Contrasting Homophobia through Institutions. European Perspectives and Critical Interpretations

Luca Trappolin (Universidade de Pádua)

18 de março de 2015, 11h00

Sala 2, CES-Coimbra


The sociological discussion and interpretation of homophobia has always addressed the structural foundation of the violence and discrimination against gay and lesbian people. From this perspective, concepts like homonegativity, heterosexism and heteronormativity have analytically replaced the original formulation of homophobia as a psychological disease which was given in the early Seventies, although the term “homophobia” has never lost its attractiveness and popularity.

Nevertheless, the empirical research has paid a wide attention to the diffusion of bad attitudes and stereotypes toward homosexuality and homosexual people among representative samples of the general population, providing quantitative data collected through questionnaires and structured interviews. More recently, sociologists have turned their attention to the circulation of discourses on homophobia produced by institutions, organizations and people, trying to address the ways these discourses affect the social construction of subjectivities and the boundaries between different groups. In this case, research has chosen a qualitative approach, avoiding to give the world “homophobia” a particular meaning and investigating it as a discursive resource for individuals and collectivities. Following the concept of symbolic violence as proposed by Pierre Bourdieu, sociological research has started to question the effectiveness of anti-homophobic policies sponsored or promoted by public institutions, both at national and supranational level. This critical interpretation supports the idea that these policies help reproducing the structural basis of homophobia – instead of fighting it –through the promotion of the idea that gays and lesbians are “normal” citizens and that homosexuality is a private matter.

This presentation will draw on this critical approach for analysing the ways through which European Programmes for the promotion of justice, equality and fundamental rights address the issue of homophobia. The discussion will take into consideration the formulation of priorities to be addressed by specific Programmes and the results produced by European and national institutions in their action against homophobic violence.

Nota biográfica

Luca Trappolin - Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Padua (Italy), where he teaches Sociology of Differences and Sociology of the Family. He also teaches Gender Studies at the Venice International University.

He is one of the founders of the Sociology of homosexuality in Italy. He has promoted, directed and joined several research on gay and lesbian movements, the construction of sexual identities, the public debate on homosexuality and homophobia. In Italian, he has been the author of books, articles and essays on these topics since the late Nineties.

In 2010 he directed the European project “Citizens in Diversity. A Four-Nation Study on Homophobia and Fundamental Rights” and co-edited the book Contrasting Homophobia in Europe. Social and Legal Perspectives (Hart Publishing, Oxford, 2012). In 2013 he edited the special issue Queer Theory and the Construction of Social Reality for the International Journal of Gender Studies <<About Gender>> (vol. 2, nr. 3).

Atividade no âmbito do projeto INTIMATE - Citizenship, Care and Choice: The Micropolitics of Intimacy in Southern Europe