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Theresa Rocha Beardall

Theresa Rocha Beardall, Assistant Professor

Theresa Rocha Beardall, Assistant Professor
Theresa Rocha Beardall, Assistant Professor

Department of Sociology
504 McBryde Hall, 225 Stanger Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061


Theresa Rocha Beardall's research connects the areas of law, social inequality, race and ethnicity, policing, state violence, and American Indian and Indigenous Studies. Broadly defined, her research program is motivated by a commitment to better understand the role of law in society – as a social institution, a set of rules and procedures that structure daily social life, and as a system that engages social actors as arbiters of justice.

Dr. Rocha Beardall achieves this commitment by interweaving two primary research threads that investigate how, when, and why legal benefits are experienced by some social groups and not others. In the first thread, she examines the socially constructed meanings of police, police accountability, and police reform. Here she shows how labor law, police unions, and localized community engagement intervene in and redefine the role and responsibilities of law enforcement. In the second thread, she examines how the meaning of tribal sovereignty has changed over time in U.S. courts and popular society, and the implications of this change for the social, political, and legal status of American Indians.

In both research areas, Dr. Rocha Beardall engages with the meaning of social and legal contracts to better understand how and why marginalized populations continue to disproportionately experience, and actively resist, multiple forms of state violence. To this end, her work centers the words and worldviews of those most impacted by these inequalities and attends to what these experiences might reveal about how we come to envision and build a more just society.

  • Law and Society
  • Social Stratification and Inequality
  • Policing
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • American Indian and Indigenous Studies
  • PhD in Sociology, Cornell University
  • MA in Sociology, Cornell University
  • JD, University of Illinois College of Law
  • MA in  American Indian Studies, University of California, Los Angeles
  • BA in Latina/o Studies and American Indian Studies, San Francisco State University

Journal Articles

“Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl: Policing Authenticity, Implicit Racial Bias, and Continued Harm to American Indian Families,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 40, no. 1 (2016): 119-140.

“What Then Remains of the Sovereignty of the Indians? The Significance of Social Closure and Ambivalence in Dollar General v. Mississippi Choctaw,” Indigenous Peoples’ Journal of Law, Culture, and Resistance 3, no. 1 (2016): 3-38 (co-authored with Raquel Escobar).