Background and Scholarly Interests

Joseph F. Lawless is a Ph.D. student in the American Studies Program at the College of William & Mary, with an interest in the nexus shared by law, sexuality, and digital personhood.

He completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 2012, where his studies were oriented toward political theory and continental philosophy, particularly that of late twentieth-century France. From 2012 to 2014, he was a member of the Las Vegas Valley corps of Teach for America and served as the chair of the English/Language Arts department of the middle school at which he taught. While teaching, he completed his M.Ed. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, with an emphasis on critical pedagogy and curriculum development. In 2017, he obtained his J.D. from Columbia University.

His present research examines the relationship between HIV-criminalization jurisprudence and theories of the affective, the effects of sexuality criminalization on the making of legal subjects more broadly, and the relationship of the digital to the sexual in the fashioning of psychic subjectivities. He is currently preparing an article manuscript, tentatively titled "Of Mammies, Minstrels, and Machines: Movement-Image Automacity and the Impossible Conditions of Black Humanity," that addresses the circulation via cellphone text-messaging systems of racialized digital images, particularly in the file format commonly known as the GIF, the contents of which are complicit in the performance of digital blackface and the reproduction of white supremacist ideologies.

Curriculum Vitae

For a copy of Joseph's curriculum vitae, please click here.

Selected Publications

"The Deceptive Fermata of HIV-Criminalization Law: Rereading the Case of 'Tiger Mandingo' through the Juridico-Affective," Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Volume 35, Issue 1 (2017).

"Sex, Drugs, and Commercial Speech: The Contested Discourse of Truvada," Columbia Journal of Law and Social Problems, Volume 50, Issue 1 (2017).

"Feeling, Hearing, Seeing: Heidegger, Nietzsche, and Affect," Nietzsche 13/13: Martin Heidegger, 1/13 (2016).


To access Joseph's blog and examine his current digital humanities project on GIFs and digital blackface, please click here.