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Expanding the queer linguistic scene: Multimodality, space and sexuality at a South African university

Journal article
Authors Tommaso M. Milani
Published in Journal of Language and Sexuality
Volume 4
Issue 1
Pages 206-234
ISSN 2211-3770
Publication year 2013
Published at
Pages 206-234
Language en
Keywords Queer linguistics, queer, multimodality, space, sexuality, rhythm, South Africa, semiotics
Subject categories Human Geography, General Language Studies and Linguistics, Languages and Literature, Gender Studies


This paper investigates the relationships between gender, sexuality and space, understood both in material and discursive terms. To this end, it brings under the spotlight Safe Zones, an anti-homophobia campaign spearheaded in 2011 and 2012 by the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. More specifically, the paper draws upon Queer Linguistics in order to deconstruct a sample of banal sexed signs, produced as part of the campaign. Essentially, the argument is that Safe Zones contributed to changing, albeit fleetingly, the character of university corridors, notice boards and office doors. The campaign brought about a sexed visual environment, one in which the invoking of specific identities went hand in hand with the highlighting of more fluid practices and processes. Because of the multimodal nature of the data, the paper argues for the need for Queer Linguistics to engage with the no less meaningful visual and material properties of public texts.

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