Family Trees and National Belonging
I build a framework for exploring conflicting narratives in ethnographic interviews, public policy discussions, and news media, grounded in a critical engagement of allegory. I construct a genealogy of legitimacy, gender, race, enslavement, and tribal identity, focusing on disjunctures between mainstream online family-tree programs and the family-making histories of African American, Navajo, and white queer mothers. I suggest that “traditional” family tree structures can be read as allegories for how society defines legitimate families. I argue that grafted trees function as more useful metaphors for family relationships. I consider ethnographic allegory through the family-making stories of one African American lesbian. I then turn to a discussion of the “family values” politics of the 1990s to consider sociopolitical allegory as a lens through which to explore connections between public news media, public policy discussions, and law. Genealogical allegory completes this theoretical framework of nesting analytical lenses.
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