UPDATE: Bisexuality and the Biopolitics of Family (6/30/06; journal issue/book)

full name / name of organization: 
Serena Anderlini
contact email: 

Revised/expanded call:


The rationale for the project is explained below while list of
suggested/possible foci follows.

In the past decade, the debate over what constitutes a healthy and
functional family has acquired biopolitical proportions, as it has
ranged across a variety of disciplines, cultures, and social groups,
both in the West and on a global scale. In the context of the most
recent US presidential campaign, some commentators have attributed
Bush's alleged success to upscale neoconservatives' ability to catalyze
impoverished Middle-America around the homophobic definitions of
marriage on the ballot in several conservative states. On the other
hand, the recent legalization of gay marriage in Spain gives evidence of
a country with conservative traditions in an effort to stay ahead of the
curve in the context of the European Union. Furthermore, in an effort
to emphasize non-violent aspects of Muslim cultures, polygamy has been
reexamined as a marriage style that often involves deep bonds of
affection among co-spouses and half siblings. Finally, a similar
impulse to move beyond exclusivity in sexual partnerships and parenting
comes from recently developed subcultures within the West, including
polyamory and bisexuality. The range of this debate indicates that in
the postmodern era, the cultural trope of family might undergo some
redefinition, from one based on biological reproduction and lineage, and
their perceived necessity, to one based on the human need for love,
affinity, community, and care.
      Predictably, the biopolitical debate about family finds in the
discussion of what constitutes marriage a major focus. The debate
expands in a number of interesting directions. On the political end,
many observers comment on the domination of the scene in the United
States by powerful political families who, by turning into de-facto
dynasties, eat at the core of American democracy. Others have observed
similar patterns in Europe, with Italian politics dominated by a media
tycoon determined to pass his financial empire on to his kinship family.
On the cultural end, no-fault divorce has become a regular, non-dramatic
practice in nuclear and extended families across Europe and North
America. Hispanic and other Latino countries have imported extended
concepts of family into North America, whose inclusiveness challenges
the normative model of a nuclear family. In united Europe, similar
fluxes from Africa have resulted in a high incidence of interracial
marriages with children positioned in between races, cultures, and
worlds. Furthermore, in both Europe and North America, Muslim practices
of non-exclusive marriage have impacted conventional Western mentalities
as they model patterns of shared responsibility for children and
partners. Finally, gays and lesbians of many countries have introduced
the concept of marriage (or domestic partnership) between partners of
the same gender, with its emphasis on mutual commitment and care, and on
recognized forms of gay parenting.
      While all of these groups have affirmed their right to access
"family" in a variety of effective ways, it looks as if, regardless of
how long (or how many) individual partners stay together, "marriage"
persists as a central trope in the cultures of postmodernity.
Furthermore, as globalization's fluxes move energies and people around
the planet, "family" is a trope just as in-flux as the streams of its
putative members--but it is not going away. Some read this instability
as an indicator of crisis, while we propose to view it as an opportunity
for change.
      A bisexual perspective on this trope is very promising, for
bisexuality assumes neither monosexuality nor monogamy, two central
elements in normative modern concepts of family in the West. Indeed, as
the potential and/or ability to love persons of both genders,
bisexuality opens a new perspective not only the normative gender of a
marriage partner, but also on the number of partners a marriage or core
family unit can have. Bisexual practices often involve the sharing of
lovers as well as various forms of three-way and more than three-way
partnerships. Bisexual practices also often take place in polyamorous
contexts, which emphasize long-term relationships that often involve
various forms of biological and affinity-based parenting. For example,
Valerie White, an attorney in Vermont now in her late fifties, has had
twin girls with her ten-year partners, Ken and Judy. Her biological
contribution to the twins comes in the form of her biological daughter
donation of fertile eggs to her partner Judy. Valerie is therefore the
biological grandmother of the twins, plus their "third" parent.
      This and other similar innovative postmodern configurations point
to one of the absurdities of Western normativity with respect to
sexuality and parenting. Most normative Westerners take for granted
that a parent's affection can multiply for as many children as necessary
within the biological family, but they feel that a lover's or spousal
affection must be exclusive to be worthy of this name. Yet, thanks to
effective birth control methods and based on a healthy ecological
awareness of excessive population growth, most of today's parents have
just a few children among whom to divide their affection. And, due to
the serial monogamy patterns that prevail in today's hetero-normative
world, most adults have a number of current and former lovers and/or
spouses, whose total count is often higher than the number children they
have. This, with all the rivalries and conflicts it generates, begs the
question, why can't the affection of a lover or a spouse also multiply
for as many lovers and/or spouses as can be included in a bisexual,
polyamorous family? Of course, parents are expected to love their
children in non-sexual ways, based on societal organization around the
taboo of incest, and this presumption of a non-sexual love grants the
potential for multiplication. However, erotic affinity is often present
between members of a family, and some forms of erotic love between
consenting adult members of a family can be seen as more ethical,
chosen, and respectable than the widespread child prostitution practices
typical of today's sexual tourism in Thailand and other impoverished
third-world areas. For example, as Judith Levine has recently pointed
out, teaching children about love, sex, and pleasure can be highly
educational and caring. Furthermore, the presumption of exclusivity and
the expectations it generates is cause for destructive conflicts in many
blended families, while the widespread practice of "cheating" in
monogamous relationship causes deep-seated rivalries and resentments.
      In proceeding to orchestrate the proposed edited collection on
"Bisexuality and the Biopolitics of Family," we intend to provide a
forum for the debate of the above mentioned issues, and more. We
envisage the book as a contribution to the process of reconfiguring
"family" as a cultural trope functional to the development of a mode of
social organization where ecological forms of globalization prevail.
When the primary implications of being a family are love, affinity,
pleasure, community, and care, a family's health and functionality can
be measured precisely based on its ability to include shared and former
members, as well as children, lovers, exes, and elders. The call for
papers we've designed for this project opens the space for contributions
inspired by this vision. Our editors' job will be to orchestrate the
book in the most inclusive and effective way.

Possible foci are the biopolitics of monosexuality, bisexuality,
monogamy, non-monogamy, responsible non-monogamy, polygamy, polyandry,
and polyamory; bisexuality and nuclear, extended, expanded, elective,
tribal, and cyberspace families; and the reproduction cycles:
fertility, pregnancy, childbirth, child rearing, sibling relating,
biological and elective parents and relatives; and parenting,
step-parenting, surrogate parenting, adoption, and grand-parenting;
bisexuality and incest; incest taboos and their transgression; and

Possible related foci include bisexuality and initiation rituals; and
the biotechnologies of the body, reproduction, and family; and human
development, including childhood, sexual awakening, adolescence, young
adulthood, maturity, ageing, later life, old age, senility, gender,
transsexuality, and transgenderism; the body, nudity, spirituality,
health, disability, illness, food, nurturing, care, affection, and
erotic practices in bisexual families; past and/or non-Western models of
bisexual families.

We are interested in theoretical, critical, and research articles,
reports from the field, personal narratives, reviews, poems, and
interviews. For articles, we welcome a variety of disciplinary and
interdisciplinary perspectives, including those based in disciplines
like critical theory, philosophy, sociology, psychology, legal studies,
literature, cultural studies, anthropology, and medical science. For
the more experiential submissions, we welcome expertise in the healing
arts, the creative arts in general, the new spiritualities, polyamory,
paganism, fetishism, DBSM, as well as past and/or non-Western

Please email all inquiries, abstracts, and submissions to both Serena
Anderlini-D'Onofrio serena1_at_coqui.net and Nan Wise thelovecoach_at_aol.com.
Please send abstracts and/or inquiries by May 15, 2006.
Complete submissions (including text, abstract, keywords, and bio) will
be due on June 30th, 2006.

Serena Anderlini-D'Onofrio, Ph.D.
Professor of Italian and Humanities
University of Puerto Rico, Mayaguez
Mayaguez, PR 00681-9264 (USA)

Email: serena1_at_coqui.net
Website: www.serenagaia.com

Private Address:
P.O. Box 1941
Mayaguez, PR 00681 (USA)
Phone 787 255 1175 (home)
           787 538 1680 (cell)

Italian Address:
Via Roma 96
02019 Posta (RI) - Italy
Phone 39 0746 951038
           39 333 1411634

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Received on Thu Mar 02 2006 - 11:44:50 EST