The social construction of the family: family values and the Los Angeles riots

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Virginia Tech


The issue of "family values" was at the of political debate during 1992 president campaign. In this debate conflicting views over the conceptualization and understanding of just what constitutes a "family" were presented. This thesis examines how the "traditional family" model is used by the majority of Americans to marginalize and ignore the lives and needs of those whose family life does not conform to normative definitions of family. More specifically, it examines how the lives of inner-city racial and ethnic families have become a site around which a variety of discourses of danger about the erosion of "family values" are generated.

In this analysis, relationship among space, race, gender and power in contemporary American is discussed. A major will be the representation and construction of racial and gendered identities. Using the Los Angeles riots and Dan Quayle's response, I will review the political discourse employed by Bush-Quayle administration on traditional family values to discuss how family is constructed by the dominant political culture group in U.S. Following an examination of these issues, I will then focus on community responses to Quayle's speech and discuss how these discursive practices are the process by which dominant scripts of the family are contested and resisted.