Faculty Directory

Michelle C. Velasquez-Potts
  • Pronouns she, her, her, hers, herself
  • Title
    • Chancellor's Postdoctoral Fellow
  • Division Humanities Division
  • Department
    • History of Consciousness Department
  • Phone
    831-459-4324 (Department contact)
  • Email
  • Website
  • Office Location
    • Humanities Building 1, #435
  • Office Hours By appointment
  • Mail Stop History Of Consciousness
  • Mailing Address
    • 1156 High Street
    • Santa Cruz CA 95064

Research Interests

Michelle's current book project, Suspended Animation, investigates the long history of medical/carceral institutions invested in social control, and in particular Guantánamo Bay detention camp where since 2002, captives of the “war on terror” have been forcibly fed as punishment for hunger striking. The project considers how the practice of hunger striking contests and reframes the definitions of “living” and “dying” in relation to the technologies of control used to subjugate such as the feeding tube. By situating force-feeding practices at carceral sites in the history of US medical technologies, it shows how the punitive administration of the feeding tube blurs the line between life and non-life, or “suspended animation.” Suspended Animation insists that we need to understand the technology of the feeding tube to locate the practice of force-feeding within a genealogy of racialized and gendered subjugation that aims to weaken resistance to carceral technologies.



Biography, Education and Training

Michelle is a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the History of Consciousness Department at UC Santa Cruz. She recieved her PhD in Rhetoric from UC Berkeley in 2019. Before coming to UCSC she was an Embrey Postdoctoral Fellow at UT Austin where she taught courses in Women's and Gender Studies and LGBTQ Studies. 


Michelle's writing has been published in  Women and Performance, Public Culture, Abolition Journal, Art Journal Open, and Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex (2011).



Honors, Awards and Grants

American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow (2021)

University of Texas at Austin Faculty Development Grant (2020)

University of California Dissertation-Year Fellowship, UC Berkeley (2017)

Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award, UC Berkeley (2016)

Dean’s Normative Time Fellowship for Dissertation Research, UC Berkeley (2014)

Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, UC Berkeley (2011)


Selected Publications

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles


The Aesthetics of Torture: Listening to Abu Zubaydah’s Interrogation Drawings. Art Journal Open (2021).


Embodied Refusals: On the Collective Possibilities of Hunger Striking. Abolition: A Journal of Insurgent Politics 2, no. 1 (2020): 212–229.


Carceral Oversight: Force-Feeding and Visuality at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp. Public Culture 31, no. 3 (2019): 581–600.


Staging Incapacitation: The Corporeal Politics of Hunger Striking. Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory 29, no. 1 (2019): 25–40.


Books Chapters


Regulatory Sites: Management, Confinement and HIV/AIDS. In Captive Genders: Trans Embodiment and the Prison Industrial Complex, edited by Nat Smith and Eric Stanley (AK Press 2011).


Public Writing


Beyond Inside/Outside: Imagining Safety During COVID-19. Abolition Blog: Pandemic Solidarities and Struggles (30 April 2020).



Teaching Interests

As an instructor, Michelle is committed to an anti-racist and disability justice–informed pedagogy, and many of her courses cover composition in digital environments and professional writing. While at UC Berkeley, she designed and taught seven reading and composition courses, including “Body Politics” and “The Politics of Borders.” At UT Austin, she taught upper and lower-division courses, such as “Feminist Theories” and “Politics of Refusal.” Michelle's courses use non-traditional and experiential content and centralize queer and feminist of color theories.