“Science, Technology, and Sexuality: New Directions in the Study of Sexual Knowledge.” Conditionally accepted at Sociology Compass.
Abstract: The sociology of sexualities and the sociology of science, knowledge, and technology share many areas of theoretical and empirical interest, yet the fields’ engagements with each other have been limited. Work that has engaged both fields has tended to focus on sexuality from a biomedical perspective, neglecting other forms of knowledge production. This paper critically reviews existing areas of convergence between the fields, including measurement and classification, medicalization and risk, reproduction and families, politics and the state, and social movements. I offer suggestions for new avenues of research in these areas in addition to considering how greater theoretical exchange between the two fields could enrich both. I ultimately contend that analyzing forms of social knowledge making—such as law, religion, and the humanities and social sciences— and adopting a broader understanding of STS as method can provide a fresh direction in studying the production and circulation of sexual knowledge.
“Determining Transgender: Adjudicating Gender Identity in U.S. Asylum Law.” Revised & resubmitted to Gender & Society.
Abstract: Transgender legal protections have long been contentious issues, with courts often refusing recognition of transgender identities or, alternatively, recognizing them in pathologized ways. Recently, however, courts adjudicating transgender asylum claims have recognized “transgender” as a legitimate category of protection for the first time. I take this legal development as an opportunity to expand theories of doing/redoing/determining gender by asking how courts determine if individuals are transgender. While previous work has shown how courts maintain the gender binary, asylum law offers the first chance to analyze what happens when a third gender category is legally recognized. Drawing on ethnographic observations and interviews in conjunction with court decisions, I argue that the move to recognize transgender as a category in its own right implicitly recognizes the malleability of gender. Yet, the actual adjudication of transgender asylum cases continues to uphold a fixed and binary conception of gender by assuming a “born into the wrong body” narrative and that claimants should always already know their gender identities, thus effacing other possible ways of experiencing transgender identity and expressing other forms of gender non-conformity.
“Seeing Sexuality Like a State: Classification, Expertise, and the Naturalization of Sexual Kinds.” Under review.
Abstract: Recent scholarship in the sociology of the state has emphasized the important relationship between knowledge and statecraft, but this work has been criticized for being overly “state-centric” and ignoring the role of society in state classification and information gathering practices. Though some work has begun to examine how social actors resist or facilitate state information gathering, the central role of non-state experts has been underexamined and undertheorized. Moreover, the state classification literature focuses predominantly on large-scale state-building projects, such as censuses, while mostly overlooking the day-to-day classification work of state institutions. Addressing this gap, this article develops the concept of “epistemic logics” and argues that to fully understand state classification practices, we must look to the non-state knowledge actors enrolled by the state to facilitate everyday state legibility projects. To illustrate the utility of this heuristic, this article presents a comparative study of two arenas—LGBTQ asylum hearings and “sexually violent predator” proceedings—where state actors are charged with classifying sexual subjects for subsequent state action. The analysis demonstrates how non-state experts shape state classification practices and contribute to the naturalization of social differences along the lines of sexuality.