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social sciences

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Political Science  
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Jacqueline Stevens offers a similar account of the role of state-sanctioned kinship rules in (re)producing group affiliations of family, race, ethnicity, and nation, arguing that the state organizes and categorizes its population in part through gendered, racialized, and heterosexualized regulations around marriage and birthright. Such regulations privilege normative family affiliations, by denying full citizenship rights to those in gay and lesbian unions, for example. Borrowing from Michael Warner, Stevens thus argues that key political concepts such as nation and citizenship rely on heteronormative "reproculture" in which individuals are offered an imagined past and future through intergenerational families.

Anne-Marie Smith analyzes United States welfare reform as another example of the state's regulation of citizens' sexuality. Unmarried mothers were penalized, poverty was blamed on sexually irresponsible women, and marriage was proposed as an anti-poverty strategy in a powerful state attempt to (re)produce normative forms of heterosexuality. As Cathy Cohen argues, not all heterosexuals enjoy the power and entitlement of normative heterosexuality here; there are many heterosexuals on the "outside" of heteronormativity, including single mothers, young mothers, women dependent on some types of state support, and sex workers.

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Jacqui Alexander's work on the Bahamas also offers important insights regarding the state interest in heternormatively disciplining subjects. In legislation originally designed to combat domestic violence, for example, lesbianism and prostitution were criminalized alongside rape and incest, and non-normative sexuality was framed as a threat to the nation-state. In reality, state sovereignty was undermined through international economic policies, but the state eroticized the dissolution of the nation through discourses of dread sexual diseases and sexual perversions.

Alexander's recognition that non-normative sexuality is often scapegoated for the effects of globalization has been observed by other scholars, such as Barry Adam, interested in comparative and international issues.

Reconceptualizing Sexuality and Politics

Finally, political scientists have attempted to re-imagine the relationship between sexuality and politics. This attempt at reconceptualization has been particularly important in literature on identity and citizenship.

In an overview of sexuality and political science, for example, Timothy Cook argues that debates over identity and politics are at the cutting edge of contemporary research. When re-conceptualizing "politics" from glbtq perspectives, self-identification can become a crucial political activity, confusing boundaries between private identity and public politics.

Yet the use of identity categories as mobilizational referents for politics has led to exclusions and community self-policing, as Shane Phelan's work on sexuality and political theory notes. Phelan shares the concerns of many and post-structuralist thinkers that unitary identity categories produce exclusions; however, she also recognizes the continued salience of categories such as gay and lesbian, and wishes to retain them in political struggles. She advocates a coalitional approach in which activists struggle for equal membership in a democratic polity, sharing power, transforming politics, and redefining both it and themselves in the process.

Cathy Cohen's work on AIDS and African-American politics provides another compelling account of the need to reconceptualize identity and politics. Cohen criticizes unidimensional representations of the African-American community that frame the fate of some members as representative of the entire group, while marginalizing those marked as deviant, non-normative, or blameworthy. In the AIDS crisis this process was evident in the stigmatization of sex workers, drug users, and "the dreaded bisexual" by community elites. Proposing an alternative model for politics, Cohen calls for recognition of overlapping, complexly situated identities, and more inclusive definitions of community.

These debates about identity, sexuality, and politics have informed attempts to reconceptualize citizenship. This concept is central to political science, and it presents a paradox for activists since it has often been defined in exclusionary ways that define glbtq existence as the antithesis of good, responsible citizenship. Simultaneously, however, the term can be re-appropriated by those it excludes, either when demanding inclusion into practices that represent ideal citizenship (such as marriage and military service), or when redefining "the good citizen" in new ways.

As Diane Richardson notes, there is considerable variation in discourses of sexual citizenship; some activists demand rights to enjoy previously demonized sexual conduct, some demand rights to sexual self-definition, and others seek validation of chosen relationships. Several authors relate debates over citizenship to literature on identity, urging activists to reappropriate the language of citizenship in inclusive ways that do not reinforce national divisions.

Although such efforts at reimagining the terms and practice of politics are not limited to political scientists, the discipline is well-placed to offer important insights to glbtq studies based on its interest in questions of power, identity, and social struggle. While marginalized in college and university political science departments, this research contributes to interdisciplinary conversations about sexuality, both in United States and international contexts.

Kate Bedford

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social sciences >> Overview:  Geography

Over the past 25 years, the academic discipline of Geography, especially its social scientific and humanistic branch, has been attuned to glbtq people, places, and natures.

social sciences >> Overview:  Identity Politics

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Over the past decade, the field of market research has developed a more complete snapshot of a highly diverse population of glbtq consumers by using newer scientific methodologies.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

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social sciences >> Overview:  Sexual Citizenship

The concept of sexual citizenship draws attention to the political aspects of erotics and the sexual component of politics.

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Adam, Barry D., Jan Willem Duyvendak, and Andre Krouwel. The Global Emergence of Gay and Lesbian Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1999.

Alexander, M. Jacqui. "Erotic Autonomy and a Politics of Decolonization: An Anatomy of Feminist and State Practice in the Bahamas Tourist Economy." Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism. Cherrié Moraga and M. Jacqui Alexander, eds. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991.

_____. "Not Just Anybody Can Be A Citizen: The Politics of Law, Sexuality and Postcoloniality in Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas." Feminist Review 48 (1994): 5-23.

Cohen, Cathy. The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1999.

Committee on the Status of Lesbians and Gays in the American Political Science Association. "Report on the Status of Lesbians and Gays in the Political Science Profession." PS: Political Science and Politics 28.3 (1995): 561-74.

Cook, Timothy E. "The Empirical Study of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Politics: Assessing the First Wave of Research." American Political Science Review 93.3 (1999): 679-92.

Cooper, Davina. Power in Struggle: Feminism, Sexuality and the State. Buckingham, England: Open University Press, 1995.

Croucher, Aheila. "South Africa's Democratisation and the Politics of Gay Liberation." Journal of Southern African Studies 28.2 (2002): 315-30.

Edwards, Jeffrey. "AIDS, Race, and the Rise and Decline of a Militant Oppositional Lesbian and Gay Politics in the U. S." New Political Science 22.4 (2000): 485-506.

Gamble, Barbara. "Putting Civil Rights to a Popular Vote." American Journal of Political Science 41.1 (1997): 245-69.

Haider-Markel, Donald. "Morality Policy and Individual-level Political Behavior: The Case of Legislative Voting on Lesbian and Gay Issues." Policy Studies Journal 27.3 (1999): 735-49.

_____, Mark Joslyn, and Chad Kniss. "Minority Group Interests and Political Representation: Gay Elected Officials in the Policy Process." The Journal of Politics 62.2 (2000): 568-77.

_____, and Kenneth Meier. "The Politics of Gay and Lesbian Rights: Expanding the Scope of the Conflict." The Journal of Politics 58.2 (1996): 332-49.

Hertzog, Mark. The Lavender Vote: Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals in American Electoral Politics. New York: New York University Press, 1996.

Jennings, M. Kent, and Ellen Ann Andersen. "Support for Confrontational Tactics among AIDS Activists: A Study of Intra-Movement Divisions." American Journal of Political Science 40.2 (1996): 311-34.

Kersch, Ken. "Full Faith and Credit for Same-Sex Marriages?" Political Science Quarterly 112.1 (1997): 117-36.

Phelan, Shane. Getting Specific: Postmodern Lesbian Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.

Richardson, Diane. "Constructing Sexual Citizenship: Theorizing Sexual Rights." Critical Social Policy 20.1 (2000): 105-35.

Rimmerman, Craig. From Identity to Politics: The Lesbian and Gay Movements in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002.

Smith, Anna Marie. "The Politicization of Marriage in Contemporary American Public Policy: The Defense of Marriage Act and the Personal Responsibility Act." Citizenship Studies 5.3 (2001): 303-20.

Stevens, Jacqueline. Reproducing the State. Princeton, N. J.: Princeton University Press, 1999.

Stychin, Carl. "Sexual Citizenship in the European Union." Citizenship Studies 5.3 (2001): 285-301.

Wald, Kenneth, James Button, and Barbara Rienzo. "The Politics of Gay Rights in American Communities: Explaining Antidiscrimination Ordinances and Policies." American Journal of Political Science 40.4 (1996): 1152-78.


    Citation Information
    Author: Bedford, Kate  
    Entry Title: Political Science  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 21, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
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    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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