Walking on Wilton Drive: A Linguistic Landscape Analysis of a Homonormative Space

Author: Heiko Motschenbacher (Western Norway University of Applied Sciences, Bergen)
Speaker: Heiko Motschenbacher
Topic: Language, Gender, Sexuality
The (SCOPUS / ISI) SOAS GLOCAL COMELA 2020 General Session

This study uses an ethnographic approach to describe the linguistic landscape (Barni & Bagna 2015) of Wilton Manors, Florida – a community with one of the largest LGBT populations in the US. The study thus contributes to the field of linguistic landscapes and sexuality (e.g. Milani 2018, Milani & Levon 2016, Zebracki & Milani 2017), using normativity (Motschenbacher 2014, 2019) as a central theoretical reference point. The data for the ethnographic study were collected during a daytime walk on Wilton Drive and consist of photos of store fronts, restaurants, bars, advertisements and other signs, supplemented by printed material collected on the Drive and information provided by the official website of Wilton Drive. Using a multimodal approach, I investigate linguistic and non-linguistic signage, identifying mechanisms that render Wilton Drive a gay space. It is shown that homonormativity plays a central role in this context. On the one hand, same-sex sexualities are discursively constructed as the local norm. On the other hand, the signage on Wilton Drive is also highly exclusive in the sense that it represents predominantly gay male experiences, whereas heterosexualities, lesbian and other sexualities are discursively marginalized or even silenced. At the same time, a particular version of gay masculinity is privileged by the representational practices on the Drive, namely one that can be described as white, middle-class, and focused on domesticity and consumption (Duggan 2002).


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Milani, Tommaso M.; Levon, Erez (2016): Sexing diversity: Linguistic landscapes of homonationalism. Language & Communication 51: 69–86.
Motschenbacher, Heiko (2014): Focusing on normativity in language and sexuality studies: Insights from conversations on objectophilia. Critical Discourse Studies 11 (1): 49–70.
Motschenbacher, Heiko (2019): Language and sexual normativity. In: Rusty Barrett & Kira Hall (eds.): The Oxford Handbook of Language and Sexuality. Oxford: Oxford University Press, (in press).
Zebracki, Martin; Milani, Tommaso M. (2017): Critical geographical queer semiotics. ACME: An International Journal for Critical Geographies 16 (3): 427–439.

Keywords: Keywords: Linguistic landscape, language and sexuality, ethnography, public signage, homonormativity, gay space