Expertise and the Politics of Legal Classification
In Sorting Sexualities, Stefan Vogler deftly unpacks the politics of the techno-legal classification of sexuality in the United States. His study focuses specifically on state classification practices around LGBTQ people seeking asylum in the United States and sexual offenders being evaluated for carceral placement—two situations where state actors must determine individuals’ sexualities. Though these legal settings are diametrically opposed—one a punitive assessment, the other a protective one—they present the same question: how do we know someone’s sexuality?
In this rich ethnographic study, Vogler reveals how different legal arenas take dramatically different approaches to classifying sexuality and use those classifications to legitimate different forms of social control. By delving into the histories behind these diverging classification practices and analyzing their contemporary reverberations, Vogler shows how the science of sexuality is far more central to state power than we realize.