Structures of Belonging: Family and Kinship on the Margins
The family unit—in its various forms across space, time, and culture—is one of the primary vehicles by which societies perpetuate themselves physically and ideologically. Just as human populations and collectives change in step with the multiplication, maintenance, and decline of family lines, social knowledge is learned and transmitted, to a significant degree, in families and down hereditary lineages.
Because the motor of this mechanism is generally heterosexual marriage and procreation, marginal and non-normative genders and sexualities have had complicated and often exclusionary relationships to conventional family structures, as well as to the legal, social, political, and economic benefits that these structures are accorded. In this course, we will examine media (literary and philosophical texts, fictional and documentary films, and graphic novels) that attempt to critique and subvert traditional family configurations or rethink them entirely, offering alternative models of acceptance, belonging, connection, community, and kinship independent of reproductive imperatives. In so doing, we will establish a critical distance from received ideas about family and reflect analytically, transhistorically, and transculturally about what it might mean to discover and create families on the margins of society.