Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Queer Russian intersectionality

Queer Russian intersectionality

Colleen Face

The language of identity, and the politics associated with language-based classification, is an issue faced the world over. The words and modes of speech one uses to define oneself and relate to varying communities can be empowering and validating. However, these identifiers and the associations carried with them can also be used as means of censorship, oppression, and erasure for certain groups. Marginalization of speakers based on the words, phrases, and modes of speech they use to identify themselves can lead to (possibly intentional) linguistic gaps in speech communities, reinforcing the censorship and erasure of certain experiences in one’s native language.

Such a phenomenon is currently being explored in the arena of Russian politics: the idea of what it is to be (and identify as) homosexual, transgender, or otherwise non-heteronormative in the post-Soviet Russian landscape. Through an analysis of the works of Dan Healey, Igor Kon, Adi Kuntsman and others, this paper works to build on the available literature by combining their efforts from a linguistic perspective. A brief overview of the system of mat, or Russian criminal language, is used to offer historical perspective on the origin of many current colloquialisms for homosexuality and non-binary gender, along with a discussion on how the impact the metalanguage surrounding mat has carried over to the language, and overall topic, of homosexuality in Russian media. Finally, this paper presents an approach for further study into the descriptive study of Russian queer perspectives and discuss how further dialogue could soon become politically relevant as much as socially.

April 18, 2012 - Posted by | abstract


  1. Colleen: you had me at “queer Russian intersectionality”. I would love to read this paper, just for the discussion of mat alone. Please let me know when it’s available.

    Comment by Snow Leopard | June 13, 2012 | Reply

  2. I would also love to read this paper, as a person with an avid interest in mat. Please let me know if it’s available!

    Comment by Alex Savoy | September 10, 2012 | Reply

  3. ah, life among the urki–or as they were known in Lenin’s time, the Socially Friendly Elements.

    Comment by Ken Howes | January 13, 2013 | Reply

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