Post-doc Research: “Exceptionally Queer”
Katy Mohrman is our 2017-2018 Post-doctoral Fellow and Lecturer, who recently completed her PhD at the University of Minnesota. Her dissertation is abstracted below.
“Exceptionally Queer: Mormon Peculiarity and U.S. Exceptionalism”
Mormonism has been contested in US popular culture and politics ever since the founding of the Latter-day Saint faith tradition in the early-nineteenth century. “Exceptionally Queer” examines these contestations – whether it be the nineteenth century uproar over polygamy or the twentieth-century controversy over the LDS Church’s stance on gay marriage – by identifying and analyzing “Mormon peculiarity” as an enduring, but until now, unnamed discourse which actively produces its subject as inherently odd, unique, or strange. The project explores the varying, and at times contradictory, articulations of Mormon peculiarity to expose Mormonism as a potent and productive discursive assemblage – not an inherent aspect of LDS religion, culture, or history – which has become central to shaping notions of “Americanness” through the production of sexual and racial normativity. Specifically, the dissertation contends that Mormon peculiarity discourse has been vital to the processes of Othering through which “Americanness” has been and continues to be defined as Protestant, capitalist, heteronormative, and white. Since Mormonism is most frequently identified as strange because of the sexual, marital, and kinship practices of its adherents, “Exceptionally Queer” examines the role discourse about it has played in the production of sexual normativity in the US, arguing that claims of sexual development, civilization, or normalcy made in relation to Mormonism are also essentially racial claims that have helped to forward white supremacy as a national project. Refuting the characterization of Mormonism as an outlier or anomaly on the US historical and cultural landscape, the project highlights the pivotal role it has played in developing US identity, nationalism, and empire.