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Spring Colloquium 5/16/18

Tuesday, May 16
12:00 – 1:00 pm
714 PLC

Josh Gamson
Department of Sociology
University of San Francisco

Talk Title: “Extraordinary Kin: The Politics of Unconventional Family Creation Stories”

Abstract: In Modern Families, I try to apprehend larger changes in family structure and kinship by looking at it nontraditional family creation from the inside out. I recount the stories of how I and some other people I know created our unconventional families (single mother families; lesbian, gay, and trans families; multiparent queer families) through assisted reproduction and adoption, using them as a spot from which to view the norms, conventions, and institutions that regulate contemporary family making. In this talk, I focus on the politics of telling such family stories. I situate them within the larger context of myths about the One True Family, and within the main competing genres through which unconventional family origin stories are told, one celebratory and the other critical. I then tell pieces of those stories, to illustrate how family storytelling can reveal complex encounters with normative regimes, global inequalities, class inequalities, medical and legal institutions, and market transactions. I finish by considering both the micropolitics and macropolitics of telling family origin stories, especially where these stories might enter broader discussions of reproductive justice and freedom.

Bio: Joshua Gamson is Professor of Sociology at the University of San Francisco. He is the author of Claims to Fame:  Celebrity in Contemporary America (California, 1994); Freaks Talk Back: Tabloid Talk Shows and Sexual Nonconformity (Chicago, 1998); The Fabulous Sylvester (Henry Holt/Picador, 2005), and Modern Families: Stories of Extraordinary Journeys to Kinship (New York University, 2015), along with numerous scholarly articles on social movements, sexualities, and contemporary culture. Among other honors, he’s received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Stanford University’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences.