Sarah Whitt

Sarah Whitt, UCI global and international studies assistant professor, has been awarded a yearlong fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies to support her research on Indigenous confinement, punishment, and resistance in the U.S. The work is part of her book, Bad Medicine, that examines institutionalized punishment and labor exploitation through the experiences of American Indian adults in the Carlisle Indian School, the Canton Asylum for Insane Indians, and other facilities.

“My research brings together the fields of Native American history, Settler Colonial studies, and the history of race, gender, and medicine in the Progressive Era to trace overlapping histories of American Indian confinement in settler institutions,” says Whitt, who is a tribal citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “My research reveals how settler institutions deputized white Americans as the disciplinary agents of Indian people, and how Indian people uniquely experienced institutionalization as a tool of settler colonialism.”

Drawing upon archival resources and oral testimonies, her work shows that institutionalization of American Indians was inherent, rather than coincidental, in furthering U.S. settler colonial objectives.

Whitt earned her master’s and Ph.D. at UC Berkeley. She joined the UCI faculty in fall 2021 following a one-year UC President's Postdoctoral Fellowship at UC Riverside. While awarded the full $60,000 yearlong opportunity from ACLS to focus fully on her research, Whitt has elected to take an eight-month term at $40,000 with her fellowship period beginning in July.

connect with us


© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766