10th BAAL LGaS SIG event:
Language, Discrimination and Conflict
At this event, we will explore the ways in which language can ignite and perpetuate discriminatory practices, yet can also be a vehicle through which such discrimination can be resisted or challenged. We will also consider how conflict between opposing groups or norms associated with gender and/or sexuality may be linguistically constructed, rationalised, and defused. We have brought together a range of researchers interested in issues of language, discrimination and conflict in relation to gender and/or sexuality; the details of these talks can be found in our event programme, below:
Download the event programme
Our two keynote speakers at the event are Professor Celia Kitzinger and Dr Erez Levon. Please see below for details of their talks.
Gender and Sexuality in Talk-in-Interaction
Professor Celia Kitzinger (University of York)
This talk will explore the ways in which gender and sexuality are produced, and challenged, in everyday talk-in-interaction. Drawing on naturally occurring data and employing a conversation analytic approach, I will show how linguistically gendered terms (husband’, ‘man’, ‘he’ etc ) can work both to reproduce normative and discriminatory practices and to undermine them. I will also show that these linguistically gendered terms are not necessarily deployed by reference to their gendered properties or in order to make gender relevant to the actions in which the participants are engaged and I’ll argue that it is important analytically to recognise when gender is ‘irrelevant’ (and what that could possibly mean in a profoundly gendered world).
Negotiating subjective conflict: Language and the Dialogical Self
Erez Levon (Queen Mary University of London)
The majority of research to date on conflicts between sexuality and other intersecting affiliations has been grounded in a theory of identity synthesis, or a belief in the necessity for individuals to integrate their multiple constitutive aspects of self into an internally consistent whole. For example, Yip (1999, 2002) describes how non-heterosexual Catholics overcome an “intractable opposition” between their sexuality and normative articulations of their faith by reinterpreting religious doctrinal strictures, thus enabling them to “harmoniously incorporate” their sexual and religious identifications into a unified conception of self (see also, e.g., Yearhouse 2001; Keenan 2012; Toft 2012). In this talk, I suggest that identity synthesis need not be the only solution. Rather, I contend that individuals can opt to maintain multiple conflicting identifications in tension. Building on recent developments in social psychological theories of the self (Hermans et al. 1992; Hermans 2001), I argue for a more holistic and multi-faceted treatment of sexual subjectivity – one that recognises the variability in positioning and alignment that individuals adopt in the course of their daily lives. In doing so, I aim to go beyond a zero-sum approach to sexuality-linked conflict so as to better document the variety of strategies individuals draw upon to negotiate everyday dynamics of oppression.
My arguments are based on two case studies of subjective conflict as it relates to sexuality in Israel/Palestine. One is the story of Igal, a man from Jerusalem who lives his life according to Orthodox Jewish proscriptions but who also seeks out and has sex with other men. The second is the story of Louie, a Palestinian gay man who lives as an undocumented migrant in Tel Aviv. In both cases, I describe how the men use a variety of linguistic and other social semiotic strategies to mediate the relationship between their sense of cultural/communal belonging and their sexualities. I demonstrate how the men do not work to resolve the perceived incompatibility between these identifications, but instead use language to help them inhabit a space of identificational conflict. In the talk, I describe why the men’s behaviour is important for our understanding of the complexity of sexuality as lived experience, and that it has broad ramifications for our models of how intersectional subjectivities are instantiated in interaction.