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CUSAS Talk: Dr Julienne Obadaia (University of Cambridge)

When Feb 14, 2019
from 05:00 PM to 06:30 PM
Where Edmund Leach Room, Department of Social Anthropology Free School Lane, Cambridge
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Dr Julienne Obadaia (University of Cambridge)

How to Make Your Sex Life Normal: Polyamory, Sexuality, and the Threshold of Civility in American Late Liberalism

This talk examines how, at the opening of the 21st century, sexuality indexes and regulates civility. Based on the finding in 2012-2013 that many polyamorists in the U.S. were identifying polyamory as part of their sexual orientation, I examine how the classical liberal “march of progress” has, particularly in recent decades, taken the form of a queue that shapes how marginal identities and practices can become recognizable as valid and worthwhile by following the form of what came before. The rise of polyamory as a sexual orientation, I argue, offers important insights into the broadening of the category of sexuality that illuminates contemporary mechanisms of subject formation in American late liberalism. However, an exclusive focus on recent decades is insufficient for understanding the dramatic rise of both polyamory and the increasing capaciousness of the sexual orientation framework. I thus argue further that, more than simply demonstrating the proliferation of identities taking shape within an identity political framework, attention to discourses around polyamory also highlights the powerful demands of civility and respectability made of subjects of sexual orientation, which requires a longer historical view of the interconnections of marriage, monogamy, and whiteness as constitutive of social, political, and legal recognition in the U.S.

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