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The Veiling of Queerness: Depoliticization and the Experiences of LGBT Engineers

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2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Atlanta, Georgia

Publication Date

June 23, 2013

Start Date

June 23, 2013

End Date

June 26, 2013



Conference Session

Difference, Disability, and (De)Politicization: The Invisible Axes of Diversity

Tagged Division

Liberal Education/Engineering & Society

Page Count


Page Numbers

23.1243.1 - 23.1243.8



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Paper Authors


Erin A. Cech Rice University

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Erin Cech is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Rice University. Before coming to Rice in 2012, Cech was a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of California, San Diego and B.S. degrees in Electrical Engineering and Sociology from Montana State University. Cech’s research seeks to uncover cultural mechanisms of inequality reproduction--particularly gender, sexual identity and racial/ethnic inequality within science and engineering professions. Her current research projects focus on the recruitment and retention of women, Native Americans, and LGBT individuals, and the role of professional cultures in the inequality in STEM.

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The Veiling of Queerness: Depoliticization and the Experiences of LGBT EngineersThe last several decades of engineering education and engineering studies research hasmade clear that not all identities are equally valued or rewarded within the profession.Those who do not fit the stereotypical image of an engineer (white, middle-class,heterosexual male) are not only disadvantaged and excluded, their identities mean they aresimultaneously visible as “different” and invisible as engineers. This latter effect is partly aprocess of “depoliticization,” whereby the professional culture of engineering marks issuesof equality, justice and power as irrelevant to the work of engineers. Depoliticization notonly means that promoting LGBT equality is a low priority within the profession, but thatthe very discussion of LGBT equality issues is considered irrelevant to “real” engineeringeducation and engineering work. I draw from qualitative focus group data on LGBTengineers in academia and industry to parse out some of the particular organizational andinteractional processes through which depoliticization acts to silence LGBT equality issuesin engineering. After presenting my findings, I suggest ways in which engineering maychallenge these processes of depoliticization and lift the veil surrounding queerness inengineering.

Cech, E. A. (2013, June), The Veiling of Queerness: Depoliticization and the Experiences of LGBT Engineers Paper presented at 2013 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia. 10.18260/1-2--22628

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