Ruling Sexuality: Law, Expertise, and the Making of Sexual Knowledge

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œRuling Sexuality: Law, Expertise, and the Making of Sexual Knowledge, brings together approaches from the sociologies of science, law, and sexualities to examine how the institutions of law and science jointly render sexual subjects legible to state institutions by measuring and categorizing sexualities. Through the comparative study of asylum claims by sexual minorities and risk evaluations of sex offenders”two settings where courts must adjudicate individuals sexualities”my dissertation argues that legal institutions come to know sexuality in culturally contoured and organizationally specific ways that determine access to the rights of citizenship. Sociologists have considered the consequences of classification and measurement extensively and have also studied ways by which the state regulates sexuality. Yet we have not examined the ways that state institutions engage in classification and measurement practices when regulating sexuality and what consequences those practices have. In the legal situations analyzed in this dissertation, I demonstrate how state attempts to objectively measure the subjective and multivalent phenomenon of sexuality depend on non-state expert actors and lead to the constitution of sexual subjects as either acceptable or unacceptable sexual citizens.', 'Drawing on over 400 legal decisions and other documentary materials, 40 semi-structured interviews with legal and scientific actors, and hundreds of hours of multi-sited ethnographic observation, I offer a fine-grained analysis of how expert evaluative practices become institutionalized in legal settings and result in divergent understandings of sexuality within the law. In the case of sex offenders, forensic psychologists offer largely essentialist explanations of sexual deviance drawn from technologies meant to read the body, such as polygraphs and penile plethysmographs. By contrast, asylum advocates put forward more constructionist accounts of sexuality that are sensitive to sexualitys social determinants. ', 'The juxtaposition of these cases is illuminating because of the rapid shifts in cultural conceptions of both homosexuality and sexual assault that occurred during roughly the same period beginning in the 1970s. œRuling Sexuality unpacks the institutional processes undergirding these changes in social understandings of sexuality, showing that these cultural shifts are anchored by institutional practices and highlighting the ways by which legal and scientific organizations and networks refract cultural currents to either create social change or reinforce hegemonic structures.', '\t', 'Part 1 analyzes how competing networks of expertise formed in the domains of sex offender and LGBTQ asylum law and articulated with already existing legal infrastructures to form unique ways of knowing sexuality in each area, what I call œepistemic logics. These ways of knowing sexuality were not, however, inevitable developments. My dissertation shows that the processes of establishing expertise regarding sexuality required considerable political work. Part 2 considers how epistemic logics affect what counts as empirical evidence of sexuality in legal proceedings and demonstrates how competing social scientific views of sexuality result in different forms of evidence predominating in each legal arena and ultimately result in divergent interpretations of sexuality. Finally, Part 3 shows that approaches to risk assessment (part of both asylum and sex offender hearings) reinforce particular ways of understanding sexuality and that sexual subjects in these arenas are constituted vis-Ã -vis their relationship to risk. In sum, œRuling Sexuality shows that how we know sexuality determines how we govern it. Understanding the knowledge practices employed by the state allows us to better comprehend the functioning of state power, including how it structures norms of citizenship and creates exclusionary boundaries based on sexuality, gender, and other social categories, and importantly, to recognize that œthe state is not uniform but that these processes vary across the many institutions of the state.

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  • 11/20/2019
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