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What is Queer About Teenage Pregnancy? Race, Temporality and (Un)Happiness in Milwaukee’s Prevention Campaign 2006-2015


This project analyzes teenage pregnancy prevention media campaigns sponsored by Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 2006-2015. Constructing teenage pregnancy as a serious social problem, the Milwaukee campaigns use raced, classed, heteronormative, violent rhetoric to abject teenage mothers and instruct the public in how to feel about them and their offspring: disgusted and angry. I argue that teenage pregnancy prevention campaigns constitute a form of biopower, which influences all teenage women to construct their sexual subjectivity and behavior in relation to what I call “the straight path” and the “path to happiness.” I demonstrate that teenage mothers are positioned as queer in their relation to power, through their engagement in sexual activity deemed unnatural, useless, and dangerous to society, and through their reproduction, which is decoupled from reproductive futurity and is positioned as (re)producing failed citizen subjects.

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