Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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Race, class and marginal intimacies in Australian public culture
Jessica Joan Kean

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T12
Date: 2015-09-25 06:30 PM – 08:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-08


This paper argues that a critique of ‘mononormativity’ – the institutions, ideals and practices that make monogamy seem natural, normal and right – can be used to illuminate recurring patterns within racist and classist ideals of ‘the good family’ in Australian public culture. I depart from Cohen’s (1997) use of ‘queer’ as a rubric for aligning those whose heterosexual intimacies are marginalised along racial or class lines, arguing that ‘mononormativity’ more coherently describes the pattern of marginalisation than ‘heteronormativity’ does. With a focus on Australian popular discourses on welfare recipients, the paper considers mononormativity within public housing policy as it has been applied to Indigenous families and within the public shaming of ‘bogans’ and working class ‘teen mums’.

While Cohen uses ‘queer’ as a rallying point for these maligned intimacies, I argue that it is their challenge to mononormativity, rather than heteronormativity, which provides the strongest theoretical ground for coalition. This distinction makes it possible to offer queer critiques of the heteronormative elements of those patterns of intimacy without denying their cultural and material marginalisation, and contributes to the growing body of theory exploring the ways race and class are implicated in contemporary visions of The Good Life and of ‘good’ loves.


Cohen, C. J. (1997). Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens: the radical potential of queer politics? GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 3, 437-465.