Professor Kirkland's research has focused on the interactions between identity categories, discrimination, and health. Primarily situated in the law and society tradition, she also works within science studies, disability studies, and gender studies using theoretical and interpretive methods. Her first book, Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood, was published in 2008 by New York University Press. She is the co-editor with Jonathan Metzl of Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (New York University Press, 2010). Her published articles analyze rights consciousness in the fat acceptance movement, the environmental approach to anti-obesity policy, transgendered plaintiffs who win their cases, transgender discrimination as sex discrimination, whether fatness fits into disability law and advocacy, and what accounts of diversity appear in the required Michigan undergraduate application essay on diversity.
Professor Kirkland is currently working on a new book on politics of health an knowledge as seen through the federal vaccine safety and injury compensation system in the contemporary U.S.
Professor Kirkland earned her J.D. and Ph.D. (Jurisprudence and Social Policy) from the University of California, Berkeley.