Martha D. Escobar obtained her Ph.D. from the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego and is currently an associate professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge. Her teaching and research interests are gender and transnational (im)migration, citizenship and nation-building, incarceration, racialized and gendered state violence, and feminist critical race theory.
Escobar has published extensively on issues of (im)migration. Her book, Captivity Beyond Prisons: Criminalization Experiences of Latina (Im)migrants, considers the relationship of the U.S. prison system and (im)migration enforcement and the impact on Latina (im)migrants. She provides a comparative and intersectional analysis of how Latina (im)migrants are currently criminalized and connects this to the longer history of captivity of Blacks. Escobar argues that the racialized and gendered criminalization of Latina (im)migrants through the discourse of dependency is an essential aspect of neoliberal state governance that enables the expulsion of Latina/o (im)migrants when they are considered national threats or excess within the neoliberal labor market. By examining the gendered and racialized connections between prisons and (im)migration control, Escobar develops conversations between the prison abolition movement and the (im)migrant rights movement. She urges these movements to reflect on their connections and develop common ground from which to organize against racialized and gendered state violence.
Escobar’s new research focuses on the experiences of Latina/o “lifers,” Latinas/os incarcerated in California with indeterminate life sentences. She is particularly interested in examining the parole process from an intersectional perspective that analyzes how race, class, gender, sexuality, (im)migrant status, language, and physical ability impact Latina/o “lifers’” ability to parole.
In addition to her teaching and scholarship, Escobar is involved in various social justice efforts at CSUN. She is the co-director of Civil Discourse & Social Change, which is a university-wide initiative that combines education, community involvement and sustained activism to bring about transformative change. She is also an advisory board member for the Center for the Study of the Peoples of the Américas (CESPA), which participates in creating knowledge of peoples descendent of Latina American communities by engaging issues such as identity, displacement and (im)migration, U.S. foreign policy, and community resistance.