Guest Lecture and Workshop by Tommaso M. Milani

Jyväskylä Discourse Studies Forum presents:
“Interrogating intersectionality”
by Tommaso M. Milani, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
Guest Lecture and Workshop
Thursday, February 7th 2013, 10.00–16.00
Lyhty-building, Jyväskylä University Main Campus
The Jyväskylä Discourse Studies Forum is an initiative of Discourse Studies at the University of Jyväskylä, Department of Languages. The forum is intended as a space for presenting and discussing new topics, methodological innovations and original research in the multidisciplinary area of Discourse Studies. Our next forum will be hosted by Dr. Tommaso M. Milani from University of the Witwatersrand (, visiting scholar with the Peripheral Multilingualism –project (SA).
The aim of the workshop is to create a space for critical reflection not only on the benefits and potentials, but also challenges and limitations of the currently booming concept of intersectionality by bringing together scholars drawing on the concept in their work, or at least familiar with the idea. The introductory guest lecture casts light on the topic from the point of view of Dr. Milani’s research on consumerism, affectivity and sexual desire.
You are warmly welcome.
Preliminary programme
Thursday, 7th February, 2013 10-16. Building: Lyhty
10.00-11.30   “The queer art of failure? Loss and desire in consumerist times” guest lecture by Dr. Tommaso M. Milani (open for everyone)
13.00-16.00 Workshop based on participants’ own data sets, led by Dr. Milani
(pre-registration; deadline Jan. 31st ) – please see description below –
Abstract of the lecture:
The queer art of failure? Loss and desire in consumerist times
Over the last few years, a large body of scholarship has highlighted the deeply heteronormative nature of global advertising and consumer culture more generally (see e.g. Gill 2008, Iqani 2012). Parallel to this, a no less substantial amount of scholarly work has drawn attention to the more or less subtle ways through which marketing campaigns have increasingly targeted homosexual audiences, roping them into a consumerist logic of “homonormativity” (Duggan 2004).
Without downplaying the importance of these two interrelated strands of academic inquiry, the present paper argues that such research has been constrained within the straightjacket of the notion of identity (see Cameron and Kulick 2003 for a similar line of argument), thus failing to account for the role played by affect and desire in contemporary advertising. In arguing for a focus on affect and desire, the paper will concentrate on two fairly ambiguous examples of commercial advertising, which cannot be easily pigeon-holed according to either homo- or hetero-normative sensibilities. Drawing upon an eclectic theoretical apparatus that combines insights from psychoanalysis (Freud 1917) together with recent queer theoretical developments (Halberstam 2011), the paper will illustrate how affective processes – the “loss” of the object of same-sex desire together with the concomitant “failure” of a heterosexual relationship – have been strategically mobilized in an advertisement, and have thus been exploited in the interests of consumerism. However, the paper will also show how affect in the advertisement opens up a more ambiguous “queer” scenario, one which emphasizes the inherent vulnerability of sexual desire, and ultimately unsettles the very nature of the homo/hetero divide.
Duggan, Lisa (2004) The Twilight of Equality? Neoliberalism, Cultural Politics, and the Attack on Democracy. Boston: Beacon Press.
Freud, Sigmund (1917) Mourning and melancholia. The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV (1914-1916): On the History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement, Papers on Metapsychology and Other Works, 237-258
Gill, Rosalind (2009) Beyond the ‘sexualization of culture’ thesis: An intersectional analysis of  ‘sixpacks’, ‘midriffs’ and ‘hot lesbians’ in advertising. Sexualities 12(2), 137-160.
Halberstam, Judith (2011) The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press.
Iqani, Mehita (2012) Consumer Culture and the Media: Magazines in the Public Eye. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Abstract of the workshop:
In 2005, when I first presented the results of a study on media debates surrounding language testing for citizenship in Sweden, I was asked by a member of the mainly Swedish audience why my analysis wasn’t informed by the concept of “intersectionality”. My immediate thought was: Why should it be? After all, I had been very clear in illustrating the connections between ideas about language, on the one hand, and broader socio-cultural images about ethnicity, morality and social class, on the other. This representational criss-crossing, in turn, served particular political purposes. Indeed, an example of “intersections” without using the concept of intersectionality. Nearly ten years later, intersectionality seems to have become so institutionalized, at least in many academic contexts in Denmark, Finland, Germany and Sweden, that one cannot simply avoid it.
Against this backdrop, the aim of the workshop is to bring intersectionality under a critical spotlight, one which aims rather less at discarding it altogether than at understanding its development, its potentials, but also its problems and limitations. In order to do so, the workshop will mainly draw upon the theoretical lens of queer theory in order to unpack intersectionality, and ultimately recast it in perhaps a more “radical” way.
Because of the interactive nature of the workshop, participants are requested to bring a sample of the data on which they are working. In such a way, it will be possible to discuss the challenges and possibilities which intersectionality poses in the study of language/discourse.
Readings for the workshop
Crenshaw Kimberle (1991) Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review 43(6): 1241-1299.
Lykke Nina (2005) Nya perspektiv på intersektionalitet. Problem och möjligheter. Kvinnovetenskaplig tidsskrift 26(2-3), 7-17.
Davis Kathy (2008) Intersectionality as buzzword. Feminist Theory 9(1): 67-85.
Gunkel Henriette (2010) Introduction. Cultural Politics of Female Sexuality in South Africa. London: Routledge.
Puar Jasbir (2012) ‘I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess’: Intersectionality, assemblage, and affective Politics. philoSOPHIA 2(1): 49-66.
Wiegman Robyn (2012) Chapter 5: Critical kinship. Object Lessons. Durham: Duke University Press.
Registration for the workshop by Jan. 31st, 2013 to Kati Kauppinen (
For more information:  Kati Kauppinen, Post-doctoral researcher, Discourse Studies (