Gender and Language, Vol 4, No 2 (2010)

The ‘basis for a just, free, and stable society’: Institutional Homophobia and Governance at the Family Research Council

David James Peterson
Issued Date: 20 Jul 2011


This study explores institutional homophobia as instantiated by an order of discourse that governs the textualization of homophobic representations. I examine how a U.S.-based, conservative Christian organization deploys an order of discourse that, through a logic of deviancy, enables homophobic formation to unfold. Text-making strategies include hybridizing generic features derived from social science writing generally and deviancy studies particularly, allowing institutional writers to claim scientific legitimacy for their antigay representations. Stylistically, lexical choice promotes an objective tone, while assertion and modalization buttress antigay representations. Discursive strategies include calculated ascriptions and denials of gay/lesbian agency, and the harnessing of hyponymy, synonymy and antonymy to create a taxonomy of deviancies reinforcing antigay evaluations while avoiding overt homophobic references. My findings suggest that the institution’s order of discourse enables homophobic understandings that appear grounded in scientific truth. These institutional practices are motivated by a desire to naturalize governance claims as part of a broader hegemonic struggle over the definition of the good (sexual) citizen and the political direction of the United States.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v4i2.257


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