The Nation's Rights and National Rites
This first case study of national cultures, sexual identity politics, and the discourse of rights begins with a national culture frequently described as the paradigmatic culture of rights: the United States. I start with the United States with some hesitation. In commencing with "America" -- the world's only remaining superpower, a nation state whose rights culture at times has assumed imperialist dimensions -- I am aware of the danger of reinforcing such a dominant position. In the remainder of this book, I will argue that the construction of rights in the United States represents a particular balance of interests, one that is not necessarily replicated in other rights cultures. However, I give the United States a central place in this study because, without doubt, rights have assumed a vital role in the constitution of national identity. Moreover, sexuality and sexual identities have proven a central site of American political struggle in recent years, which has been articulated through rights rhetoric as well as claims regarding the meaning of the national culture. Those disputes have also entered into the international consciousness (which will be apparent in my other case studies), although perhaps not to the extent that Americans frequently assume.
Given the tremendous amount of attention that issues of sexuality, rights, and nation receive in the United States -- in academic, political, and popular discourses -- it is difficult to draw attention to the United States as simply one of a series of studies. The voluminous literature and range of issues currently the subject of debate and struggle can (and do) give rise to several books in themselves. Consequently, in this chapter I focus primarily on a single judicial decision to illustrate a number of different themes that connect the three central trajectories of this book: nations, sexualities,