Jamie Budnick. The Social Lives of Sexuality Statistics: Sexuality Knowledge, Demography, and the Politics of Population Measurement.

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The Social Lives of Sexuality Statistics: Sexuality Knowledge, Demography, and the Politics of Population Measurement.

In my dissertation, I analyze the surge of interest in the demography of sexuality to show how social scientific thinking shapes policy, and vice versa. The last decade witnessed an unprecedented prioritization of research on non-heterosexuality, fueling progress in LGBTQ civil rights and activism focused on issues of data collection. Political upheaval and contemporary skepticism toward expertise leaves this sexuality knowledge in a precarious position. I draw on STS approaches to the politics of knowledge, the sociology of quantification and classification, survey methodology, and feminist epistemology to tell the stories of five prominent knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality. I use comparative-historical and interview methods to analyze newspaper articles, judicial opinions, court case arguments and amicus briefs, citations, survey documentation, and interviews with both research participants and expert stakeholders. I investigate how knowledge claims about non-heterosexuality circulate out in the world in public discourse and policy debates, and interrogate their technical production within social science, specifically demography. My case demonstrates the continued relevance, contested legitimacy, and sociopolitical influence of sexuality knowledge – as well as the high stakes of social science expertise on the national stage.

Jamie Budnick a sociologist of gender and sexuality. Her research agenda comprises three major areas. First, she studies the social construction of knowledge about sexuality. Her book project, based on my dissertation research, shows how the sexuality knowledge produced by demographers and other social scientists shapes policy, politics, and identities. This project won an honorable mention for best dissertation from the American Sociological Association’s Sexualities section. Second, she is deeply invested in advancing the demography of sexualities, both by producing population science that can be used to meaningfully address inequalities affecting LGBTQ people, and by shaping measurement and research practices. Third, she has examined young women’s sexual identity, behavior, and desire using innovative sampling methods to make theories of sexual fluidity more intersectional. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and the University of Michigan’s Population Studies Center and Institute for Research on Women and Gender. My sole-authored and co-authored scholarship has been published in Gender & Society, Contexts, Demography, and the American Sociological Review.