Who’s Your Daddy?: The Paternity Test and the Cultural Logic of Paternity




Razzano, Kathalene A.

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This dissertation takes the paternity test as its object in order to explore how the question of paternity functions in the contemporary United States. What does paternity really mean? Why do we ask the question? Who asks the question? And what are the material and nonmaterial gains when we ask the question? These questions require scholars to reconsider the very logic behind the “search for paternal truth.” Using an analysis informed by theories of governmentality, feminist social theory and political economy, this dissertation interrogates the search for paternal truth and the larger cultural logic of paternity by studying the use, implementation and consequences of the paternity test in popular culture, welfare legislation, and child support law. In doing so, the dissertation concludes by exploring possibilities for rethinking social, legal and economic institutions and apparatuses which determine and define the needs and responsibilities of families as well as the roles that individual people play within the family. In the end, this dissertation examines the paternity test as an object that offers a gateway to larger questions of motherhood/ fatherhood/parenting as well as government, legal and scientific understandings of families, children, men and women.



Paternity, Governmentality, Welfare, Deadbeat Dads, Media Studies, Neoliberalism