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Imagining New LegalitiesPrivacy and Its Possibilities in the 21st Century$
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Austin Sarat, Lawrence Douglas, and Martha Merrill Umphrey

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804777049

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804777049.001.0001

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Disenchanting the Public/Private Distinction

Disenchanting the Public/Private Distinction

Chapter:
(p.25) Disenchanting the Public/Private Distinction
Source:
Imagining New Legalities
Author(s):

Kathryn Abrams

Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804777049.003.0002

This chapter analyzes the significance and permanence of shifts in our understanding of the boundary between the public and private spheres produced by political contestation over gender and sexuality. Part I explains how gender and sexuality advocacy has begun the process of disenchanting the public/private distinction—that is, disrupting or deconstructing its status as an intact, coherent “system of ethical meaning that we have ‘merely’ to discover.” It focuses primarily on the private, where this deconstruction has encompassed a denial of its natural or divine provenance, a pluralization of its ostensibly uniform configuration, and disruption of its sentimentalized characterization. This activism has also complicated the distinction and separation of the public from the private. The effects of this advocacy in disenchanting, though not fully transforming, the domestic private help to explain the urgency and the rhetoric of the recent response, which is explored in Part II. The efforts at “re-enchantment” reflected in the “natural family” movement are unlikely to succeed, except perhaps among a modest subgroup that never assimilated the changes described in Part I. But these efforts challenge us to think more clearly and explicitly about what it could mean to structure cultural life, and legal rules, around a more disenchanted notion of the public/private distinction. This task is framed in Part III.

Keywords:   gender, sexuality, activism, natural family, public sphere, private sphere

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