Heather Hlavka is Associate Professor of Criminology and Law Studies in the department of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette University in Milwaukee Wisconsin. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. Her teaching and research interests include violence and victimization, sex and gender, law and social control. With a history of engaged scholarship, advocacy, and education within her communities, establishing the links between theory, research, and students’ everyday concerns plays a significant role in Dr. Hlavka’s teaching and research practice.
Her research portfolio includes both solo and collaborative projects on sexual victimization and interpersonal violence, law, children and youth, and feminist ethics. As an interdisciplinary scholar, she draws theoretical insights from various literature sources to better conceptualize the interrelationships between multiple manifestations of gendered violence.
Her work on children’s experiences of sexual violence has been featured in Gender & Society, Law & Social Inquiry, Men and Masculinities, Violence Against Women, and in outlets such as the Huffington Post, New Republic, Think Progress, Salon, the Melissa Harris-Perry Show, MSNBC and Wisconsin Public Radio.
Dr. Hlavka’s current collaborative research with Dr. Sameena Mulla, Trace, Body and Voice: U.S. Cultural Narratives of Sexual Assault in the Post-Forensic Trial was funded by the National Science Foundation. This ethnographic study investigates the contemporary U.S. sexual assault trial as a space in which cultural narratives around sexual violence and consent are reconstituted in an era of medico-legal evidence. In a post-forensic age, this evidence has reanimated the process of the rape trial and contributed to narratives of sexual violence that intersect with courtroom expertise and resonate with particular social locations of the complainant and the defendant. They focus on the testimonial role of participants in rape trials asking whether witnesses hold different “discourse rights” and whether they are afforded different credibilities about what constitutes the truth.
They examine how the victimized body is constructed through the use of medico-legal imaginaries, and suggest that medico-legal expertise is inordinately used to support the victim’s testimony precisely because U.S. legal culture casts the testimony of rape victims in doubt.
The goal of their work is to promote social justice through a better understanding of how community members are treated by and in local institutions, and how these institutions re-appropriate cultural narratives of gender, sexuality, and power. Heather and Sameena will use the period of residency at the Women’s International Study Center for writing and completing several chapters of their book, which they will present at an Executive Session at the American Anthropological Association in Minneapolis, Minnesota in November 2016.