Ryan Lee Cartwright's research focuses on disability, gender, and sexuality on the social and spatial margins. Cartwright's first book, Peculiar Places: A Queer Crip History of White Rural Nonconformity (University of Chicago Press, 2021), maps racialized queer and disability histories of white social nonconformity across the rural US, from the 1910s to the 1990s. Cartwright is at work on a second book examining how, in the early-to-mid twentieth century US, chronic illness came to be understood as a gendered, racialized "social burden." He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on a wide range of topics, including disability studies, queer and trans history, the 1990s, research methodologies, social welfare, and landscapes and places.
Cartwright is affiliated with the graduate groups in Cultural Studies and Performance Studies, as well as the designated emphasis in Feminist Theory and Research, and is coordinator of the Disability and Social In/Justice DHI research cluster. He holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota, and his work has been funded by the ACLS, NEH, Smithsonian Institution, American Philosophical Society, and Hellman Family Foundation, among others. Prior to his appointment at the University of California, Davis, Cartwright worked in public history as associate editor of MNopedia, a digital encyclopedia of Minnesota created by the Minnesota Historical Society.