Monday, October 10, 2022
New Article: The State, the UDHR, and the Social Construction of Family in Human Rights: The Case of the Scarborough 11
Abby S. Willis, Mary C. Burke, Davita Silfen Glasberg, The State, the UDHR, and the Social Construction of Family in Human Rights: The Case of the Scarborough 11, Societies Without Borders, Volume 16 Issue 1 (2022). Abstract below.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) declares in Article 16(3) that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to the full protection by society and the state.” However, the UDHR does not define family, but rather presumes it is defined by traditional heteronormative marriage in a nuclear family. The failure of the UDHR to consider a more expansive view of family leaves the definition of family centrally in the hands of the state, and affects the ability of all but traditional nuclear family forms to access other human rights. We add to the scholarship on the role of the state in defining and maintaining family and family inequality through an examination of the case of the Scarborough 11, an intentional family sued by the city of Hartford, CT for violations of residential zoning ordinance based on family. This case challenges hegemonic constructions of family and illustrates the limits of the UDHR to protect all families. The case demonstrates the importance of the related questions: 1) how legal definitions of family create the capacity for local residents to understand non-nuclear families living among them, 2) whether the end-goal of this problem should be to expand the state’s definition of family or remove that power from the state in total (a question of reform vs. abolition) and, 3) what might a case concerning white middle-class professionals’ struggles to thrive tell us about boundary maintenance and the struggles of the poor to survive?