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The politics of speaking for : theorizing the limits of liberation and equality in gay and lesbian political discourse

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  • Linguistics
  • Political Science
  • Social Sciences


This thesis offers a critical examination of discourses of liberation and equality in contemporary North American gay and lesbian politics. Informed by work in cultural studies and political theory, it has as its principal theoretical objective a desire to refuse an oppositional political framework, one which looks only or primarily to the impediments to liberation and equality for gays and lesbians. As such, the thesis develops the notion of speaking for (as opposed to against) to analyze how these discourses inadvertently reproduce what they are said to oppose, redress, or resolve. Drawing on both theoretical and popular texts, including the media, for its analyses, the thesis aims to open up debates in gay and lesbian studies and politics through a detailed investigation of a number of recent and on-going sites and struggles. To this end, a central focus in the project is the prevalence of rights in these debates. Arguing neither for nor against specific rights but for a deeper understanding of the culture they produce, the thesis situates rights within the framework of two dimensions of representation: as state formation and the law, on the one hand, and as subject formation, on the other. This framework serves to underscore the implications of waging political demands on the basis of that from which gays and lesbians have been excluded, something the thesis calls into question.

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