The Brain's Body: Neuroscience and Corporeal Politics
Neurobiology and the Queerness of Kinship
Social neuroscientists address kinship through biologically rooted, affective feelings of attachment, arguing that humans and other mammals experience sustained social bonds through the involvement of neural processes linked to affect and memory. They draw heavily from animal studies of the neurohormone oxytocin, including groundbreaking research on voles conducted in the 1990s. Like other biological kinship stories, the social neuroscientific account is closely tied to reproduction and mostly focuses on heterosexual partners and mother-infant relations. Some versions are relentlessly and unacceptably heteronormative, recognizing only some bonds as biologically real and disallowing/ignoring the materiality of bonds that do not follow heteronormative patterns. Contesting the misrecognition and erasure of nonheteronormative bonds, this chapter considers how kinships can be affective, biologically imbricated, and queer. Taking neurobiology seriously can transform the meaning of biological relation. This chapter argues for positive theorizing of the neurobiological body to more fully recognize the stakes of its social regulation.