Video abstract – “‘Protect Wisconsin Families’? Rethinking Left Family Values in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising”

Yet again the discourse of “family values” is being mobilised as the Alabama Human Life Protection Act was signed into law this week. In his Antipode paper published earlier this year, “‘Protect Wisconsin Families’? Rethinking Left Family Values in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising”, David Seitz examines a particular (and, indeed, peculiar) instance of the rhetoric, the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising against austerity and public‐sector union‐busting. As he explains:

This paper considers the pitfalls of “working family” rhetoric for the Left, using messaging in the 2011 Wisconsin Uprising against public-sector union-busting as a case study. Although Left framing of Governor Scott Walker’s austerity agenda as an attack on “working Wisconsin families” initially won public sympathy, I argue it ultimately conceded too much to neoliberalism’s pro-work, pro-family, pro-privatization worldview to win. Why? I point to the racist, heteropatriachal, and classed baggage of “family values” rhetoric in justifying mass incarceration and attacks on the welfare state. This framing has been particularly devastating in Wisconsin, a longtime leader in anti-Black, anti-poor justice and welfare policies. The paper’s experimental conclusion, upon which activists might build, considers whether a more capacious Left politics, one that embraces both working families and the (real and perceived) “slutty and lazy” among us, might offer a way beyond pernicious privatization schemes and the cultural politics that normalize them.

Below you can watch a short film in which David introduces his paper (which, together with the rest of issue 1, is free to download here).

David K. Seitz is a cultural geographer interested in questions of difference, desire, and citizenship. He is Assistant Professor of Cultural Geography in the Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and the Arts at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, where he is also core faculty in the American Studies Program at the Claremont Colleges and affiliated faculty in the Cultural Studies Department at Claremont Graduate University.

His first book, A House of Prayer for All People: Contesting Citizenship in a Queer Church (University of Minnesota Press, 2017) examines the affective and spatial dimensions of belonging at a large, predominantly LGBT church in Toronto, Canada. As well as Antipode, is work has been published in Society and Space, the IJURR, and Emotion, Space and Society.