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“the Best Gay-friendly…”: The Semiotic Landscape of a Queer Utopian Space in Taipei’s Red House Complex

Joey Andrew Lucido Santos
National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Taipei, Taiwan


Investigations of queer spaces (Motschenbacher, 2020; Santos & Saisuwan, 2023) in semiotic landscape research have been receiving significant attention. Rainbow flags (Santos, 2021) and male bodies (Baudinette, 2017) have been found aggregates of global queer spaces. However, scant literature has touched upon the potentiality of queer semiotic resources in creating a queer utopian space. Thus, the present study investigates Taipei’s Red House Complex, Taiwan’s most prominent gay space, as queer utopian space. Drawing on queer utopia (Jones, 2013), Visual Social Semiotics (Kress & Van Leeuwen, 1996) and Frame Analysis (Goffman, 1974; Jaworski & Young, 2010), this paper examines the linguistic elements and semiotic resources in sexed signs. The study involves sexed signs photographed from the bars around the Red House Complex. In addition, a walking interview is conducted with 10 openly gay people who are selected through snowball sampling. The findings reveal the prominence of English in the sexed signs and the salience of rainbow colors and flag and male bodies in the Red House Complex. The prevalence of English signs, occurring in both English only and English with Mandarin, creates an international space. The predominance of the rainbow colors and flags along with the muscular men bodies in the entrance way work together in creating a gate of pleasure. Furthermore, the rainbow colors and flags serving as bar ornaments and as shop signs backdrop function as spectacle of queer space. Walking interview data unveil that the existence of male bodies and rainbow colors and flags contributes to the identity of the place as queer friendly spaces. Thus, this paper illustrates that the dialogic relationship of linguistic elements and queer semiotic resources discursively participate in the construction of a queer utopian space.


Semiotic Landscape, Queer Utopia, Queer Spaces, Sexed Signs, The Red House Complex

International Joint Conference of APLX, ETRA40, and TESPA 2023