Laboratory of Deficiency: Sterilization and Confinement in California, 1900-1950s


In Laboratory of Deficiency (2021), Dr. Natalie Lira combines insights and analytical frameworks from Latinx Studies, Disability Studies, and feminist scholarship on reproduction to examine Mexican-origin people’s experiences of eugenic sterilization and institutionalization in California during the first half of the 20th century. Analyzing a vast archive, Dr. Lira reveals how political concerns over Mexican immigration—particularly ideas about the low intelligence, deviant sexuality, and inherent criminality of the “Mexican race”—shaped decisions regarding the treatment and reproductive future of Mexican-origin youth. Laboratory of Deficiency documents the ways that Mexican-origin people sought out creative resistance to institutional control and offers insight into how race, disability, and social deviance have been called upon to justify the confinement and reproductive constraint of certain individuals in the name of public health and progress.