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Luker, Kristin Carol 1946–

Luker, Kristin Carol 1946–

PERSONAL:

Born August 5, 1946, in San Francisco, CA; daughter of James Wester (a colonel in the U.S. Air Force) and Bess (a herbalist) Luker. Education: Attended University of California, Berkeley, 1964-66, A.B. (with high honors), 1968, postdoctoral study, 1973-74; University of Madrid, student, 1966-67; Yale University, M.Phil., 1970, Ph.D., 1973.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Berkeley, CA. Office—University of California, 410 Barrows Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-1980. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Quinnipiac College, Cheshire, CT, acting assistant professor of sociology, 1971; University of California, Berkeley, lecturer in sociology, summer, 1974; California State University, San Francisco, lecturer in sociology, 1974-75; University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, assistant professor of sociology, 1975-81, associate professor, 1981-85, professor, 1985-86; University of California, Berkeley, professor of jurisprudence and social policy and sociology, 1986—. Visiting assistant professor at Mills College, 1974-75.

MEMBER:

American Sociological Association, Sociologists for Women in Society, Population Association of America, National Organization for Women, League of Associated Women (University of California, Berkeley).

WRITINGS:

Abortion in the San Francisco Bay Area (monograph), Planned Parenthood/World Population (New York, NY), 1972.

Abortion Histories of Five Hundred Women (monograph), Planned Parenthood/World Population (New York, NY), 1972.

Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1975.

Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1984.

Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex—and Sex Education—since the Sixties, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Described by Women's Review of Books contributor Janice Irvine as "one of sociology's most prominent scholars of gender, sexuality, and reproduction," Kristin Carol Luker attracted considerable attention with her controversial book, Taking Chances: Abortion and the Decision Not to Contracept. Luker argues in this work that unwanted pregnancies do not necessarily occur because of women's ignorance or helplessness, and that, in Irvine's words, "women exercise their own subjectivity and power through the strategic decisions they make about using—or not using—birth control." Luker expands on this theme in the Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, which offers an overview of the politicization of the abortion debate in the United States; an analysis of pro-choice and pro-life arguments; and a discussion of how the abortion debate might evolve in coming years. The book received significant critical attention and is considered a landmark work of sociology.

In Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, Lukin separates myth from reality on the subject of teen pregnancy. Countering the widespread notions that teen pregnancies create poverty and overburden the welfare system, and arguing against proposals that would cut welfare benefits to young mothers, Lukin writes that "early childbearing doesn't make young women poor; rather, poverty makes women bear children at an early age." While middle-class women often choose to delay childbirth in order to build the foundation of good careers, young women who are poor have no such incentive. As Lukin explains, "Early motherhood is increasingly the province of the ‘left behind’—poor women who realistically know that postponing their first birth is unlikely to lead to a partnership in a good law firm." The belief that young mothers would be better off working harder and delaying their childbearing, according to Lukin, is "simply not true."

New York Times Book Review contributor Kai Erikson praised Dubious Conceptions as a "very important work" that demonstrates with "compelling evidence" that poverty itself is the problem, not early childbearing or single-parent families. Calling the book a "useful and intelligent analysis of a highly irrational debate," Progressive contributor Ruth Conniff concluded that, after the feminist fight for workplace freedom, we now need "to fight to make society confront the way motherhood and child-rearing have been so undervalued that having a baby is viewed as an inconvenient indulgence for professional women, and a privilege poor women should not be allowed." Noting the book's comprehensive research and accessible tone, Studies in Family Planning reviewer Martha Brady observed that it "illuminates the complex set of social and economic factors that underlie the problem of teenage pregnancy, placing them in historical perspective." The book, in Brady's view, is "informative, interesting, and vividly written, [and] provides the basis for intelligent discussion and constructive debate." In Women's Review of Books, Ruth Rosen hailed Dubious Conceptions as a "stunning account of the construction of the ‘epidemic’ of teenage pregnancy" and a "model of feminist scholarship."

When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex—and Sex Education—since the Sixties deals with the debate about sex education in American public schools. As Luker argues in this book, the conflict about sex education is at root a conflict about moral values. She writes that sex education in the United States, in past decades and more recently, focuses mainly on imparting particular values about sex, marriage, and women's role in society. In the early twentieth century, for example, Progressives advocated sex education that was based on a feminist agenda and a feminized version of what sex should be—"a tender, intimate, comradely, and feminized sexuality modeled on existing notions of how women experienced their own sexual drives." Thus sex education emphasized monogamy and marriage as the sexual norm. By the 1960s and 1970s, however, the sexual revolution brought different values to the debate. Recognizing that women were claiming the right to greater sexual freedom, sex educators had to adjust accordingly; they changed curricula to reflect new, less restrictive, notions about when and how sex was an appropriate activity. Today, in the words of American Prospect contributor Sarah Blustain, "the fight is between those educators and others who would reintroduce the moral vocabulary of marriage back into the classrooms." Though she appreciated Luker's perceptive overview of sex education, Blustain expressed disappointment that Luker "also would like to see values back in the conversation." Luker writes that, because liberals and conservatives continue to disagree about whether "treating women as fundamentally equal to men or treating them as fundamentally different contributes more to social and personal flourishing," it would be useful to reintroduce this debate in sex education curricula—a point with which Blutain strongly disagreed.

New York Times Book Review contributor Judith Shulevitz, however, found it refreshing that Luker respects both conservatives' and liberals' views in the book and presents arguments that acknowledge some of their concerns. In a Library Journal review of When Sex Goes to School Elizabeth L. Winter made a similar point, praising the book's "remarkably even-handed perspective" on a subject that is "often obscured by emotionally charged political rhetoric." A writer for Publishers Weekly also noted the book's evenhandedness, concluding that it "cuts through the murk of values versus pragmatism."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

Luker, Kristin, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1984.

Luker, Kristin, Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 1996.

Luker, Kristin, When Sex Goes to School: Warring Views on Sex—and Sex Education—since the Sixties, W.W. Norton & Co. (New York, NY), 2006.

PERIODICALS

America, August 30, 1986, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood.

American Prospect, July 1, 2006, Sarah Blustain, "Oversexed."

Booklist, May 15, 1996, Mary Carroll, review of Dubious Conceptions: The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy, p. 1552.

Chicago Tribune, April 15, 2007, review of When Sex Goes to School, p. 11.

Choice, April 1, 2007, R.C. Raby, review of When Sex Goes to School, p. 1420.

Christian Century, October 31, 1984, Martin E. Marty, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 1018.

Commonweal, September 27, 1996, Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 25.

Constitutional Commentary, January 1, 1985, Robert H. King, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 253-259.

DePaul Law Review, March 22, 2002, Sheryl Buske, review of Dubious Conceptions, pp. 963-981.

Gender & Society, December 1, 1997, Sandra K. Danziger, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 822.

Harvard Women's Law Journal, May 22, 1986, Sarah Jane Reynolds, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 245-251.

Hastings Center Report, July 1, 1996, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 42.

JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, March 19, 1997, Elizabeth M. Alderman, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 935.

Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law, summer, 1985, Adela J. Gondek, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 399-402.

Journal of Marriage and the Family, November 1, 1997, Jacqueline Corcoran, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 1035.

Journal of the History of Sexuality, April 1, 1998, Joanna M. Badagliacco, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 696.

Library Journal, April 15, 1984, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 802; Barbara M. Bibel, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 116; June 1, 2006, Elizabeth L. Winter, review of When Sex Goes to School, p. 139.

Los Angeles Daily Journal, May 11, 1984, Paul Robinson, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. B16.

Los Angeles Times, November 1, 1984, Roselle M. Lewis, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 13.

Nation, October 21, 1996, Nick Charles, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 27.

New Republic, April 30, 1984, Peter L. Berger, Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 35; October 21, 1996, Jean Bethke Elshtain, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 30.

New York Law School Human Rights Annual, fall, 1984, Susan H. Rockford, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 221-225; spring, 1986, Carolyn C. Rea, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 529-534.

New York Review of Books, May 30, 1985, Jonathan Glover, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 19.

New York Times Book Review, May 6, 1984, Paul Robinson, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood; November 10, 1985, C. Gerald Fraser, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood; September 1, 1996, Kai Erikson, "Scandal or Scapegoating?"; August 27, 2006, Judith Shulevitz, "Teach Your Children Well."

Progressive, January 1, 1997, Ruth Conniff, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 32.

Psychology Today, May 1, 1984, Brett Harvey, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 80.

Publishers Weekly, February 24, 1984, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 135; April 15, 1997, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 57; March 20, 2006, review of When Sex Goes to School, p. 50.

Reference & Research Book News, August 1, 2006, review of When Sex Goes to School.

Science Books & Films, March 1, 1985, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 194.

Signs, March 22, 1998, Arlene Stein, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 857.

Studies in Family Planning, March 1, 1997, Martha Brady, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 74.

Washington Post Book World, Beryl Lieff Benderly, June 3, 1984, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, p. 9; June 4, 2006, Elizabeth Marquardt, review of When Sex Goes to School, p. 15.

Wisconsin Women's Law Journal, March 22, 1986, Sally Markowitz, review of Abortion and the Politics of Motherhood, pp. 151-157.

Women's Review of Books, November 1, 1996, Ruth Rosen, review of Dubious Conceptions, p. 11; November 1, 2006, Janice Irvine, "A Conservative in Liberal's Clothing," p. 10.

ONLINE

Public Health Institute, Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development Web site,http://crahd.phi.org/ (November 6, 2007), Norman A. Constantine, review of When Sex Goes to School.

University of California—Berkeley Department of Sociology Web site,http://sociology.berkeley.edu/ (November 6, 2007), Kristin Luker faculty profile.

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