Order and turbulence in a Swedish bathroom

Youths’ negotiations of the meaning of ‘queer’


  • Henning Årman Stockholm University




queer subjectivities, linguistic citizenship, turbulence, bathroom graffiti, school ethnography


‘Where are all the queers at the school?! I want to hug you’. Thus begins a conversation scrawled on the door to a Swedish high school’s student bathroom that will spark a debate among students on whether the word ‘queer’ should be considered a slur. In dialogue with work on linguistic citizenship and graffiti as a semiotic mode, this article analyses different stages of the unfolding debate. The analytical lens of turbulence captures the interplay of ordering and disordering in the students' efforts to define ‘queer’. Youths' linguistic agency works as a struggle for meaning across different indexical orders, illustrating the difficulty of sustaining mastery of identity labels as they travel through discourse.

Author Biography

Henning Årman, Stockholm University

Henning Årman received his PhD from the Department of Child and Youth Studies at Stockholm University and writes on language activism, language ideologies and language political debates. In his thesis ‘Political corrections – language activism and regimentation among high school youth’, Årman analyses high school students’ negotiations over language use and language norms relating to race, gender and sexuality.


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How to Cite

Årman, H. . (2021). Order and turbulence in a Swedish bathroom: Youths’ negotiations of the meaning of ‘queer’. Gender and Language, 15(4), 476–502. https://doi.org/10.1558/genl.18826