Sexual Misgivings: Producing Un/Marked Knowledge in Neoliberal Marriage Promotion Policies
This article draws on what Brekhus has called “the sociology of the unmarked” to illuminate the construction of knowledge in the debate over heterosexual marriage’s significance in society. It conducts a qualitative content analysis of archival data written by marriage advocates from 1990 to 2010 and finds that marriage advocates use discourses that incorporate unmarked assumptions concerning heterosexuality and marked knowledge about single motherhood and same-sex marriage that is linked to neoliberal ideals of individual responsibility and self-reliant family life. This article uncovers how cultural battles over marriage’s significance are connected to a neoliberal discourse of individual responsibility, negotiated through boundary work that marks single motherhood and same-sex marriage as in need of special consideration.
Making Marriage Promotion into Public Policy: The Epistemic Culture of a Statewide Initiative
Though political sociologists have sought to understand how self-interest influences politics and policymaking, little research has examined the mechanisms involved in the relationship between constructing knowledge and forming policy. This article extends the concept of epistemic culture to the field of policymaking to uncover the mechanisms of knowledge production in policy formation. It offers an extended case study of government marriage promotion policies that seek to fund and disseminate marriage education among poor couples with the goal of lifting them out of poverty. Based on an ethnography of a statewide marriage initiative in Oklahoma, this article maps out the parameters of an epistemic culture of marriage promotion shaped by three mechanisms: 1) The articulation of connections between policy, commonsense ideas, and extant epistemologies; 2) The formation of policy that consolidates research findings to quell controversy; and 3) The creation of networks to convince relevant actors of the importance of marriage promotion policy.
Marriage Goes to School
In recent years, policy efforts to alleviate poverty have focused on marriage and relationship education. Orit Avishai’s, Melanie Heath’s,and Jennifer Randles’s research finds that efforts to address poverty via relationship skills training are misguided because this approach does not address the structural causes of poverty.
State of our Unions
Marriage Promotion and the Contested Power of Heterosexuality
Marriage promotion is a government strategy aimed at ensuring that children are raised in married, heterosexual families, preferably by their biological parents. This article places critical heterosexuality studies in dialogue with feminist state theory to examine marriage promotion as a reaction of the gendered and sexualized state to crisis tendencies of institutionalized heterosexuality. Drawing on the first in-depth study of marriage promotion politics, the author examines polycentric state practices that seek to stabilize the norm of the white, middle-class, heterosexual family. While explicit policy concerns focus on race and class, state-sponsored marriage workshops teach about gender hierarchy to rehearse an implicit ideology of marital heterosexuality. In contrast to feminist state theories that present a monolithic, top-down model of state control, the author offers a more nuanced examination of the relationship between macro and micro levels of power and their uneven consequences for social change.
Renegotiating Gender and Racial Ideologies in the Promise Keepers Movement
This article examines the tensions in the identities of men who belong to the Promise Keepers (PK) movement by uncovering the social conditions that lead men to rethink gender and racial ideologies. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews, the author draws on gender and social movement scholarship to reveal how contradictory gender and racial ideologies shape PKs’ identities. Furthermore, the PKs’ impact on gender and race relations is also contradictory. PK fosters men’s growth on an interactional level, allowing men to embrace a more expressive and caring masculinity that includes cross-racial bonding. Simultaneously, however, PK ignores, and indirectly reinforces, the structural conditions that underpin gender and racial privilege among white men.