The Poverty of Privacy Rights makes a simple, controversial argument: Poor mothers in America have been deprived of the right to privacy.
The U.S. Constitution is supposed to bestow rights equally. Yet the poor are subject to invasions of privacy that can be perceived as gross demonstrations of governmental power without limits. Courts have routinely upheld the constitutionality of privacy invasions on the poor, and legal scholars typically understand marginalized populations to have "weak versions" of the privacy rights everyone else enjoys. Khiara M. Bridges investigates poor mothers' experiences with the state—both when they receive public assistance and when they do not. Presenting a holistic view of just how the state intervenes in all facets of poor mothers' privacy, Bridges shows how the Constitution has not been interpreted to bestow these women with family, informational, and reproductive privacy rights. Bridges seeks to turn popular thinking on its head: Poor mothers' lack of privacy is not a function of their reliance on government assistance—rather it is a function of their not bearing any privacy rights in the first place. Until we disrupt the cultural narratives that equate poverty with immorality, poor mothers will continue to be denied this right.
About the author
Khiara M. Bridges is Professor of Law and of Anthropology at Boston University. She is the author of Reproducing Race: An Ethnography of Pregnancy as a Site of Racialization (2011).
"The Poverty of Privacy Rights pushes the conceptualization of legal rights into a new and useful direction, establishing a sturdy platform for intelligent advocacy on behalf of poor people and their dignity. Khiara Bridges' deep knowledge of the social welfare and healthcare system, and the conversations her book invites will bring more privacy concerns affecting the poor to the forefront."
—Anita Allen, University of Pennsylvania
"The Poverty of Privacy Rights is a provocative, courageous account of poor women's lives and the American healthcare system. One of the brightest stars of her generation, Khiara Bridges pushes against the traditional framings of sex-based privacy erosion to deftly articulate an urgent contemporary social concern—privacy rights filtered, constrained, and tampered by government. Bridges masterfully argues that to be poor in the United States and dependent on governmental assistance is to experience intrusions and violations of constitutional rights unrivaled by all others."
—Michele Goodwin, University of California, Irvine
"In The Poverty of Privacy Rights, Khiara Bridges presents an eloquent treatise detailing why Anthropology Matters! She artfully unravels the inevitable contradictions that stem from the aims of poverty policies in the United States between lowincome mothers who experience the policies in their use of social services and those who interpret policies and thereby provide access to or sanctions against services....As anthropologists, we have a responsibility and a platform to engage in moral and ethical knowledge making of the kind documented in Bridges's The Poverty of Privacy Rights. Readers interested in the anthropology of law, public policy, and poverty studies would greatly benefit from this manuscript."
—Sherri Lawson Clark, American Anthropologist
"For those who hold dear, however naively, the idea that the proper application of constitutional law itself can create justice, Khiara Bridges's The Poverty of Privacy Rights is a devastating read....[Her] arguments are elegantly presented, thoroughly documented, and persuasive, and there is no doubt that any future work in this area will have to begin by citing this book."
—Wendy A. Bach, Review of Politics