Cynthia Burack, Ph.D.

Ohio State University, Columbus

Country: United States (District of Columbia)

Research Interests

Political Theory

Religion & Politics

Political Psychology

LGBTQIA Politics

Human Rights


Books Written:

(2018) Because We Are Human: Contesting US Support for Gender and Sexuality Human Rights Abroad, SUNY Press

Around the world, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people continue to be threatened, attacked, arrested, tortured, and sometimes executed just for being sexual or gender minorities. In recent years, many concerned citizens, nations, and human rights organizations have banded together to advocate globally for sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) human rights. The US government was not among the first nations to coordinate with and provide assistance to vulnerable LGBTQ people abroad. However, in 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly announced US support for SOGI human rights in a speech she delivered in Geneva to celebrate International Human Rights Day. Because We Are Human goes behind the scenes of the Obama administration’s public profession of commitment to LGBTQ people and SOGI human rights, tracing early episodes of support for SOGI that occurred before and after Obama took office. It gives readers an inside look at US SOGI human rights assistance programs. And it takes readers to settings where indigenous and transnational human rights advocates meet to fund and strategize SOGI human rights movements. Not all Americans support a US commitment to SOGI human rights. On the political right, the Christian conservative movement disapproves of LGBTQ civil rights in the US as well as US support for SOGI human rights abroad. On the political left, significant numbers of academics who approve of LGBTQ people nonetheless disapprove of the US government being involved in SOGI human rights. These critics on the right and left even use quite similar frames and arguments to oppose official US advocacy for SOGI human rights, including the charge that when the US advocates for SOGI it engages in imperialism against vulnerable people. Because We Are Human examines arguments against US SOGI human rights advocacy from the right and left, testing these claims against empirical data about US programs and policies. In the end, Because We Are Human recommends support for a US commitment to SOGI human rights and programs that serve the needs of LGBTQ people.

(2014) Tough Love: Sexuality, Compassion, and the Christian Right, SUNY Press

The organized Christian conservative movement is as engaged today as it ever has been in public debates, social organizing, and political activism on the subject of Americans’ sexuality. At the intersection of sexuality, religion and politics is the continuing Christian conservative resolve to reverse the social and legal gains of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) movement, to restigmatize same-sex sexuality, and to return women’s reproductive options to the era before “the Pill,” a constitutional right to privacy, and Roe vs. Wade. Most of the Christian right’s social and political activism on sexuality and reproduction is notably punitive. However, the movement also has a softer side: ex-gay and post-abortion ministries that dispense Christian compassion to women who have had an abortion and to women and men who want to “leave homosexuality.” Critics of ex-gay and post-abortion ministries often regard these ministries as products of bias and hatred toward sexual minorities and sexually-active women. In Tough Love, I challenge this perception, arguing that ministries aimed at what Christian conservatives understand as undisciplined forms of sexuality and their consequences enact a kind of compassion that critics may not recognize. What kind of compassion do ex-gay and post-abortion compassion campaigns deliver? And what are the social and political effects of Christian conservative compassion? To answer these questions I turn to the democratic theory of Hannah Arendt, the popular fiction of Ayn Rand, and the psychoanalytic thought of Melanie Klein. I argue that the compassion of ex-gay and post-abortion ministries reassures believers that they embody the love of God, draws clear boundaries between deserving and undeserving citizens, reproduces the Christian conservative belief system among those who minister and those to whom they minister alike, and protects Christian conservative believers from responsibility for harm-doing against sexual minorities and women who have had an abortion. This is the first book to consider together these two quite different forms of Christian ministry, the shared system of thought that animates them, and their social implications.

(2008) Sin, Sex, and Democracy: Antigay Rhetoric and the Christian Right, SUNY Press

Explores the Christian Right’s use of tailored rhetorics to advance multiple and varied antigay political projects. While the Christian Right has spearheaded a variety of antigay projects over the past fifteen years, including interventions in public schools, antigay-rights initiatives, and support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, observers of the institutionalized Christian Right have also noted a softening of antigay public rhetoric. Sin, Sex, and Democracy analyzes these two ostensibly conflicting phenomena. Examining Christian witnessing tracts, the ex-gay movement, and recent linkages between gays and terrorists, Cynthia Burack argues that as the Christian Right has become a more sophisticated interest group, leaders have become adept at tailoring different messages for mainstream audiences and for the internal pedagogical processes of Christian conservatives. Understanding the rhetoric and the theological convictions that lie behind them, Burack claims, is essential to better understand how American politics work and how to effectively respond to exclusionary forms of political thought and practice.