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Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship

Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship

Aaron Goodfellow
Copyright Date: 2015
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship
    Book Description:

    An important contribution to the anthropology of gay kinship, ten years in the making. While the topic of gay marriage and families continues to be popular in the media, few scholarly works focus on gay men with children. Based on ten years of fieldwork among gay families living in the rural, suburban, and urban area of the eastern United States, Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship presents a beautifully written and meticulously argued ethnography of gay men and the families they have formed. In a culture that places a premium on biology as the founding event of paternity, Aaron Goodfellow poses the question: Can the signing of legal contracts and the public performances of care replace biological birth as the singular event marking the creation of fathers? Beginning with a comprehensive review of the relevant literature in this field, four chapters--each presenting a particular picture of paternity--explore a range of issues, such as interracial adoption, surrogacy, the importance of physical resemblance in familial relationships, single parenthood, delinquency, and the ways in which the state may come to define the norms of health. The author deftly illustrates how fatherhood for gay men draws on established biological, theological, and legal images of the family often thought oppressive to the emergence of queer forms of social life. Chosen with care and described with great sensitivity, each carefully researched case examines gay fatherhood through life narratives. Painstakingly theorized, Gay Fathers, Their Children, and the Making of Kinship contends that gay families are one of the most important areas to which social scientists might turn in order to understand how law, popular culture, and biology are simultaneously made manifest and interrogated in everyday life. By focusing specifically on gay fathers, Goodfellow produces an anthropological account of how paternity, sexuality, and masculinity are leveraged in relations of care between gay fathers and their children.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-6607-4
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction: Uncanny Kinship
    (pp. 1-29)

    From late 1999 to the beginning of 2002, I worked as an ethnographer with men who identify as gay and have formed families with children. I wanted to understand the different ways people build and maintain kinship and conceptualize family relations when the symbolic logic of heterosexual reproduction, the law, and biological notions of descent and affiliation are neither readily available nor immediately applicable to them. As I show in the pages that follow, the families of gay men are among the most important sites we can engage to understand how the law and biology are simultaneously made manifest in...

  4. 1 Sensing Kinship
    (pp. 30-54)

    An anthropological study of queer kinship in the United States that does not draw on David Schneider’s insights into American kinship is hard to imagine. Not only did Schneider (1997) specifically address the topic of gay and lesbian families in one of his final publications, but in his earlier work on kinship he also helped establish queer relations as a valid topic of anthropological inquiry (Carsten 2004; Dean 2009; Weston 1993). Yet Schneider’s work remains problematic because of his basic assumption that the norms structuring family and kin relations in the United States are shared across all social sectors (McKinnon...

  5. 2 Voicing Kinship
    (pp. 55-89)

    Anthropologists have long been invested in understanding the terms people use to name and categorize kin. For instance, Lewis Henry Morgan, often recognized as the founder of American anthropology, built an entire comparative approach to the study of culture around the words different peoples use for kin relations. Morgan’s method developed from his interest in the origins of the various indigenous North American “tribes” and their differing social orders. It was while Morgan was trying to prove that all Native Americans were descended from a common Asiatic people—an effort he pursued through a global comparison of kinship systems—that...

  6. 3 Suffering Kinship
    (pp. 90-123)

    When I began researching the family life of gay men with children, my colleagues advised me to pay close attention to ethnic, racial, and class differences and to seek out consciously the effect of these factors on the lives of those with whom I worked. Their concern, I believe, arose from the widely held impression that gay parents are predominantly white, live in urban settings, and maintain middle-class lifestyles—that is, that they are essentially similar, and that their lives recapitulate many established social norms. If I were to proceed without questioning how this appearance of similarity is produced, my...

  7. 4 Inheriting Kinship
    (pp. 124-158)

    An expanding body of literature links renewed interest in kinship studies to a series of crises affecting the epistemological scaffolding that supports knowledge of kin relations. Judith Stacey (1998), for example, argues that the epistemological crisis affecting family relationships is an outgrowth of the reorganization of capital and care in neoliberal states, the increasing use and availability of biotechnology to assist conception, and changes in the legal organization of adoption, marriage, and the family. According to Stacey and others, these shifts have introduced flexibility into a domain once thought immutable, certain, and immediately knowable—namely, the origins of one’s kin....

  8. 5 Precarious Kinship
    (pp. 159-166)

    It has taken me longer to complete this book than I originally anticipated. Over time, my relationship to the concepts deployed in the research have changed and the incremental pressures exerted on my thinking by the voices of those I have known and worked with have transfigured my initial impression of the family and kin relations of gay men and their children. I might have foreseen this change since uncertainty as to the existence and meaning of one’s relations and the importance of remaining attuned to the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, forces configuring the emergence of family and...

  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-178)
  10. Index
    (pp. 179-184)