Kitty Calavita is Chancellor’s Professor of Criminology, Law and Society and Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on immigration and immigration lawmaking, and examines both contemporary and historical issues in the United States and other countries. Her book, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration and the I.N.S. (Routledge, Chapman, and Hall, 1992), examined U.S. use of Mexican labor in the post-World War II period, and shed light on the factors shaping the implementation of immigration law by administrative agencies. In research on the Chinese Exclusion Acts of the 1880s, Calavita used archival records to reveal how assumptions about the nature of race and gender that were incorporated into the laws created dilemmas for customs officials at ports of entry and complicated considerably their implementation. In Immigrants at the Margins: Law, Race and Exclusion in Southern Europe (Cambridge University Press, 2005), she showed how Spanish and Italian laws on one hand marginalize immigrant workers and on the other emphasize the importance of integration, and she argued that this contradiction is the reflection of underlying tensions in the political economy. Her book Invitation to Law and Society: An Introduction to the Study of Real Law (University of Chicago Press, 2010) presents an engaging account of the field of law & society and was reprinted for a second edition in 2016. Her most recent book, Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (2015), is both an unprecedented study of disputing in an extremely asymmetrical setting and a rare glimpse of daily life inside California prisons.
Calavita recently launched a new research agenda that investigates the internal grievance process available to California prisoners. The work focuses on prisoners’ consciousness of their rights, and examines the interaction between prison officials and prisoners as these grievances make their way up the scale of formality, potentially into the courts.
Calavita’s interest in the dynamics of power and state processes led to her earlier investigation of white-collar crime. Her book Big Money Crime: Fraud and Politics in the Savings and Loan Crisis (with co-authors Henry Pontell and Robert Tillman, University of California Press, 1997) won the Albert Reiss, Jr. Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the ASA’s Crime, Law and Deviance Section.