Queering the Family: Exploring Non-Normative Family Figures in Literature, Arts, and the Media


Call for papers, Whatever 7 (Summer 2024), themed section

Queering the Family: Exploring Non-Normative Family Figures in Literature, Arts, and the Media

Edited by: Serena Guarracino (Università dell’Aquila), Anna Chiara Corradino (Università di Pisa)

Submission deadline: 30th November 2023
Estimated evaluation time: 16 weeks
Est. publication date: July 2024

The concept of family has traditionally been defined in the modern, Global North within narrow boundaries, centered around heterosexual relationships and biological ties. However, a rich array of non-normative narrations of family representations, from ancient to contemporary arts, has consistently challenged and expanded the normative scope of the concept. Following up from Whatever issue 4 (2021) on queer family in the law, edited by Nausica Palazzo, this thematic section aims to explore the multifaceted portrayals of unconventional family configurations and their significance within the realms of literature, cinema and other arts.

Through a diverse range of representations, the boundaries of what constitutes a “family” are being renegotiated and redefined by different subject positions throughout time. At a time when even some strands of feminism are investing on the biological role of women as mothers for political capital, these non-normative families not only challenge societal expectations but also offer new narratives that reflect the complexity and diversity of human experience.

This project invites to delve into the representation of non-normative family configurations in literature, visual and performing arts, as well as other media (popular music, cinema, TV series, videogames etc.). By emphasizing these specific narratives and representations, contributors can uncover antagonistic portrayals that reveal and unhinge the normative order of parenting and the family.

Scholars from diverse backgrounds and levels of experience are encouraged to contribute their research and analysis to this exploration.
Research topics may include:

  • The intersection of race, class, and gender in articulating different family models.
  • Queer kinship networks and alternative family structures.
  • Representations of non-binary and transgender parental figures.
  • Friendship and chosen families vs biological families.
  • Monstrous mothers and subversive depictions of motherhood.
  • LGBTQIPA+ individuals as caretakers.
  • Queering the concept of the nuclear family in children's literature and media.
  • The role of queer grandparents, siblings, and extended family members.
  • The performance of family roles in queer BDSM scenarios.

Main References:

Bengtson, V. L. (2001). Beyond the Nuclear Family: The Increasing Importance of Multigenerational Bonds. Journal of Marriage and Family, 63(1), 1-16.
Biblarz, T. J., & Savci, E. (2010). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 72(3), 480-497
Bauer, R. (2018). Bois and grrrls meet their daddies and mommies on gender playgrounds: Gendered age play in the les-bi-trans-queer BDSM communities. Sexualities, 21(1–2), 139–155.
Bradway, T. & Freeman, E. (2022). Queer Kinship: Race, Sex, Belonging, Form. New York, USA: Duke University Press. https://doi.org/10.1515/9781478023272
Butler, Judith. (2000). Antigone’s Claim: Kinship Between Life and Death. The Wellek Library Lectures. New York: Columbia UP.
Chambers, D. (2012). A Sociology of Family Life: Change and Diversity in Intimate Relations. Polity Press.
De Graeve, K. (2014). Queering the family? A multi-layered analysis of relations of inequality in transnational adoption. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 16(5/6), 683–696. http://www.jstor.org/stable/24741314
Donovan, C. (2004). Queering Family: The Postmodern Partnerships of Cops and Docs. Gender & Society, 18(2), 207-226.
Epstein Rachel. (2009). Who's Your Daddy? : And Other Writings on Queer Parenting. Toronto ON: Sumach Press.
Garwood, E. (2023). Queering the kinship story: constructing connection through LGBTQ family narratives. Feminist Theory, 24(1), 30-46. https://doi.org/10.1177/14647001211059521
Gibson, M. F. (Ed.). (2014). Queering Motherhood: Narrative and Theoretical Perspectives. Demeter Press. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1rrd7xf
Goldberg, A. E., & Allen, K. R. (2013). LGBTQ-Parent Families: Innovations in Research and Implications for Practice. Springer.
Focault, M. (1997). Friendship as a way of life. In The Essential Michel Foucault, ed. By Paul Rabinow. Vol. 1 Ethics. Subjectivity and Truth. The New York Press, 135-40.
Harris, A., Holman Jones, S., Faulkner, S., & Brook, E. (2017). Queering Families, Schooling Publics: Keywords (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315542881.
Heaphy, B. Y., et al. (2019). Queer Families and Relationships After Marriage Equality. Routledge.
Johnson, J. L., & Johnston, K. (Eds.). (2019). Maternal Geographies: Mothering In and Out of Place. Demeter Press. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctvggx43s
Stormhøj, C. (1). Queering the family: Critical reflections on state-regulated heteronormativity in the Scandinavian countries. Lambda Nordica, 8(3-4), 38-56. Retrieved from https://www.lambdanordica.org/index.php/lambdanordica/article/view/149
Palazzo, N. (2021). Meet the queer families: A roadmap towards legal recognition. https://doi.org/10.13131/2611-657X.WHATEVER.V4I1.144
Palko, A. L., & O’Reilly, A. (Eds.). (2021). Monstrous Mothers: Troubling Tropes. Demeter Press. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctv1vbd22k