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Privacy at the Margins


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Table of Contents

Introduction; 1. No privacy in public = no privacy for the precarious; 2. Performative privacy in theory and practice; 3. Performative privacy's payoffs; 4. Containing corporate and privatized surveillance; 5. Outing privacy as anti-subordination; 6. Equal protection privacy; Conclusion.

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Privacy can function as an expressive, anti-subordination tool of resistance that is worthy of constitutional protection.

About the Author

Scott Skinner-Thompson is an Associate Professor at Colorado Law School, where he researches constitutional law, civil rights, and privacy law, with a particular focus on LGBTQ and HIV issues. He is the editor of AIDS and the Law (5th ed., 2016; 6th ed. 2020), one of the leading resources in the field. His work has also appeared in Slate, Salon, and The New Republic. In 2014, he was selected as one of the Best LGBT Lawyers Under 40 by the National LGBT Bar Association.


'Privacy at the Margins is a tour de force. It reinvigorates our understandings of why privacy ought to be protected by identifying the First Amendment values that privacy rights implicate. It convincingly argues that privacy ought to be protected not simply because invasions of privacy injure dignity, but also because they frequently function to subordinate marginalized individuals and communities. Scott Skinner-Thompson has written a book that will be looked to for generations to come - a major feat in the field of privacy.' Khiara M. Bridges, Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law and author of The Poverty of Privacy Rights

'This is an enormously important book about a crucial aspect of privacy law that has been overlooked: the way in which it affects historically discriminated against individuals. Professor Skinner-Thompson focuses on privacy for our public actions and for information about us and examines how this affects marginalized communities. His treatment of this topic is stunning in its originality, its clarity, and its insightful proposals for change.' Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean and Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law, University of California, Berkeley School of Law

'Privacy at the Margins makes a significant contribution in helping us understand the importance of privacy for equality for the most vulnerable among us. It pushes legal conceptions of privacy in new ways, reframing privacy as expressive resistance to the powerful and as indispensable to equality of opportunity. It is thought-provoking, creative, and an important must read.' Danielle Keats Citron, Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law and Vice President, Cyber Civil Rights Initiative

'In a world in which privacy has been privatized, the marginalized and precarious in society need it more than ever. Why then has privacy received such limited protection by courts and lawmakers? In his signature style, Scott Skinner-Thompson brilliantly wrestles with this critical question and proposes insightful ways to redress the problem, both as a legal and discursive matter. Privacy at the Margins offers a roadmap to transform privacy from an individualistic right into an anti-oppression legal tool. This is a crucial text for our new digital age and for anyone interested in surveillance, anti-subordination, justice, and privacy today.' Bernard E. Harcourt, author of Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age and Critique and Praxis, and Isidore and Seville Sulzbacher Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, Columbia University

'It is precisely here where Scott Skinner-Thompson's Privacy at the Margins is most relevant. Skinner-Thompson offers a rich and powerful account of how we should understand privacy within US doctrinal law. Skinner-Thompson shows how privacy can be beneficial to marginalized groups in society – if properly theorized and understood. He then proposes new ways of thinking about privacy, so, that the right to privacy would provide a suitable line of reasoning in court.' Jenneke Evers, Prometheus

'The text is approachable and reaches across departments from ethnic studies to sociology to legal studies. Issues of ethnicity, religion, LGTBQIA+, and other marginalized communities are discussed and treated with respect throughout the book. Skinner-Thompson argues for more privacy for all, especially marginalized communities, in a respectful and caring manner … Recommended.' J. M. Keller-Aschenbach, CHOICE

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