Diane Richardson on Sexuality and Citizenship

By Professor Diane Richardson, Newcastle University

Professor Diane Richardson, winner of the 2018 Sociology SAGE Prize for Innovation and Excellence, gives us an insight into her body of work on sexuality and citizenship. The prize-winning article, ‘Rethinking Sexual Citizenship’ is Open Access and can be read on the Sociology website.

The first time I wrote about sexuality and citizenship was in an article published in Sociology (32: 1) in 1998, a time when this was a newly emerging topic. The paper explored how theories of citizenship had given insufficient attention to sexuality. In it, I argued that claims to citizenship status, at least in the West, were closely associated with the institutionalisation of heterosexual, as well as male, privilege. My new work revisits ideas about sexual citizenship in the wake of the rapidly changing landscape of gender and sexuality witnessed in many parts of the world over the last decade and a half, and through subsequent empirical work I have carried out, in collaboration with others, on sexuality and citizenship in the UK, USA and Nepal. 

In ‘Rethinking Sexual Citizenship’ (Sociology 51:2), I argue that it is time for a critical rethink that encompasses a de-centering of a ‘western-centric’ focus, and considers the implications for future conceptual and empirical development, as well as for political activism. My particular focus is on critiquing the normative and normalising effects of the concept of sexual citizenship as it is currently constituted. This new work problematizes the concept of sexual citizenship and its territorial framings, both in terms of the field of analysis and areas of knowledge it covers, and at various scales of belonging. The paper came out of a bigger project ‘Transforming Citizenship: Sexuality, Gender and Citizenship Struggles’ that was funded by a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship. This led to my latest book Sexuality and Citizenship, published recently by Polity, which offers a more comprehensive treatment of the ideas and arguments that are advanced in the paper.  

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