constraint. Through statistical and discursive analyses of thousands of sterilization requests, consent forms, institutional publications, and social science theses her work shows how eugenic ideas about national and racial health, disability, and immigration determined the reproductive future of institutionalized populations. In addition to documenting Mexican-origin women and men's experiences of institutionalization and sterilization, Dr. Lira's research unearths the various ways Mexican-origin patients and their families challenged institutional authorities and sought to prevent sterilization. In doing so, her work figures Mexican-origin women and men's experiences of reproductive constraint, institutionalization, and their anti- sterilization efforts as central to twentieth century histories of racial and reproductive struggles.


American Culture, Ph.D., University of Michigan
American Culture, MA, University of Michigan
Latin American and Caribbean Studies, BA, University of Illinois

Additional Campus Affiliations

Assistant Professor, Gender and Women's Studies

Recent Publications

Novak, N. L., Lira, N., O’Connor, K. E., Harlow, S. D., Kardia, S. L. R., & Minna Stern, A. (2018). Disproportionate sterilization of Latinos under California’s eugenic sterilization program, 1920-1945. American journal of public health, 108(5), 611-613.

Stern, A. M., Novak, N. L., Lira, N., O'Connor, K., Harlow, S., & Kardia, S. (2017). California's sterilization survivors: An estimate and call for redress. American journal of public health, 107(1), 50-54.

Lira, N. (2016). Review: B. Gurr's Reproductive Justice: The Politics of Health Care for Native American Women. Social History of Medicine, 29(1), 200-201.

Lira, N., & Stern, A. M. (2014). Mexican Americans and Eugenic Sterilization: Resisting Reproductive Injustice in California, 1920–1950 . Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, 39(2), 9-34.

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