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Legal discourses of marriage and family in the US position the family unit as an always already racialized entity that anchors national sovereignty against deviant and dangerous alternative collectivities. Across the history of US law one can see a twofold pattern: the simultaneous citation of the private/domestic/familial sphere as defining the condition of possibility for and the character of state sovereignty and as itself beyond political contestation; and the characterization of alternative formulations of collective life as racial tendencies, for which the inability to sustain a properly contoured private sphere serves as evidence of a racial incapacity that threatens the integrity of national life. This chapter addresses three different sets of legal negotiations stretching from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first century that address this matrix of privacy, sovereignty, and racialization: Mormon polygamy; the right to privacy; and the legal status of queer sex and relationships.

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