As a scholar, Carney's thinking is guided by a strong commitment to advancing the intersectional and interdisciplinary study of race, sexuality, gender, ethnicity, and culture through research, teaching, and service. Her areas of research specialization include black feminisms, black sexualities, queer of color critique, US West studies, and performance theory. Broadly, her research centers on the relationship between racialized gender and sexual difference and the construction of nation and region. This research puts into conversation gender and sexuality studies and African American history and culture to advance a feminist geography of the US West that centers black gendered and sexual labor. Her work has been supported by the Woodrow Wilson Fellowship Foundation, University of Missouri Research Board, and College of Arts & Science at the University of Missouri.
Her book, Fleeting Blackness: Black Women, Labor and Place-Making in San Diego, is the first scholarly analysis of the topic to look critically at gender, blackness, and sexuality in the city of San Diego. It is one of a growing, influential number of studies about women and blackness in California, particularly in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, which contributes to African American, Ethnic and American Studies scholarship in the US West. Fleeting Blackness is an interdisciplinary project that examines race and labor by centering black women and how that can tell a different story about US nation-building. Carney discusses the orchestrated removal of black women in San Diego during the 20th century. She argues that the displacement of black women assisted in constructing the city as a generally white, all-American tourist and militaristic destination in the region. Although narratives of the Great Migration are usually represented as male, Carney instead shows how black migration to San Diego was predominantly Southern black women. Using fiction and archival materials, such as accounts of policing and historical newspapers, she considers the relationality of black women to space and surveilling in new ways.