Public Identity Speech : privacy and freedom of expression in the U.S. armed forces

par Nathalie Schmidt

Projet de thèse en Science politique

Sous la direction de Astrid von Busekist et de Jean L. Cohen.

Thèses en préparation à Paris, Institut d'études politiques en cotutelle avec Columbia university (New York) , dans le cadre de Institut d'études politiques (Paris). École doctorale depuis le 01-10-2012 .


  • Résumé

    The following research proposal seeks to investigate the normative, legal and practical stakes involved in ‘Public Identity Speech,’ where the latter designates the revelation and self-presentation of personal identities and identity-related viewpoints in public spaces and institutions. I will focus on the privacy and freedom of expression rights of homosexual and religious service members in the U.S. armed forces, both during and after the implementation of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT), i.e. the military policy of 1993 that denied homosexual service members any right to self-disclosure. This approach will hopefully enable me to show how the forced privatization of particular differences serves as an instrument of exclusion and stigmatization, to assess the meaning of privacy and freedom of expression for those who claim the right to be different, and to analyse the challenges public institutions in pluralistic and secular democracies encounter when faced with antagonistic identities and their irreconcilable demands for privacy and self-expression. Part of my research will consist in distinguishing conservative, paternalistic and republican privacy discourses from the liberal and progressive conception that is increasingly deployed by U.S. and European courts. Contrary to the former, the latter recognizes individuals’ right to autonomously define their identities and to express them not only in private but also in public settings – as long as their self-expression is consistent with a like freedom for all. This means that a liberal understanding of privacy and freedom of expression rights implies the prohibition or privatization of intolerant and discriminatory Identity Discourses. In my thesis, I intend to investigate to what extent U.S. military, political, and judicial authorities will restrict religiously motivated public condemnations of homosexuality to provide for an egalitarian, harassment-free work environment. To this end, I plan on closely following the implementation process of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act by taking into account implementing directives, tolerance training, privacy and freedom of speech regulations, complaints by service members, and court rulings concerning privacy and freedom speech. I will also try and assess whether the forced privatization of intolerant Identity Discourses amounts to a form of reverse discrimination that serves to impose progressive and liberal norms on conservative and/or illiberal groups.


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