Dilara Yarbrough

Assistant Professor
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CJ Advisor

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Dr. Dilara Yarbrough is currently working on her first book, Outlaw Poverty Not Prostitutes: Race, Gender and Poverty Governance, an ethnographic exploration of poverty governance and resistance. Based on three years of ethnographic observation of service provision and advocacy, as well as interviews with homeless sex workers and service providers, the book elaborates a theory of individualizing and structurally transformative responses to poverty. Tracing the lives of a diverse group of research participants through the carceral and treatment institutions that manage poverty, Dr. Yarbrough illustrates how laws and law enforcement constitute racialized and gendered groups of poor people though their classification as criminals; and how service bureaucracies that prioritize individual treatment reproduce group-specific forms of marginality. After showing how the criminalization and medicalization of poverty produce intersectional vulnerability, the book explores transformative alternatives, including radical harm reduction and grassroots movements for racial, gender and economic justice. Outlaw Poverty Not Prostitutes‚ refocuses scholarship about sex work on housing and labor market processes, and encourages scholars of homelessness to center race, gender and sexuality in their analyses of the institutional production of marginality.  One of Dr. Yarbrough's key contributions is methodological: Drawing on her experiences and observations working in solidarity with sex worker, transgender and homeless activists, she elaborates guiding questions for solidarity research, a reflexive approach that centers the political demands and analyses of marginalized groups. In addition to her book, Dr. Yarbrough is working on a collaborative Participatory Action Research project that builds the expertise and capacity of homeless social movements to conduct research and policy advocacy. With Human Rights Organizer Lisa Marie Alatorre, sociologist Chris Herring, and lead Peer Researchers Bilal Ali and T.J. Johnston of the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, she co-designed and coauthored Punishing the Poorest: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty in San Francisco. Findings have been reported in local media and presented to local organizations and officials, including San Francisco‚ Local Homeless Coordinating Board, District Attorney, and Police Commission, as well as to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights. 

Teaching Interests

Dr. Yarbrough loves working with students to help them pursue their future goals and dreams. Her classes emphasize small and large group discussions and activities that help students build academic reading and writing skills and express their ideas with confidence. Dr. Yarbrough encourages students to examine the systemic causes of injustice and consider how they might create change.

Research Interets

Dr. Yarbrough's work centers the analyses of people affected by state violence and supports social movements for racial, gender and economic justice. Her favorite part of research is listening, and documenting the stories that allow us to collectively imagine a better future.  Her research interests in the areas of poverty and social policy grew out of her past experience as a homeless service provider in the Bay Area. Supporting people to meet their survival needs in a context of scarcity made her want to learn more about the political and economic systems that produce oppression, and how to fight back.


Nothing About Us Without Us: Anti-Poverty Activism and Solidarity Research‚Äù (under review) ‚

The Carceral Production of Transgender Poverty: Theorizing Intersectional Vulnerability” (in progress)

Fighting Anti-Homeless Laws Through Participatory Action Research: Reflections from the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness

Co-authored with Lisa Marie Alatorre, Bilal Ali, Jennifer Friedenbach, Chris Herring and T.J. Johnston in Beyond Academia: Community-Based Collaborative Research and Action ed. Susan Greenbaum (forthcoming from Rutgers University Press)

Pervasive Penality: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty‚ Co-authored with Lisa Marie Alatorre and Chris Herring (under review)