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Philosophical Topics

Volume 49, Issue 1, Spring 2021

Social Visibility

Anika Simpson, Paul C. Taylor
Pages 45-59

Marital Shade
Studies in Intersectional Invisibility

As legal scholar Ariela Dubler notes, the institution of marriage casts a long shadow across contemporary social life. Much more than a way of conferring social sanction on sexual and romantic relationships, marriage unlocks a wide range of social goods, from inheritance rights to medical records access. In addition, though, and as generations of feminists, queer activists, and others have made clear, this institution is part of a wider network of power relationships that it helps to shore up and conceal. Critics most often point to the way the marital regime quietly reinforces patriarchal, bourgeois liberal, and heteronormative assumptions, hiding them in the shadow of putatively benign, private, and natural social structures. This article brings the overlooked connections between marriage and race out of the shadows and more fully into view. Using and refining a fourfold notion of racial invisibility developed in Taylor’s Black Is Beautiful, we consider two respects in which this ocularcentric metaphor for racialized epistemic short-circuiting is particularly appropriate for discussing the marital regime.