Lost in Translation: Queer Studies in Sweden
2009 (English)Conference paper (Refereed)
The word queer landed in Sweden in a terminological and theoretical vacuum. It was not that nobody had studied issues and theories relating to sexualities and identities before queer theory were introduced, but the approach of the then new queer theory was slightly different. Above all, it concerned a term that had no history in the Swedish language. Queer is not a Swedish word, and therefore it could signify a bit of this and that. In English the queer word has been associated with homophobic etymological roots that have no linguistic correspondence in Swedish. Therefore, the introduction of the word queer evoked an entirely different debate in the English-speaking countries, where many lesbians, gays and transgender people took umbrage at a word that was so strongly associated with a negatively charged history, than in Sweden, where queer was simply a new and foreign theoretical and activist term. In Sweden, the word queer did not initially gain a foothold, except in a limited academic sphere and in the Swedish gay press where it was greeted with some hesitation. In all other respects, queer was one of many incomprehensible words that did not have any distinct content. Matters got even trickier when it turned out that even those who had helped introduce the term queer both invested the word with different meanings, and also considered that queer should not be hampered with an exact definition. Its purpose was to confuse, disturb and serve as a dissonance in both academic thinking and in discussions on sexual politics. Over the years, however, queer theory has gained momentum as an inter-disciplinary research perspective at Swedish universities. Above all, the queer theory approach has become a valuable analytical instrument for the studies of normative heterosexuality. My lecture addresses the terminological discrepancy between the English-speaking and non-English-speaking academia. In discussions of what queer is or is not, opinions depend to a high degree on how the participants in such a debate relate to the genealogy of queer theory. Political argumentations about concepts are often remarkably streamlined when history is being written. It is as if everyone has been on the same journey. We who teach and write outside the English-speaking sphere are especially apt to feel that “everybody” in the USA and UK is communicating with each other, but of course that is not the case.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
gender studies, Sweden, queer studies, queer theory, feminism, LGBT studies
Humanities Gender Studies
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-73769OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-73769DiVA: diva2:505266
Men, Women and Others: An Interdisciplinary International Conference, Tallinn, Estonia