Reconceptualising Family: Negotiating Sexuality in an Era of Neoliberalism

Friday, July 18, 2014: 5:45 PM
Room: Booth 64
Oral Presentation
Cristyn DAVIES , Medicine, University of Sydney, Australia, Sydney, Australia
Kerry ROBINSON , Social Sciences and Psychology, University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia
Based on qualitative research, this presentation examines the complex kinship relations involved in constructing queer families. We focus on the heterogeneity of queer families; the difficulties encountered in association with processes of recognition and how this is negotiated across different contexts within queer families, extended families, and bureaucracies; how sexual subjectivities are articulated within the context of ‘family’; and concerns raised by queer families in relation to children’s early schooling. Of particular importance to this discussion is awareness that in a governmental climate of neoliberalism, there are contradictory and competing discourses about queer subjectivities, the child, and constructions of family. The queer subject is frequently and increasingly positioned as a targeted consumer and this consumption extends to accessing foster care, adoption, reproductive technologies, the healthcare system, and education. However, despite the invitation to queer families to be consumers in these contexts, the normative family is still viewed as heterosexual, with queer families continuing to be excluded and rendered invisible in representations of family. Early education should include knowledge about different kinds of kinship relations including queer families, non-biological formations of family, including fostering and adoption, and alternative reproductive practices and technologies through which many young children are now conceived. Currently, most early childhood education and primary school curricula in Australia do not reflect the reality of many young children’s lives. Educating all children and youth about alternative families and sexuality is critical to children becoming socially informed citizens and politically active members of their communities who can participate in creating alternative and more equitable futures.