The Logic of Futurity: Reproduction, Cultural Eugenics, and Contingencies of Women's Citizenship in the Contemporary United States Open Access

Petersen, Kristin Marie (2015)

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This dissertation explores the concept of futurity as an organizing cultural logic, guiding decision-making about the conditions of reproduction and the administration of citizenship to set the terms of national belonging now and in future generations. In particular, it examines how the (political) tension between the now and the not-yet impacts women as the literal and figural reproducers of the nation, suggesting that eugenic ideologies remain in play in contemporary society but operate through far more oblique practices than traditionally employed. I suggest that part of what generates the interaction between futurity, reproduction, and citizenship are discourses about what each of these terms (relationally) mean in the socio-political context of the present. Does the relationship between reproduction and futurity render the substance of women's citizenship, present and future, contingent upon their reproductive capacities and outcomes? Through the interactions of futurity, reproduction, and citizenship, is women's citizenship perhaps perpetuated as a means-end proposition--something that is enhanced by her adherence to norms of desirable reproduction and diminished by her ostensible deviance--such that citizenship carries less inherent value for women than for men?

This project focuses on three sites where the politics of citizenship and reproduction entangle to enact, prevent, and predict particular visions of the national future, illuminating state-sanctioned discourses and practices about the (reproductive) contingencies of women's belonging to the nation. The first site for this analysis considers proposed "Birthright Citizenship" legislation reforms and associated political narratives about immigrant women, their children, and the nation. The second considers judicial narratives produced and practices enacted about and upon families, legitimate motherhood/parenting, and the expectations of reproductive citizenship with regard to lesbian-parented families engaged in custody disputes. The third area involves reading the U.S. income tax code as itself a narrative and a set of disciplining technologies for and about the citizen par excellence, the taxpayer, and examining what cultural ideals are indicated by the natalism of the tax code. By engaging these three sites, I examine how state-based narratives about reproduction, the citizen, and human value intersect with a eugenicist futurity to structure our present and shape an idealized nation-to-be.

Table of Contents



1: Futurity, Eugenics, and Narratives of Nations


2: Citizens and M(O)thers: Reproduction, the Nation, and the

Instability of Citizenship


3: Birthright Citizenship: The State Contends with Immigrant Women and Children


4: Lesbian Motherhood and the Right to Parent


5: Natalism and the Tax Code




Appendix A: Married Tax Returns Comparison Chart


Appendix B: Single Tax Returns Comparison Chart


Appendix C: Married Tax Returns


Appendix D: Single Tax Returns


Works Cited


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