The carving & healing of a wound: linguistic homelessness and disidentification as survival

Daniela Rodriguez A.



Building on the work of chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa and queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz this paper analyses and discusses the affective component of language for those whose first language has been overshadowed by a second language. I ask how language affects the self’s sense of identity/belonging, the possibility for communicating/accessing queerness, and what linguistic or poetic tools can be employed to empower the self. Following the tradition of feminist thought that assumes that the personal is political, I write from personal experiences. As a Colombian-born migrant in Sweden, I explore how the overshadowing of my mother tongue (Spanish) by Swedish (as the language with the perceived highest social and cultural value in Swedish society) has impacted on my self-image, sense of identity, self-worth and queerness.

Gloria Anzaldúa inspires me to mix languages and push the boundaries of the academic text format. Confronting it with a poetic, violent and desbordado language, I challenge normative ideas of academic writing, but I also hope that others might find beauty in the decisive ambiguity and the mixing of languages. I engage with what Gloria Anzaldúa (2012, 1984) and Cherrie Moraga (1984) call theorizing from the flesh and turn to concepts such as linguistic terrorism, while also approaching José Esteban Muñoz’s brown feelings (2020). Furthermore, I build on Torres (2017) who argues that the emotional bonds bilinguals have to different languages intersect with their sense of identity and place, thus evoking various emotions and memories. From here, I conclude that having one’s first language be overshadowed by a second one creates ambiguity and confusion about the self’s identity. Feeling homeless in language translates into an uncertainty about one’s claim to any citizenship or cultural identity, thus leading to anxiety, sadness and sense of non-belonging. I contrast this with the concept of disidentification (Muñoz 1999), which opens practices of survival through entering queer temporality and embracing ambiguity. Accordingly, the confusion about a defined identity (going along with a particular language) can become useful for negotiating the self’s queerness. For Muñoz, neither opting for assimilation nor counteridentification, but disidentifying allows the self to (re)construct a sense of identity and belonging.


Keywords: affect theory, brown feelings, autoethnography, disidentification, linguistic homelessness