University of Connecticut, Storrs CT, Expected July 2017
Dissertation: “Negotiating Non-Monogamies: State Projects/ Daily Life”
Qualifying Examination Fields: Theories of the State; Sociology of Sexualities; Sexual Citizenship; Feminist Research Methods
Committee: Dr. Davita Silfen Glasberg (chair), Dr. Bandana Purkayastha, Dr. Kim Price-Glynn
University of Connecticut, Storrs CT, May 2008
Graduate Certificate, Feminist Studies
University of Connecticut, Storrs CT, May 2007
BA, Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies
RESEARCH AND TEACHING INTERESTS
Political Sociology | Sexualities | Feminist & Queer Theories | Sexual Citizenship | Qualitative Research Methods | Sex & Gender | Theories of the State | Sociological Theory | Feminist & Queer Research Methods | Race, Class, Gender | Feminist Science Studies
My dissertation explores the state’s role in re/producing social constructions of monogamy and non-monogamy and how individuals confront, resist, reshape, or redefine these social constructions. The main research questions are twofold: 1) How is compulsory monogamy reproduced in daily life and how do people in non-monogamous romantic relationships negotiate and resist that reproduction? And, 2) What is the state’s relationship to the meaning we give sexuality and in what ways are state actors—in conjunction with actors within the capitalist economy—interested in applying meaning to sexuality (specifically, monogamy and non-monogamy)? In addition to qualitative interviews, this dissertation uses a feminist textual analysis of various state codes, language, laws, and other relevant documents, requiring use of journalistic and legal texts to demonstrate where the nexus exists between everyday life and institutional structure, which is one of the primary purposes of this study.
This study adds to the subdiscipline of the sociology of sexualities in four main ways. First, this study examines non-monogamy as deviant sexual behavior within both heteronormative and homonormative communities. Second, this study investigates how larger political economic processes, particularly the state and state actors, come to construct understandings of our sexual selves. Third, this study examines forms of sexuality that continue to remain peripheral in studies of sexuality precisely because those studies tend to privilege sexual practices that have historically congealed into gender-specific identities. Finally, this study builds on a number of popular cultural engagements with consensual non-monogamy and polyamory, but does so in a scholarly and empirically-grounded way which allows scholars to investigate these practices (and identities, as they often manifest) by critiquing structured inequalities often present in these popular representations, as well as the ways in which non-monogamy becomes practiced. Given the current increase of interest in consensual non-monogamy (especially, polyamory) in popular culture, it makes sense for the sociology of sexualities to employ its own empirical and scholarly lens on this rising trend.
Glasberg, Davita Silfen, Abbey S. Willis, and Deric Shannon. The State of State Theory: State Projects, Repression, and Multi-Sites of Power. Under Contract at Rowman & Littlefield/Lexington Books.
Willis, Abbey S. 2017. “Queering Place: Using the Classroom to Describe the World.” In Interdisciplinary Approaches to Pedagogy and Place-Based Education: From the Abstract to the Quotidian, edited by Deric Shannon and Jeff Galle. NY, NY: Palgrave MacMillan.
Willis, Abbey S. 2017. Editor, “All About Attraction and Safe Dating Workbook: A Workbook on Positive Relationships for Adults with Developmental Disabilities.” The Center for Relationship & Sexuality Education, a program of Oak Hill, Hartford CT.
Willis, Abbey S. 2014. “Bringing Non-Human Animals Into Food Justice: Review Essay of Eating Animals.” Theory in Action, Volume 7(4).
Heckert, Jamie, Deric Shannon, and Abbey S. Willis. 2012. “Loving and Teaching: Some Notes on Queering Anarchist Pedagogies.” Educational Studies, Volume 48(1).
Shannon, Deric and Abbey S. Willis. 2010: “Theoretical Polyamory: Some Thoughts on Loving, Thinking, and Queering Anarchism.” Sexualities, Volume 13(4).
Willis, Abbey S. 2010. “Some Thoughts on Synthesis and Political Identity: A Review of Wobblies and Zapatistas.” Theory in Action, Volume 3(4).
I am a generalist, and have focused much of my research thus far on sexualities and the state. My next research and writing projects are twofold: 1) investigations into critical queer and feminist epistemologies; and 2) utilizing an intersectional lens to further expanded my research on the relationship amongst the state, meaning-making, social movements, and identity assignations/formations in regards to sex and gender, sexualities, and race and ethnicity.