The language of intersectionality: researching ‘lesbian’ identity in urban Russia

Stella, F. (2010) The language of intersectionality: researching ‘lesbian’ identity in urban Russia. In: Taylor, Y., Hines, S. and Casey, M. (eds.) Theorizing Intersectionality and Sexuality. Series: Genders and Sexualities in the Social Sciences. Palgrave Macmillan: Basingstone, pp. 212-234. ISBN 0230229301

[img] Text (The language of intersectionality: researching ‘lesbian’ identity in urban Russia)


Publisher's URL:


The relationship between identity, lived experience, sexual practices and the language through which these are conveyed has been widely debated in sexuality literature. For example, ‘coming out’ has famously been conceptualised as a ‘speech act’ (Sedgwick 1990) and as a collective narrative (Plummer 1995), while a growing concern for individuals’ diverse identifications in relations to their sexual and gender practices has produced interesting research focusing on linguistic practices among LGBT-identified individuals (Leap 1995; Kulick 2000; Cameron and Kulick 2006; Farqhar 2000). While an explicit focus on language remains marginal to literature on sexualities (Kulick 2000), issue of language use and translation are seldom explicitly addressed in the growing literature on intersectionality. Yet intersectional perspectives ‘reject the separability of analytical and identity categories’ (McCall 2005:1771), and therefore have an implicit stake in the ‘vernacular’ language of the researched, in the ‘scientific’ language of the researcher and in the relationship of continuity between the two. Drawing on literature within gay and lesbian/queer studies and cross-cultural studies, this chapter revisits debates on sexuality, language and intersectionality. I argue for the importance of giving careful consideration to the language we choose to use as researchers to collectively define the people whose experiences we try to capture. I also propose that language itself can be investigated as a productive way to foreground how individual and collective identifications are discursively constructed, and to unpack the diversity of lived experience. I address intersectional complexity as a methodological issue, where methodology is understood not only as the methods and practicalities of doing research, but more broadly as ‘a coherent set of ideas about the philosophy, methods and data that underlie the research process and the production of knowledge’ (McCall 2005:1774). My points are illustrated with examples drawn from my ethnographic study on ‘lesbian’ identity in urban Russia, interspersed with insights from existing literature. In particular, I aim to show that an explicit focus on language can be a productive way to explore the intersections between the global, the national and the local in cross-cultural research on sexuality, while also addressing issues of positionality and accountability to the communities researched.

Item Type:Book Sections
Additional Information:The book chapter is published in a collection edited by three well-respected British sociologists; the volume re-examines political, conceptual and methodological concerns of intersectionality, a key area of debate within gender studies, and brings them into conversation with innovative methodological and theoretical perspectives on sexualities.
Keywords:Homosexuality – Russian Federation Lesbians – Identity Intersectionality Social identities Methodology – Social Sciences Sexuality studies Gender studies
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Stella, Dr Francesca
Authors: Stella, F.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Central and East European Studies
Publisher:Palgrave Macmillan
Related URLs:

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
Lesbian identities and everyday space in contemporary urban RussiaUNSPECIFIED