Dr R.Sánchez-Rivera

  • College positions:
    Research Fellow
    Director of Studies in HSPS (Sociology)
  • University positions:
    Affiliate Lecturer, ReproSoc, Department of Sociology
  • Subjects: Human, Social, and Political Sciences


PhD (Cantab)-Latin American Studies (University of Cambridge); MA-Regional Studies, Latin America and the Caribbean (Columbia University in the City of New York); BA-History and Political Science (University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus)

Research interests

Currently, I am a Postdoctoral Fellow funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge. I completed my PhD in the Centre of Latin American Studies at the University of Cambridge in December 2019. My areas of expertise are in critical race theory, the critical study of eugenics and scientific racism, historical sociology, and the sociology of health and illness with a focus on reproduction, decolonial theory, gender studies, queer theory, and social inequalities. I will be undertaking a four-year Research Fellowship at Gonville & Caius from October 2021.

Current Research: “What Happened to Mexican Eugenics: Racism and the Reproduction of the Nation”

Scholarly accounts of eugenics in Mexico have treated it as a field that became defunct following WWII. The most innovative aspect of my intervention is to show, on the contrary, how eugenic practices and ideologies continue to shape contemporary social policy, cultural understandings of disability, medicine, conceptions of nationalism, and biological science. My exploration of Mexican eugenics as part of a broader international network offers a framework for demonstrating the interconnectedness of eugenic ideas globally, and their impact on the everyday lives of individuals. While addressing the specificity of Mexico I argue that one cannot constrict the study of eugenic science to a single place, time, practice, or context as race science and eugenics were international networks of ideology and knowledge, fomented by transnational connections, and responding to their own context while being in conversation with others.

My current project uses a longue durée historical and sociological analysis in order to understand how eugenics came about in Mexico (after the Mexican Revolution 1910-1920) and to answer the question of what happened to eugenic ideas and practices after the dissolution of the Mexican Society of Eugenics (SME) in the mid-1950s. The answer to this question demonstrates the global interconnectedness of eugenic ideas, the production of context-specific knowledge and how these notions have an impact on the every-day life of individuals. I argue that eugenic ideas in Mexico allowed the creation of a national body that, in turn, helped to pathologize groups that, in the eugenicists’ view, were detrimental to the improvement of the national stock—ideas that continue to exist today through the usage of veiled and coded language that lack overtly racist overtones. Thus, I provide the tools to recognize the continuation of eugenic practices and ideas even after the language of eugenics falls from acceptability.

This approach enables an exploration of eugenics in Mexico from different angles, including the impact members of the SME had on the making of the family at an individual and national level, and the definition of who does—and does not—belong to the Mexican nation. The main argument of this project is to argue that eugenics did not simply disappear but continues to be seen in the processes through which individuals manage their own bodies, as well as in state measures concerning public health crises such as the HIV epidemic, disability, and issues of population control. Overall, this work introduces the concept of slippery eugenics to account for the ongoing development and impact of eugenic ideas in Mexico, which, I argue, continue to shape the reproduction of the nation into the present.

Upcoming Research: The Legacies of Eugenics in the Construction of Disability in Mexico

I posit that eugenic ideas and the language of “racial superiority”, “feeblemindedness”, and “abnormality”—common before WWII and sanitized and replaced by terms like “people with disabilities”—in Mexico allowed the creation of a national body that, consecutively, helped to pathologize groups that, in eugenicists’ views, were incapable of “improving” the national stock—ideas that persist through the usage of veiled language without overtly ableist and racist overtones. For example, in their most explicit manner, eugenic practices—like sterilizations—continue to be practiced against people with disabilities and indigenous populations in Mexico. I observe how principles of eugenics are present without the explicit use of eugenic language. My research points to the similarities of Mexican eugenics with other countries. Similarly, I show how its internal contradictions make it a noteworthy case for explaining the dynamics behind the production of eugenic knowledge and systemic racism. Employing a historical and contemporary approach of eugenics through the lens of disability studies and critical race theory allows me to explore the ways in which eugenics slips into common understanding in the studies and practices around disability in science, society, medicine, policy, and everyday practices.

Despite local and international policies made to protect “disabled groups” there is, first, no real effort to question or eradicate the hegemony of normalcy and, second, no real determination to stop abuse in mental health hospitals. However, there are different non-governmental organizations-like the Colectivo Chuhcan-who are actively fighting to question and fix the conditions created by the systematic pathologization, exclusion, racism, and discrimination of different functioning bodies and indigenous peoples. Thus, this project will explore the links between eugenics and the ways in which different grassroots organizations and collectives in Mexico question and link contemporary human rights violations targeted at people pathologized as people with disabilities to the legacies of Mexican eugenics.

Teaching Interests

Current Teaching 

Lecturer-Soc11: Race, Racism and Ethnicity; Lecturer-Soc10: Gender; Supervisor: Soc2, Soc3, Soc10, Soc11, Soc12, Dissertation; Teaching Associate and Supervision Coordinator for Soc1, Soc2, Soc3 and Soc11 (2019-Present)

Past Teaching

Undergraduate Lectures: Alfred University, Department of Modern Languages; Queering the Mexican Revolution-Outlaws in Latin American and Caribbean Imaginaries (Spring Semester 2021-Guest Lecturer)

University of the Magdalena, Department of Anthropology; Narratives of the Caribbean-Social Movements, Queerness, and Anti-racism in Puerto Rico (Fall Semester 2020-Guest Lecturer)

University of Puerto Rico, Department of History: Eugenics in Mexico: Racism, Gender, and Nation (Spring Semester 2020-Guest Lecturer), 

University of Cambridge, Department of Sociology: Race, Racism and Ethnicity (2020-2021); Histories of Race: The Science Fiction of “Race”; The Legacies of Scientific Racism: Racial Projects, Assimilation/Segregation; Race, Racism and Ethnicity (2018-2019); Histories of Race: Scientific Racism 18th, 19th and 20th Century; Histories of Race: Scientific Racism in Latin America; Race, Racism and Ethnicity (2017-2018); Histories of Race: Scientific Racism 18th and 19th Century; Histories of Race: Race, Eugenics, and Genomics

Graduate Teaching

Oxford Brookes University, School of History, Philosophy and Culture: MA Course: Engineering Society: Eugenics and Biopolitics (2020-2021); Transnational Connections and Contemporary Legacies of Eugenics in Latin America (Guest Lecturer)

University of Cambridge, Centre for Latin American Studies: MPhil Course: Perspectives on Race in Latin America (2018-2019; 2019-2020); Eugenics and Reproductive Justice in Latin America

Continuing Education

University of Cambridge, Institute of Continuing Education: What Makes Us Who We Are? (2019); Race as a Social Construct; Gender/Sex, Nature/Nurture

Small Group Teaching and Supervisions

University of Cambridge, Department of Sociology: Introduction to Sociology (2019-2020; 2020-2021); Social Theory (2019-2020); Modern Societies II: Global Social Problems and Dynamics of Resistance (2017-2018; 2018-2019; 2019-2020; 2020-2021); Concepts and Arguments in Sociology (2019-2020; 2020-2021); Social Media, Culture, and Society (2018-2019; 2019-2020); Gender (2020-2021); Racism, Race, and Ethnicity (2017-2018; 2018-2019; 2019-2020; 2020-2021); A Subject in Sociology: Modern Britain (2019-2020); Empire, Colonialism, and Imperialism (2020-2021); Gender and Sexual Nationalism (2016-2017, 2017-2018, 2018-2019, 2019-2020)


University of Cambridge, Department of Sociology: “Abortion Debate in Argentina” (2018-2019); “COVID-19, Racialization, and Surveillance” (2020-2021); “The Transformative Potential of Ex-refugee Female-led Grassroots Community Groups in the UK” (2020-2021); “An analysis of the motivations behind complaints about dance group Diversity’s BLM dance on Britain’s Got Talent” (2020-2021)

Awards and prizes

UKRI-COVID Fieldwork Fund, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge (6,980GBP) (2021)

Wellcome Trust-Changing Infertilities, Reproductive Sociology Research Group (ReproSoc) for Reproductive Justice Research Network (3,000GBP) (2021)

SRI-Reproduction, University of Cambridge-Events Fund (2,000GBP) (2021)

Postdoctoral Award for Research Endeavor, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge (250GDP) (2021)

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Postdoctoral Fellowship, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge (123,019 GBP) (2020)

Teaching Award, Supervisor Award, Department of Sociology, University of Cambridge (100 GBP) (2020)

Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS), School of Advanced Study-University of London, Events Grant Scheme-Podcast Series, “The Cultural Politics of Reproduction in Latin America (900 GBP) (2020)

Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, Conference Travel Grant (800 GBP) (2019)

Global Challenges Research Fund, University of Kent: International Conference for “The Cultural Politics of Reproduction in Latin America” (4,247 GBP) (2019)

Society for Latin American Studies, Conference and Seminar Grants: Seminar Series and Reading Groups for “The Cultural Politics of Reproduction in Latin America” (500 GBP) (2019)

Faculty Research Group Support, Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), University of Cambridge, for “International Black Radicalism” (1337.50 GBP) (2018)

Simon Bolivar Fund, Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge (1200 GBP) (2018)

Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, Travel Grant (350 GBP) (2018)

Foundation for the Sociology of Health and Illness, Conference and Travel Grant (800 GBP) (2017)

Queens’ College, University of Cambridge, Travel Grant (350 GBP) (2017)

Simon Bolivar Fund, Centre for Latin American Studies, University of Cambridge (250 GBP) (2017)

Santander Mobility Grant, Fieldwork-Mexico City, University of Cambridge (1000 GBP) (2016)

Dissertation Field Research Travel Grant, Columbia University in the City of New York, Fieldwork-Puerto Rico (500 USD) (2014)



2021 What Happened to Mexican Eugenics?: Racism and the Reproduction of the Nation (In Preparation)

2022 Sánchez-Rivera, R. & Géliga, J. (eds.) Fantasías y apropiaciones bori-“queer”: prácticas y ontologías irreverentemente cuír desde Puerto Rico (Bori-“queer” Bori-“Queer” Fantasies and Appropriations: Irreverently Cuír Practices and Ontologies From Puerto Rico) (Accepted for Publication, Editora Educación Emergente)

Peer-reviewed Publications

2021 The Making of La Gran Familia Mexicana: Eugenics, Gender, and Sexuality in Mexico, Journal of Historical Sociology, Issue 1 (DOI: 10.1111/johs.12308)

2021 From Preventive Eugenics to Slippery Eugenics: Contemporary Sterilizations Targeted to Indigenous Peoples in Mexico, Sociology of Health & Illness (Submitted-November 2020)

2021 Sánchez-Rivera, R & Tanna, Natasha. Counterarchiving Coloniality in the Americas: Rita Indiana’s ‘After School’(Special Issue, Proactive Commissioning)

2021 Sánchez-Rivera, R; Peña, Glorimarie. Internalized Eugenics and Hygienic Codes in Puerto Rican Trap and Reggaetón, Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies (Accepted for Special Issue-‘ Breaking and (Re)Making Gender and Race in Latin American Popular Music’)

2020 The Legacies of “Race” Science, Anti-Chinese Racism, and COVID-19 in Mexico, Bulletin of Latin American Research, 39 (S1), 35-38

2020 Reggaetón, Trap y Masculinidades: Dinámicas sociales a ritmo del perreo combativo en Puerto Rico (Reggaetón, Spanish Trap, and Masculinities in Puerto Rico), Taller de letras in association with Tintas, Special Issue: Adiós a las Armas: Despatriarcar a América desde la cultura: 42-55

2017 Imágenes y representaciones de control de natalidad, esterilización y anticonceptivos en la prensa puertorriqueña: El Mundo, El Imparcial y Claridad de 1943 a 1974. (Images and Representations of Population Control, Sterilization Procedures and Contraceptives in the Puerto Rican Press), De Raíz Diversa-Revista Especializada en Estudios Latinoamericanos Vol.4, No.7: 101-36.

Book Chapters

2021 “Whatever…it is Only a Joke?!”: Exploring Memes, Racialization, and Discrimination in Puerto Rico during Hurricanes, Earthquakes, and COVID-19 in Internet, Humor, and Nation in Latin/x America (Forthcoming)

2019 Posicionalidades: Queerness y Eugenesia en Latinoamérica (Positionalities: Queerness and Eugenics in Latin America) in Libro de Actas: Del Otro Lao’

Academic Publications

2020 “Shilling for US Empire in Puerto Rico”: The Legacies of Scientific Racism in Economic Science, The Abusable Past at the Radical History Review. (June 22)


2021 Ogden, R. & Sánchez-Rivera, R. “Exploring reproductive politics, health and justice in Latin America”: the ‘Cuerpa Politica’ podcast, Institute of Latin American Studies Blog

2018 Human Rights Violations and the Chalchihuitán-Chenalhó Land Dispute, Mexico|Politics and Security Section, Latin American News, 105-11 (January)

2017 The Structural Dynamics and Limitations of the New Policy on Disappearances, Mexico|Politics and Security Section, Latin American News, 57-62 (December)

Book Reviews

2021 Parenting Empires: Class, Whiteness, and the Moral Economy of Privilege in Latin America, Patterns of Prejudice (Proactive Commissioning) 10.1080/0031322X.2021.1890363