Amy Brainer is an assistant professor of Women’s & Gender Studies and Sociology and Coordinator of the LGBTQ Studies Certificate Program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn. She conducts research on queer and transgender family issues in Taiwan and in transnational contexts.
Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan (forthcoming from Rutgers University Press)
In this richly textured ethnography, Amy Brainer interweaves the narratives of mothers, fathers, adult children, and siblings to provide a multilayered portrait of queer and transgender family ties. With informants whose birth years range from the 1940s to the 1990s, Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan looks across generational cohorts for clues about how larger social, cultural, and political shifts have materialized in people’s everyday lives. The book highlights the crucial importance of new parenting and family discourses and enduring inequalities in the distribution of family work and resources for queer and heterosexual kin alike.
Brainer’s research takes her from political marches and support group meetings to family dinner tables in cities and small towns across Taiwan. She speaks with parents and siblings who vary in whether and to what extent they have made peace with having a queer or transgender family member, and queer and trans people who vary in what they hope for and expect from their families of origin. Across these diverse life stories, she uses a feminist materialist framework to illuminate struggles for personal and sexual autonomy in the intimate context of family and home.
Dr. Brainer received two grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research to support this work.
Queer Trajectories in Family Based Immigration
A second project investigates how family and sexuality are constructed through processes of migration and citizenship. The project follows queer and trans individuals and couples as they navigate family-based immigration to the United States after the end of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. This research is funded by a Seed Grant from the University of Michigan-Dearborn. To get more information or participate in this study, see http://amybrainer.com/immigration.
As is true for many researchers, Dr. Brainer’s research interests have personal origins. She became interested in global and transnational family issues as a result of her own family history of migration between the US and China, where she spent part of her childhood and teen years. Her interest in LGBTQ family issues is rooted in her experience coming out to a close-knit and deeply Christian family. Sociology provided her with a toolkit for linking her personal biography to larger cultural and social issues. Dr. Brainer is passionate about sharing this toolkit with students and supporting student efforts to build a more just and equitable world. Currently she is the faculty advisor to two student organizations, She’s the First and Pride.
When she is not at work, Dr. Brainer enjoys spending time with her parents and four siblings and with her kittens Bettie and Page. She also likes soap operas, burlesque and drag shows, and getting to know Detroit, her new city and home.