Origins of the Preconference Theme
In 2017, sociologists across subfields and ranks hold an investment in sexuality research and theorizing. Since its founding in August 1997, the Sexualities section of the ASA has recorded between 400-600 members, 40 percent of whom have consistently been graduate students. Over the last twenty years, the subfield of sexualities has evolved from a marginalized area of study within sociology into an integral part of our discipline. Indeed, the theme of the 2015 ASA annual meeting was Sexualities in the Social World. Sex, gender, and sexuality—alone, and in connection to other axes of social power—are incorporated in scholarly networks within the discipline. Sexualities section members are long standing participants and leaders in the Sociologists’ Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Ally Caucus and the Caucus on Transnational Approaches to Gender and Sexuality, and members have been central to the activist-scholar efforts of emergent groups like the Sociologists for Trans Justice. The section engages and collaborates with other ASA sections—both small sections like Body & Embodiment and larger sections like Race, Gender, and Class and Sex and Gender.
Sexualities scholars have been active in several recent interdisciplinary conferences about sexualities, including After Marriage in 2016 and Queer Methods in 2013. At each, sociologists contributed greatly to the conversations, particularly with respect to social scientists’ role in political engagements. This engagement has led to edited volumes (Jones, Yarbrough and DeFilippis, forthcoming ) and special journal issues (Brim and Ghaziani 2016) that promise to shape the political, intellectual, and methodological debate for years to come. Other sociologists have organized funded conferences in the area of race and sexualities. These events have also led to significant publications on Black and Latina/o/x sexualities (Asencio, 2010; Battle, 2010).
The need for such venues and exchanges is ever acute. Outside the academy, the world of sexualities continues to change. LGBTQ communities and their unequal citizenship have gained greater visibility, as evident in the passage of marriage equality in Obergefell v. Hodges (576 U.S. _ ), the 2010 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” and broad mobilization around the multiple needs of transgender populations, especially those of immigrants and African Americans. Though often heralded as signs of progress, attention to sexualities’ intersections with race and empire reminds us not to read these shifts simply as signs of advancement. The same years have brought further disenfranchisement of racial minority voters’ rights in Shelby County v. Holder (570 U.S. _ ), exclusionary immigration policies in S.B. 1070, and an increase in racialized and faith-based violence. These issues have a particular impact on LGBTQ people of color and reflect anxieties wrought by advances in LGBTQ rights and recognition. Sexualities, Race, and Empire will support sociologists’ engagement with some of the most pressing questions of our intellectual and political moment.
In Fall 2016, the Sexualities Section asked Katie Acosta, Jessica Fields, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz to serve as tri-chairs of the preconference. The tri-chairs are long-term, active members of the ASA. Together, their teaching, research, and publication histories represent a diversity of institutions, subfields, and areas of substantive focus—all spanning a broad commitment to understanding sexualities and race. The preconference tri-chairs assembled a steering committee and four subcommittees of faculty and graduate students working on budget/fundraising, local arrangements, program, and social media/publicity. The aim was to tap scholars across ranks, institutions, and areas of focus. The tri-chairs also secured the support of a Georgia State University PhD student in Sociology, supervised by Professor Acosta.