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Incomprehensible language? Language, ethnicity and heterosexual masculinity in a Swedish school

Journal article
Authors Tommaso M. Milani
Rickard Jonsson
Published in Gender and Language
Volume 5
Issue 2
Pages 241-269
ISSN 1747-6321
Publication year 2011
Published at
Pages 241-269
Language en
Subject categories Gender Studies, General Language Studies and Linguistics


In the Swedish context, the discursive regime about linguistic phenomena is characterized by a ‘matrix of intelligibility’ (Butler 1999 [1990]) that promotes images of linguistic practices among adolescents in the suburbs not only as deviant and incomprehensible, but also as essentialized traits of ethnic Otherness, social and educational problems and, more recently, of an aggressive masculinity embodied in sexist and homophobic behaviour. Unlike dominant media representations which depict such linguistic practices as unintelligible as well as inherently sexist and homophobic, the aim of the present article is to take a queer stance and illustrate how ethnic insults, gay innuendos and misogynist talk are meaningful in the sense that they constitute a rich pool of interactional resources that allow the young men in our study to actively partake in the negotiation of a ‘local masculine order’ (Evaldsson 2005) in which positions of power, authority and solidarity are enacted and/or contested.

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