The approach that dares speak its name
queer and the problem of ‘big nouns’ in the language of academia
Keywords:Queer, CDA, Academic discourse, Critique
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.
Billig, M. (2003) Critical discourse analysis and the rhetoric of critique. In G. Weiss and R. Wodak (eds) Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity 35–46. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Billig, M. (2013a) Social sciences’ noun of thorn. Times Higher Education 4 July. Retrieved on 1 September 2013 from www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/comment/opinion/social-sciences-noun-of-thorns/2005320.article.
Billig, M. (2013b) Learn to Write Badly: How to Succeed in the Social Sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139208833
Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1993) Critically queer. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1(1): 17–32.
Butler, J. (1994) Against proper objects. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 6(2–3): 1–26.
Chilton, P., Tian, H. L. and Wodak, R. (2010) Reflections on discourse and critique in China and the West. Journal of Language and Politics 9(4): 489–507. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/jlp.9.4.02chi
Dynes, W. R. (1995) Queer studies: in search of a discipline. Academic Questions Fall: 34–52. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/BF02683174
Farwell, M. (1992) Untitled review of Lesbian and Gay Writing: An Anthology of Critical Essays and the Safe Sea of Women: Lesbian Fiction, 1969–89. Journal of the History of Sexuality 3(1): 165–7.
Gee, J. P. (2004) What is critical about critical discourse analysis? In R. Rogers (ed.) An Introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis 19–50. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Halperin, D. (1995) Saint Foucault: Towards a Gay Hagiography. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jagose, A. (1996) Queer Theory: An Introduction. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.
Malinowitz, H. (1993) Queer theory: whose theory? Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 13(2): 168–84.
Morton, D. (1993) The politics of queer theory in the (post)-modern moment. Genders 17: 121–50.
Motschenbacher, H. (2010) Language, Gender and Sexuality: Poststructuralist Perspectives. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. http://dx.doi.org/10.1075/impact.29
Renn, K. A. (2010) LGBT and queer research in higher education: the state and status of the field. Educational Researcher 39(2): 132–41. http://dx.doi.org/10.3102/0013189X10362579
Warner, M. (1992) From queer to eternity: an army of theorists cannot fail. Village Voice Literary Supplement June: 18–19.