Jessica Cooper

Jessica Cooper is a sixth-year graduate student currently completing her dissertation on California’s criminal justice and public mental health care systems, entitled “Care by Conviction: Surreal Life in California’s Mental Health Courts.” Based on two years of fieldwork in the San Francisco Bay Area, Jessica’s research examines how people positioned across stark power divides – such as professionals within the criminal justice system and people who are incarcerated, mental health professionals and their patients, and social workers and their indigent clients – come to relate to one another within state institutions that conjoin imperatives to care and control. Mental health courts aspire to provide social services in place of incarceration to people who have been convicted of crimes and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders by the state. “Care by Conviction” examines the political, ethical, and affective consequences of this attempt to turn courtrooms into clinics. Jessica works at the interface of medical, psychological, and legal anthropology to investigate how people register power dynamics within interpersonal relationships and how, in turn, people employ affective aspects of intimacy to reorganize understandings and distributions of health, freedoms, and justice. Jessica is presently a Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellow and has forthcoming publications in Cultural Anthropology and Social Justice: A Journal of Crime, Conflict, and World Order.