ROLLS 26 March: Lucy Jones: Racist discourse and homonormativity in an LGBT youth group.

As part of the Research on Linguistics and Language at Sussex seminar series, this Wednesday we will be hosting Lucy Jones, from the University of Hull, the talk will be 13.00-14.30 in Arts 071 - all welcome!

“If a Muslim says ‘homo’, nothing gets done”. Racist discourse and homonormativity in an LGBT youth group.

In this paper, I will present ethnographic data which emerges from my recent research with an LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) youth group, and will detail a range of stances and practices used by the group members in order to construct a shared identity. Though the group includes cis gay males, cis lesbians, a trans bisexual female and a trans heterosexual male, ranging from 15-22 years old, I will show that the group members symbolically erase the differences between them via a range of interactional tactics. They produce a somewhat mutual identity, one which is enabled via their ‘othering’ of local young people of South Asian descent; by projecting a homophobic identity upon their Asian neighbours, they position themselves as comparatively ‘British’ and ‘normal’, legitimising their use of racist language. The group members also take stances against notions of gay pride and queerness, which they perceive to be outdated and old-fashioned; this, again, allows them to construct a comparatively ‘normal’ identity. Drawing on Bucholtz and Hall’s (2005) sociocultural linguistics framework, I will offer discourse analysis of specific interactional moments whereby the young people position themselves and others in line with both broad ideological identity categories and ethnographically-salient subject positions and personae. Drawing on theories prevalent in contemporary queer studies, I will ask why this identity work is taking place. In particular, I will consider Duggan’s (2002) notion of ‘homonormativity’ – an ideological, depoliticised gay identity which does not challenge heteronormative assumptions or ideals, and which arguably privileges white queer subjects and marginalises people of colour – in relation to the young people’s use of racist language to emphasise their own normalcy.


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