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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Being and doing : interrogating dominant narratives of asexual kinship in an amatonormative culture Elgie, Evelyn

Abstract

Taking a sociological approach grounded in intersectionality and queer theory, this thesis traces and investigates online asexual discourse and identity politics in order to critically investigate the way that asexual culture and Western culture more broadly understands the intersections of friendship, kinship, adulthood, and intimacy. Recognizing the ways that asexual discourse has uncritically taken up problematic nationalist, neoliberal, and racialized understandings of romantic kinship in its identity politics is necessary in order to shift asexual discourse from a respectability and visibility politics with the aim of neoliberal assimilation to a political consciousness that queerly reinterprets the role of sexuality in forming kinship. I begin by tracing the history of online asexual discourse, situating the importance of this specific online culture to asexual worldmaking in a North American context. Here, I situate asexual theory in the context of amatonormativity and compulsory sexuality and find that asexual struggles for public recognition and legitimacy often rely on a problematic respectability politics based on notions of biologized, racialized, and gendered normalcy. Next, I investigate the deep cultural entanglements of the sexual and the romantic, calling into question the ontological underpinnings of the Split Attraction Model by investigating the category of the ‘romantic’ as a culturally mediated, gendered, racialized, and classed historical construction. Here, I draw on philosophical work on the nature of romantic love and on the historical and political role of marriage, and on scholars of queerness from Black, Indigenous and Asian-American contexts to inform a decolonial and racially nuanced understanding of the SAM’s political underpinnings, noting how social control in the form of sexual romantic norms is exerted differently on gendered, sexualized, and racialized bodies. Finally, I ask what it means to practice nonsexual kinship, and how asexual/aromantic identity gets deployed in practice, drawing on the literature of polyamory to think through the difference between identity and practice. By tracing different examples of asexual/aromantic kinship practice that is not necessarily grounded in asexual or aromantic identity, I pose a new paradigm for thinking nonsexual kinship, opening asexual/aromantic kinship rather than identity as the grounds for thinking both asexuality and queerness.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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