Annie Metzel Photo

Welcome to my page! I am currently Assistant Professor of Political Science at Vassar College, where I teach political theory. My main areas of focus are Africana political thought; biopolitics; race, gender, and reproduction; and the intersection of public health and democratic theory. I studied political theory and race and ethnicity politics in the Political Science Department at the University of Washington, Seattle, where I was a Washington Institute for the Study of Sexuality, Ethnicity, and Race (WISER) fellow. I was also recipient of the 2013-2014 Martha Duggan Fellowship in Labor Studies, from the University of Washington’s Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies. In Fall 2013 and Spring 2014, I was a Lecturer in Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I joined Vassar’s faculty in July 2014.

My book project, The Political Life of Black Infant Mortality, tracks the trajectory of black infant death as a political problem from approximately 1800 to the present. I argue that the overwhelming disproportion between black and white infant mortality rates over this entire period expresses a striking continuity in the devaluation of African American life in the U.S., even as official conceptualizations of black infant mortality have undergone radical shifts: from “proof” of African American degeneracy in the late 19th century to persistent diagnoses of black maternal pathology to today’s research on the epigenetic impacts of racism. I frame these conceptualizations, and their associated interventions, as successive paradigms of what Michel Foucault called “biopolitics”—techniques for optimizing populations’ collective life in ways that entail racially exclusionary elements—focusing in particular on the period from 1890 to 1940. I show both the repressive logics and practices of these biopolitical paradigms and some of the ways that key African American political thinkers and actors—from Black midwives to W.E.B. Du Bois–have resisted and reworked these logics and practices. At the same time, I think through the limits of the biopolitical analytic, staging encounters between Foucault’s formulation and the work of Orlando Patterson, Audre Lorde, and new materialist and Afro-Pessimist thinkers. Highlighting the interconnections of political thought and public health policy, I argue that the antebellum political ontology of race issued in the enduring figuration of “true babyhood” as white, excluding black infants from later, formalized biopolitical concern; that Du Bois leveled a two-pronged rhetorical challenge to the prevailing turn-of-the-century biopolitical exclusion; and that Jim Crow-era and contemporary African American midwives exemplify a potent politics of survival. My MA thesis, “Birthright Citizenship and the Racial Contract: The United States’ Jus Soli Rule against the Global Regime of Citizenship,” was recently published in revised form in The Du Bois Review, and an additional article adapted from a dissertation chapter is under review.

Before graduate school, I trained and worked as a certified midwife; ten years of experience as a medical interpreter gave me an up-close view of health care for Spanish-speaking immigrants in Wisconsin and Washington State.

Each of the sections at the top of this page will direct you to more information about my scholarship and teaching. Please contact me if you have any questions or would like hard copies of any of the documents you find on this site. I can be reached via email at anmenzel@vassar.edu.