Gender and Language, Vol 10, No 1 (2016)

The approach that dares speak its name: queer and the problem of ‘big nouns’ in the language of academia

Federico Giulio Sicurella
Issued Date: 17 Mar 2016


Over the past two decades, queer has grown into an established critical approach to social science. Correspondingly, the term 'queer' has emerged as a recognised brand in the language of academia. This paper examines the potential risks that such linguistic institutionalisation poses for queer as a critical and emancipatory endeavour. Building on Billig's argument (2013) that the bias towards 'big nouns' in academic discourse tends to further entrench the power of academic elites, I draw a parallel between queer and CDA (Critical discourse analysis) as two emerging academic brands in order to determine whether queer is one such big noun and how this may affect the very capacity of queer scholars to commit themselves to critique and self-critique. I conclude by outlining a modest proposal to ensure that the term 'queer' remains available to be appropriated by whoever shares the premises and the aspirations underlying the queer project.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v10i1.20895


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