one guide is attached with 3 readings. Tutor needs to choose only 1. Critical Response Papers: Tutor is required to write 3 Critical Response Papers throughout the term. Each paper should be about 1
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one guide is attached with 3 readings. Tutor needs to choose only 1.
Critical Response Papers: Tutor is required to write 3 Critical Response Papers throughout the term. Each paper should be about 1000 words, 12 size font Times New Roman, double-spaced, with a reference list. responding to/reflecting on 1 of the assigned readings before the respective due date. must include a summary of the reading they are discussing and explain the key concept(s) the author is bringing up (racism, capitalism, the double-bind, intersectionality, white-saviour complex, commodity fetishism, gender binary, etc.). The main topic/issue should be fully explained in the paper with specific reference to the reading, including examples and direct quotes for support. Additionally, students must offer their own reflection on the readings pulling from their own experience and/or knowledge and explain why the material is relevant/significant to them.
one guide is attached with 3 readings. Tutor needs to choose only 1. Critical Response Papers: Tutor is required to write 3 Critical Response Papers throughout the term. Each paper should be about 1
Critical Response Paper Guide Assignment Basics Structure: 3-4 pages double -spaced of content (around 1000 words) Font: Times New Roman style (12 -point size) Formatting: APA Frequently Asked Questions Question: Can I use first -person language/point of view (“I”)? Answer: Absolutely! Especiall y when it comes to the reflection portion of the assignment, students are encouraged to pull from their own experiences. It is also a great way to recognize one’s own subjectivity in relation to the material. Question: Can I use outside materials? Answer : Yes, you can. However, you are only required to include 1 of the readings from the course. Additionally, if you do choose to use outside material, you must make sure it is an academic source, typically obtained through the online library database. Ques tion: What is included on a title page? Answer: The title pages must have the following information: the assignment (title of the assignment), student’s name and student number, course name and code, the instructor’s name and the date. Question: Do I have to write an introduction and conclusion for the paper? Answer: No. Just a few sentences at the beginning of the paper and end of the paper will suffice. You do not need to include a formal paragraph introducing or concluding the paper. What is a “Critical Response Paper”? In this class, a critical response paper is a form of assignment that responds to another’s work and builds upon it using one’s own analysis and positionality. It is assigned to gauge student’s understanding of cours e materials, challenge them to think critically about the material, and encourage them to relate to the material. In this class, the critical response paper is separated into 3 sections: Introduction/Summary This is the section in which you identify the reading (include the title) and introduce the author/authors to your reader. Summarize the key arguments of the readings on a broader scale ; what are they saying and why is it important? Analysis/Integration This is the section in which you demonstrate that you have/are t hinking critically about the material . You identify which key terms or concepts are brought up in the reading . What does the author say about the term/concept and/or what are they challenging ? The readings become your “evidence”/support of this correlation. Use quotes and/or examples from th e reading to show that you clearly understand what the author is saying about said issue/term/topic/concept. Be specific ! Reflection/Conclusion This is the section in which you are personally responding to the readings. To be clear, you are not reviewing the material . You are reacting to one of the readings and relating it to your own life. You are just meant to engage with the material and demonstrate your own insight. What stood out for you and why? Did it change your perception or knowledge? How has this material impacted the way you see things now and/or will see things from now on?
one guide is attached with 3 readings. Tutor needs to choose only 1. Critical Response Papers: Tutor is required to write 3 Critical Response Papers throughout the term. Each paper should be about 1
1 INTRODUCTION FEMINISM, DISCOURSE AND CONVERSATION ANALYSIS These are exciting times for the feminist study of gender talk. Since the mid-1970s there has been a rapid growth in the number and range of approaches that have set about exploring the relationship between gender and language. This is, in part, a consequence of the postmodern ‘death of the subject’ and ‘turn to discourse’ in the social and human sciences, in which language is seen, not simply as a neutral means of expression, a passive vehicle through which we report on events and experiences—but instead, as something that is central to the constructi on and reproduction of gendered selves, social structures and relations (Gergen 1985; Shotter and Gergen 1989). Few feminists would dispute that discourse is often gendered, and that it forms one of the primary means through which patriarchy and oppressive norms and social practices are instantiated and reproduced. Indeed, we are, as feminists, increasingly aware of the fundamentally political nature of discourse. When we use discourse to communicate we ‘naturalize’ and perpetuate oppressive understandings of gender and ‘gender role behaviour’—that is, we present them as timeless, rational and natural. These understandings become deeply ingrained in our commonsense views about the world, and become regarded as normative and expectable. Likewise, we’re aware that the politics of discourse is not one-dimensional. Discourse can be used to expose and ‘denaturali ze’, commonsense understandings of gender (through the use of humour and irony, for example) and to challenge ideas which create and sustain sexist and heterosexist social practices. By studying gender and discourse, and by exploring how dominant or prejudicial ideas about gender are created or resisted in discourse, we can acquire knowledge that can be used to inform social change for the better. Research on gender and language is diverse, spanning a range of disciplines. Just as there is no one feminist theory or method, but rather multiple ‘feminisms’, so too there is no one approach to the study of gender and language. The field is characterized by epistemological and methodological diversity. It draws on approaches ranging from the phenomenological and e xperiential to the positivist and experimental, each revealing different, and often competi ng, theoretical and political assumptions about the way discourse, ideology and gender identity should be conceived and understood. Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. There now exist numerous books on gender and language, gender and discourse, feminism and discourse, sexuality and language, gender and conversation, and gender and interaction (for some recent examples, see Cameron and Kulick 2003; Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 2003; Fenster-maker and West 2002; Holmes and Meyerhoff 2003b; Hopper 2003; Mcllvenny 2002c; Weatherall 2002a). Likewise, there are an increasing range of books on DA and CA (for some widely used examples, see Atkinson and Heritage 1984; Hutchby and Wooffitt 1998; ten Have 1999; Wetherell et al. 2001a, 2001b). However, the problem that faces feminists and other researchers new to the field of gender and language research is how to go about identifying and choosing between the numerous approaches to discourse that now exist. When one reads these books, as the students on my level three elective module, Feminism Discourse and Conversation, will testify, it is rather difficult to establish precisely what the theoretical and methodological ‘boundaries’ of the various approaches are, where they diverge and overlap, and what approach or combination of approaches might prove most productive (both empirically and politically) for feminism. It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail of the different studies that are reported, at the expense of gaining a broader understanding of how the diverse theoretical and methodological models that are represented relate to each other, and a sense of their possibilities and problems. The purpose of this introductory chapter is to provide an overview of the field of research on gender and language, and to situate my own approach in relation to it. In order to provide the reader with a sense of how my particular analytic approach fits within the broad terrain of research on gender and language, I want first to describe what I see as the main perspectives that dominate the field today. I outline some of the problems with the field as I see it at present—in particular, the reluctance on the part of many feminists and critically oriented researchers to adopt the kind of fine-grained form of analysis associated with CA. I describe five key features which distinguish the analytic perspective I argue for in this book, and which illustrate how I think the relationship between gender and language should be conceptualized. These five features serve as an organizing framework throughout the book, and provide a template for the reader to understand my particular analytic approach, and the criteria that I use to evaluate a range of other perspectives. Feminist research on gender and language: mapping the terrain For the purposes of this book, I group feminist research on gender and language into four broad organizing frameworks or traditions: sexist language; interactional sociolinguistics and the ethnography of communication; ‘critical’ discursive approaches informed primarily by (one or more of) critical theory, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis; and finally, discursive approaches informed primarily by ethnomethodology and CA. Research conducted within these four frameworks will be discussed in more detail in specific chapters as I work through the book. It must be emphasized that any attempt at categorization will caricature a far more complex terrain. There are no neat boundaries separating these frameworks from each other. Their boundaries are ‘leaky’, precisely because there is much cross-fertilization of ideas. While some researchers work in more Gender talk 2 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. than one tradition, others have adopted new frameworks and have moved into new research areas as their approaches have developed over time. Sexist language Research on gender and language has traditionally been divided into two strands: the study of how gender is represented in the language (the form of language) and the study of how men and women use language (the function of language). The study of how gender is represented in the language is a vibrant body of work which starts from the assumption that language is an ‘ideological filter on the world’ (Ehrlich and King 1994:60). From this perspective, language reflects and perpetuates a sexist and heterosexist version of reality. Examples of sexist language include the purportedly generic pronouns ‘he’ and ‘man’, words such as ‘mankind’, job titles ending in ‘-man’, and the asymmetry of address terms for men (‘Mr’) and women (‘Mrs’/‘Miss’), where women are defined—not in their own right—but in terms of their relationship to a man. Some of the earliest work by feminist linguists such as Robin Lakoff (1973, 1975) set about demonstrating a range of ways in which language is sexist, while the radical feminist, Dale Spender (1980), explores the development of what she calls ‘he/man’ language. I discuss Lakoff and Spender’s work in more detail in Chapter 2 (see also Henley 1987; Miller and Swift 1976). There now exists an extensive body of research on sexist linguistic forms, and a range of sexist forms have been identified (see Mills 1995; Weatherall 2002a for examples). Commentators have diverse views about how sexist language should be conceptualized and remedied. According to some feminist reformers and the writers of ‘non-sexist language guidelines’, for example, sexist talk can be eliminated through the development of linguistic innovations which replace sexist with non-sexist words (see Doyle 1995; Miller and Swift 1980). Examples of such reforms include substituting the masculine ‘generics’ ‘he’ and ‘man’ with neutral terms such as the singular ‘they’ and ‘he/she’, replacing job titles ending in ‘-man’ with neutral titles such as ‘chairperson’, ‘chair’ or ‘spokesperson’, creating neutral address terms for women such as ‘Ms’, and developing new categories that give meaning to experiences that have hitherto been ignored, such as ‘sexual harassment’ and ‘date-rape’ (Ehrlich and King 1994:61; for a comprehensive account of feminist linguistic reform, see Pauwels 1998, 2003). Although the English language is certainly evolving to contain fewer sexist forms (Weatherall 2002a: 12), some feminist linguists, most notably Deborah Cameron (1992, 1998b), have written extensively on the problems that are associated with linguistic reform efforts. In particular, Cameron is critical of any approach which implies that sexist meanings reside in, or come attached to certain words. For her, it is deeply problematic to imply that there are a limited number of context-free, derogatory terms that are ‘essentially’ sexist, and that by pinpointing them and substituting them with ‘non-sexist’ words, one can somehow rid the language of sexism. As she states, ‘we cannot simply change a word’s meaning for the whole community by fiat’ (1992:110, emphasis in original). According to Cameron, many institutional reform efforts and attempts at what has been termed ‘verbal hygiene’ (Cameron 1995) treat sexist talk as a linguistic rather than as a social and a contextual problem, and ignore the ‘context sensitivity’ of actual language use. Thus, arguments underlying linguistic reform work by stripping talk of its Introduction 3 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. contextual subtleties and by caricaturing what might count as sexism to a significant degree (see also Cameron 1998b). For many feminists, discourse analysts and sociolinguists, including Cameron, the meaning of words is not fixed but fluid. Linguistic meanings are socially constructed, contextually variable and continually subject to negotiation and modification in interaction. It follows that specific words need not always be sexist or egalitarian in their function. If the meaning of words is (at least partially) dependent on their context of use, then the whole idea that we can legislate ‘non-sexist’ language into existence— essentially fixing the meaning of ‘approved’ versus ‘sexist’ words, must be questioned. As Speer and Potter (2000, 2002) and Speer (2002b) show in their research on the discursive construction of sexism and heterosexism, just as purportedly derogatory words (e.g., ‘dyke’, ‘queen’, ‘queer’) can, under certain circumstances (e.g. when they are reclaimed by lesbians and gay men, or used humorously or ironically), be invested with new meanings, and used to non-derogatory purposes, likewise seemingly benevolent, nonsexist or practically oriented descriptions and evaluations which do not index sexist words (for example, the claim that ‘women should not play rugby because they might get injured’) can be built and used in order to justify inequality and sexism (see also Gill 1993; Wetherell et al. 1987). For these researchers, the precise meaning of what is said can be established only by exploring what utterances are doing in specific contexts. As many discourse analysts now show, in contemporary society, there may even be a norm against explicit forms of prejudice, such that we are all apparently—overtly at least— ‘politically correct’ (Suhr and Johnson 2003) and hence ‘liberal in our views’ (Clarke 2005). Thus, speakers can frequently be heard to preface some arguably prejudiced claim, with a disclaimer (e.g., ‘I’m not sexist but…’, or ‘I’ve got nothing against gay people, my best friend is gay but…) (Stokoe and Smithson 2002:91; see also Potter and Wetherell 1987; van Dijk et al. 1997). This body of work highlights the problems that derive from any study which confines itself to the analysis of discrete word forms, and how linguistic meanings are more malleable, and more ‘context-sensitive’ than many researchers have hitherto assumed. I discuss this work further in Chapter 6. Other gender and language researchers, while acknowledging that linguistic meanings are not fixed, are nonetheless concerned that, if taken to its logical conclusion, such ‘linguistic relativity’ may be taken to imply that the meaning of words is infinitely malleable, and that we can take them to mean whatever it is that we want them to mean. A ‘communities of practice’ perspective works to address this concern by locating sexism, not in specific words or individuals, but in distinctive social and political contexts—or ‘linguistic communities’ (see Eckert and McConnell-Ginet 1992; Ehrlich and King 1994; Holmes 1999; McConnell-Ginet 1989). Here, ‘communities of practice’ are defined as ‘an aggregate of people who come together around mutual engagement in an endeavour. Ways of doing things, ways of talking, beliefs, values, power relations—in short, practices—emerge in the course of this mutual endeavour’ (Eckert and McConnell- Ginet 1992:464). For proponents of this approach, the meaning of an utterance ‘is a matter not only of individual will but of social relations embedded in political structures’ (McConnell-Ginet 1998:207). Thus, linguistic meanings can be fully understood only when one considers the nature of the social context and, specifically, the background social knowledge and ‘mutually accessible cultural beliefs’ (Ehrlich and King 1994:60) available to the linguistic community in which words are uttered. From this perspective, Gender talk 4 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. linguistic reform efforts will not always succeed, because ‘terms initially introduced to be non-sexist and neutral may lose their neutrality in the mouths of a sexist speech community and/or culture’ (Ehrlich and King 1994:59; see also Ehrlich and King 1992; McConnell-Ginet 2003). Although there are problems associated with the application of this ‘communities of practice’ approach (for example, how might one decide where a ‘community’ begins and ends, or account for variable, or contradictory linguistic meanings within the same community?), its value, nonetheless, lies in the way in which it helps to account for how linguistic meanings can ‘congeal’ or ‘sediment’ through time in specific institutional and cultural contexts, and how some non-sexist linguistic innovations may take hold in certain groups in society, among some individuals (e.g., young feminist women, gay men) and not others. It deals, in other words, with the perennial problem of how to account for how individuals are neither totally determined by language, nor totally free to make words mean whatever it is that they want them to mean. Interactional sociolinguistics, and the ethnography of communication The study of how men and women use language (the function of language) has its roots in linguistics and anthropology. Interactional sociolinguistics developed in the work of John Gumperz (1982a, 1982b) and focuses on the relationship between gender, language and culture. Sociolinguists are of the view that variations in patterns of language use are not random but are conditioned by macro-social and demographic features such as a person’s gender or class, and the situation or context in which they find themselves. Unlike their variationist and quantitative sociolinguistic colleagues who use statistics to explore male- female patterns of linguistic (that is phonological and grammatical) variation (for an overview see Romaine 2003), proponents of interactional sociolinguistics use predominantly qualitative methods to study male-female variation in patterns of interaction and communicative style. These communication patterns are learnt during socialization, or emerge as a result of gender-segregated play during childhood. Examples of this approach can be found in the work of Coates (1986), Fishman (1978), Holmes (1995), Maltz and Borker (1982) and Tannen (1990, 1994b, 1997). Their findings have been buttressed by a range of work on children and child development in feminist psychology (e.g., Gilligan’s (1982) theory of women’s moral development). I discuss Tannen’s work in more detail in Chapter 2. A complementary approach—the ‘ethnography of communication’ (previously termed the ‘ethnography of speaking’) was developed in the work of Dell Hymes (1962, 1974) and describes research which uses ethnographic methods to explore how language using is done and understood differently by men and women in different cultural groups. Typically critical of the ‘separate worlds hypothesis’ developed in interactional sociolinguistics, and the ‘polarizations of gendered norms of social interaction and communication’ associated with it (see Goodwin 2003:231; Kyratzis 2001), proponents of this approach deem ethnicity, social class, and context to be central to an analysis of gender talk. Focusing primarily on language use in either non-western, non-industrialized societies, or in culturally distinctive small groups within western societies, proponents of this approach focus on the ‘ways of speaking’ and the ‘discourse genres’ that are exhibited by the members of the culture being studied, and the diverse forms of social Introduction 5 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. organization that are possible within that group. They are also concerned to explore cultural variability in gendered patterns of language use or communicative style, and this sets their work apart from that associated with many other approaches to discourse mentioned later in this chapter. This perspective is closely associated with the work of Marjorie Harness Goodwin (1990, 2001, 2002, 2003), who combines ethnographic methods with CA, and Elinor (Ochs) Keenan (1989; Ochs 1992; Ochs and Taylor 1995; see also Danby 1998; Kyratzis 2001; Sheldon 1990; Thorne 1993). So far I have described research which explores how gender is represented in the language (the form of language), and how men and women use language (the function of language). Although both strands continue to be pursued as somewhat separate forms of inquiry, the field has developed such that many now regard them as part of the same process: the social construction of gender (Cameron 1998a; Crawford 1995). As some of the research discussed above highlights, meaning is not necessarily tied to specific words. Likewise, patterns of variation in our use of language or communicative style are not straightforwardly determined by the sex of the speaker, or by one’s membership of a cultural group. Instead, sexism, gender and cultural difference are constructed in and through our interactions with one another. Central to this new understanding is the view that gender and sexism is ‘best analysed at the level of discourse’ (Cameron 1998c:87). It is discourse rather than individual words, which, it is argued, constitutes the ‘main locus’ (Cameron 1998a:962), or the key site, for the reproduction and resignification of gendered meanings. This focus on discourse has, in turn, led to a gradual shift away from research which analyses sexist word forms and ‘decontextualized sentences’, or which searches for the linguistic or cultural correlates of gender difference, toward an analysis of more extended sequences of language use, and its role in naturalizing specific understandings of gender. Discourse analysis is a collective term for a diverse body of work spanning a range of disciplines. It is now possible to identify a broad variety of different types of DA, which derive from widely varying theoretical traditions (see Cameron 2001; Wetherell et al. 2001a, 2001b, for overviews). Feminist applications of DA are equally diverse: the first text on feminism and DA from a psychological perspective contains exemplars of a range of different approaches (Wilkinson and Kitzinger 1995). What does not help matters, of course, is that the label ‘discourse analysis’ tends to be applied uniformly, regardless of differences in theoretical focus and the level of analytic specificity exemplified across different studies. Moreover, some discourse analysts appear inconsistent in their approach, shifting between different perspectives in different papers, thus making it hard to identify coherent discourse ‘types’; compare, for example, the different styles of analysis in Wetherell and Potter (1992) and Antaki and Wetherell (1999). The recent move by some discourse analysts to embrace the perspective that some are now calling ‘feminist CA’ has only served to exacerbate this lack of clarity (see, for example, the special issue of Discourse and Society on ‘Gender, language, conversation analysis and feminism’: Stokoe and Weatherall 2002; see also Kitzinger 2000a, 2002). Many of the sociolinguistic researchers whose work I mentioned above pursue, or have gone on to pursue, questions about the relationship between gender and language by conducting some form of DA. Although it is widely acknowledged that such a distinction oversimplifies matters somewhat, and that the different types of DA overlap in many important respects, it is nonetheless common nowadays to divide the field into two Gender talk 6 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. different ‘camps’ (Edley and Wetherell (1997), ‘strands’ (Widdicombe and Wooffitt 1995) or ‘styles’ (Wetherell 1998) of discourse analytic work (for a range of perspectives on the ‘two strands’ debate, see Burr 2003; Parker 1997; Widdicombe 1995; Willig 2001). For the purposes of this book, and for the sake of clarity, I divide the field into ‘critical’ discursive approaches informed primarily by (one or more of) critical theory, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis, and discursive approaches informed primarily by ethno-methodology and CA. ‘Critical’ discursive approaches informed primarily by (one or more of) critical theory, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis The first strand of DA incorporates work which applies ideas from a range of disciplines. Intellectual precursors to this work can be traced variously to poststructuralism (e.g., Foucault 1971, 1972; Kendall and Wickham 1999; Weedon 1997), feminist theories of the performative constitution of gender (Butler 1990a, 1993), positioning theory (Davies and Harré 1990; Harré and Moghaddam 2003), the Frankfurt School of critical theory (Habermas 1984), critical linguistics (Fairclough 1989, 1992, 1995; Fair-clough and Wodak 1997; Kress 1985; van Dijk 1993), philosophy (Derrida 1976; Wittgenstein 1953) and psychoanalysis (Lacan 1989). Feminists have combined one or more of these approaches to develop their own distinctive brand of DA. Although individual studies differ slightly in their precise analytic emphasis, advocates of this strand of DA tend to conduct broad-based, topic or theme-focused analyses focusing on power, ideology and the self. They explore the ‘constitutive’ power of discourse, and seek to identify the ‘broad meaning systems’ invoked in talk, variously termed ‘global patterns in collective sense-making’, ‘interpretative repertoires’, ‘practical ideologies’ and ‘psycho-discursive’ resources. Drawing on relatively lengthy excerpts of talk from both spoken and written texts, researchers working within this framework commonly transcribe data to a level which represents the general content of the words spoken, as opposed to the dynamics of turn-taking or the characteristics of speech delivery. Since advocates of this approach tend to focus on how gendered subjects are positioned through or by discourses, and how powerful social structures, norms, ideologies and conventions shape and constrain individuals’ actions ‘from above’ or ‘outside’ the text, critical forms of DA are commonly referred to as ‘top-down’, ‘macro- level’ forms of analysis. Proponents of this approach are influenced strongly by political aims. Indeed, this form of DA is commonly referred to as critical DA (or CDA), because researchers have a ‘leftist’ or ‘socialist’ political and analytic stance, and their primary goal is to examine texts which naturalize unequal power arrangements and ideologies. Researchers are driven by a belief that insights gained from the analysis of discourse and ‘engaged scholarship’ will help us to change society for the better. Feminists who employ this approach, who have backgrounds in socio-linguistics, and who are influenced primarily by poststructuralism or theories of performativity, include Baxter (2002, 2003), Bucholtz et al. (1999), Cameron (1997a), Coates (1996, 1997, 1999), Hall and Bucholtz (1995) and Sunderland (2004). Feminist ‘critical discourse analysts’ who are influenced primarily by research in the Frankfurt School and critical linguistics include Talbot (1997, 1998, 2000) and Wodak (1989, 1997, 2003). Within psychology, feminists influenced primarily by theories of social positioning or Introduction 7 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. psychoanalysis, include Frosh et al. (2003), Gough (2004), Henriques et al. (1984), Hollway (1989, 1995, 1998) and Kulick (2003). Finally, proponents of a feminist ‘critical discursive psychology’ (or CDP), who are informed by an eclectic mix of poststructuralism, theories of social positioning, social constructionism, linguistic philosophy and ethnomethodology, include Burman and Parker (1993), Crawford (1995), Edley and Wetherell (1997, 1999, 2001), Gavey (1989), Korobov and Bamberg (2004), Weatherall (2002a), Wetherell (1998, 1999a, 2003) and Wetherell and Edley (1998, 1999). Discursive approaches informed primarily by ethnomethodology and CA The second strand of discourse work takes its primary influence from ethnomethodology and CA. Ethnomethodology developed in the work of Harold Garfinkel (1967) and takes as its topic for study ‘members’ methods’ for producing their everyday affairs. Members’ methods consist of the routinized, taken-for-granted procedures individuals employ as they go about their everyday lives and tasks. CA was developed in the pioneering lectures of the American sociologist, Harvey Sacks, between 1964 and 1972 (Sacks 1995), and has its roots in Garfinkel’s (1967) ethno-methodology, Goffman’s (1983) theory of the interaction order and linguistic philosophy (Austin 1962; Wittgenstein 1953). Harvey Sacks and his colleagues, Emmanuel Schegloff, Gail Jefferson and Anita Pomerantz, were among the first to translate ideas from these perspectives into an empirically grounded, data-driven, and highly systematized research agenda. Building on the ethnomethodological critique of the structural functionalist, Parsonian idea that order is achieved because individuals act on the basis of an internalized system of constraining social norms (Parsons 1937), conversation analysts instead theorize members as active participants who produce and orient to social order as they interact with one another and engage in ongoing, interpretative, meaning-making work Thus, for conversation analysts, the interest is in the in situ organization of conduct, and the local production of order (for more on the relationship between ethnomethodology and CA, see Heritage 1984, 2001). Drawing on analyses of first-hand, transcribed examples of everyday interactions, CA is primarily concerned to describe the methods speakers use to coordinate their talk to produce orderly and meaningful conversational actions. It studies the design of both individual utterances or ‘turn constructional units’, as well as the organization of turns into sequences of utterances. Finally, it seeks to explicate how talk is implicated in broader forms of social organization at the ‘institutional’ or ‘social structural’ level. While CA developed primarily in sociology in the United States in the 1960s, the related approach of discursive psychology (DP) was developed in social psychology in the United Kingdom in the 1980s by Potter and Wetherell (1987; see also Gilbert and Mulkay 1984). DP has developed an angle which applies principles from ethnomethodology, CA, linguistic philosophy and the sociology of scientific knowledge, to rethink a distinctive set of concerns around cognition, and a range of other psychological concepts, processes and questions. Thus, where CA respecifies the dominant sociological concept of social structure, DP respecifies the dominant psychological notion of cognition. Indeed, DP has a very distinct way of conceiving of the psychological world and research into it. Discursive psychologists are critical of the idea that mental entities such as ‘attitudes’ or ‘feelings’ can simply be ‘read off from talk, Gender talk 8 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. or that talk is a relatively transparent ‘window’ on our inner worlds. Instead, they are interested in what people do with attitude talk and feeling talk, and how a whole range of ‘mentalist notions’ are constructed and used discursively by participants in interaction. This focus on action, not cognition, entails a reformulation of traditional ‘theories of the subject’, or identity, in practical, discursive terms (for examples of this ‘anti-cognitivist’ approach, see Edwards 1997; Edwards and Potter 1992; Potter 1996b; Te Molder and Potter 2005). Indeed, within both DP and CA, identities are treated, not as demographic facts or variables that condition or constrain behaviour, and which people just ‘have’ (cf. much sociolinguistics). Rather, features of identity (including gender), are treated as locally occasioned resources, whose relevancies may or may not be oriented to, or ‘procedurally consequential’ for talk (Antaki and Widdicombe 1998a). Although the relationship between CA and DP is a contentious point for those who are concerned with defining, defending and policing their disciplinary boundaries—see, for example, the debate between Hammersley (2003a, 2003b, 2003c) and Potter (2003a, 2003b)—CA and DP are becoming increasingly hard to separate on methodological and conceptual grounds. As David Silverman (1998:193) points out, since there is evidence that some discursive psychologists ‘pay considerable attention to the turn-by-turn organization of talk…we may end up in a pointless debate about whether such work is DA or CA!’ Indeed, Silverman (1998:193) notes that the distinction between DP and CA often rests on whether the author pays their ‘disciplinary dues’ to psychology or sociology (see also Wooffitt 2005). Moreover, although Margaret Wetherell—one of DP’s central proponents—has shifted more firmly toward the more ‘eclectic’ understanding of discourse associated with CDP, other key DP figures, including Jonathan Potter and Derek Edwards, have moved strongly towards the CA end of the analytic spectrum, and have recently come together with the conversation analysts John Heritage, Paul Drew, Anita Pomerantz and others, to write about the relationship between talk and cognition (Te Molder and Potter 2005). Proponents of this CA strand of DA align with Harvey Sacks’ (1995) view that much of what is going on in interaction occurs in its particulars: in the details of pauses, turn taking organization, hesitations, word choices, repairs and overlaps. CA has developed a comprehensive system for transcribing such features, and a simplified version of these transcription conventions are included in the Appendix. Analyses are typically conducted using a number of short extracts, transcribed and analysed to a high level of technical detail. Sometimes researchers analyse longer stretches of talk—or ‘single cases’—to explore how a range of conversational devices figure in its production. Finally, since advocates of this approach tend towards more finegrained, action-driven analyses which stick closely to an analysis of participants’ orientations and what is happening within the data—from ‘ground level’, so to speak—it is commonly referred to as a ‘bottom-up’, ‘micro’ (and, more controversially for the perspective developed in this book), ‘non-critical’ approach. Neither CA nor DP are explicitly feminist in orientation. However, there is a long tradition of feminist work utilizing ideas from both perspectives to study a variety of topics relevant to feminist concerns. For example, a number of feminists have used CA to explore how patriarchy and male dominance ‘is realized at the micro-level of interaction’ (Stokoe 2000:556; see Ainsworth-Vaughn 1992; Davis 1988; Fisher 1986; Fishman 1977, 1978; Todd 1989; West 1979, 1992; West and Garcia 1988; West and Zimmerman Introduction 9 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. 1983; Zimmerman and West 1975). Others have used CA to highlight a range of gendered interactional patterns, for example, women’s conversational competence (West 1995) and men and women’s use of directives (Goodwin 1990; West 1998). What is interesting about this work, however, is that even while these studies demonstrate clearly how ‘the inspection of authentic conversational materials might reveal more about women’s and men’s speech than armchair speculation (cf. Lakoff 1975)’ (Mcllvenny 2002c:15), they are nonetheless guilty of using CA for predominantly ‘non-CA purposes’ (Stokoe 2000:556; ten Have 1999). As Elizabeth Stokoe (2000:556) points out, since ‘these studies link gender to, for example, interruption, talk time, topic initiation and topic maintenance’, then they retain the idea that on some level, talk can and should be mapped onto demographic variables or gendered attributes. Wary of such shortcomings, more recently, a critical current has developed among feminists with backgrounds in feminist psychology, which has set about treating gender, sexuality and prejudice as emergent phenomena that are made relevant in interaction, and which are constructed and oriented to as participants’ concerns (see, for example, Kitzinger 2000a; Kitzinger and Peel 2005; Speer 2001b, 2002d, 2005; Speer and Potter 2000; Stokoe 1998; Stokoe and Smithson 2001, 2002; Weatherall 2002b). A related strand of work has begun to merge this focus on participants’ orientations to gender, with insights from Sacks’ (1995) approach to membership categorization analysis (or MCA), in order to examine the construction of gender as a category in discourse, and how it is used and oriented to by members (see Edwards 1998; Fenstermaker and West 2002; Kitzinger and Wilkinson 2003; Speer 2002b; Stokoe 2003, 2004, in press; Stokoe and Edwards 2005; Wowk 1984). Some problems with the field of research on gender and language The analytic approach I argue for in this book is closely associated with this second strand of ethnomethodological and CA-inspired discourse work. However, while this approach is becoming more popular among feminists, many gender and language researchers have been sceptical of the value of CA for feminist work. For the most part, the majority of gender and language researchers, and others with a critical, political agenda, have favoured the broader forms of DA influenced strongly by critical theory, poststructuralism, and psychoanalysis. There is, in Schegloff’s terms, an ‘impatience, and often intolerance, of close analysis’ (1997:180; see also Widdicombe 1995). This is primarily due to misgivings about the political efficaciousness and practical utility of a technical and fine-grained approach to feminist issues and concepts—an approach which many believe focuses on the mundane and the trivial aspects of social life, at the expense of an analysis of the more politically consequential aspects. As Kitzinger (2000a: 173; see also Kitzinger and Frith 1999:311) observes, CA is often viewed ‘as nit-picking, obsessively concerned with the minute details of in-breaths and hesitations, and as unable to see beyond the “micro-” level of the 0.2 second pause, to the “macro” level of oppression’. Critics often raise the objection that CA—as a’micro’ approach to talk-in-interaction that limits itself to the study of members’ perspectives and the analysis of short extracts—cannot account for the ways in which gender norms and ‘wider, macro power structures’ exert a determining effect on Gender talk 10 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. action. Neglecting this ‘top-down’ or constraining feature of culture, society and context, some commentators argue, leads to apolitical and reductionist forms of analysis that leave us few opportunities to comment on patriarchal power or the oppressive constraints on women’s lives. As such, this approach is not only unnecessarily limiting, but also has little practical relevance to feminism, or the world beyond academia (Billig 1999a, 1999b; Edley 2001a, 2001b; Weatherall 2000; Wetherell 1998). For the majority of feminists, feminism is a politics which rests on the belief that women as a group are oppressed by men as a group. It is dedicated to social and political change. Since participants themselves might not be conscious of the impact of the broader social and ideological context within which their utterances are embedded, an approach which limits itself to an analysis of participants’ orientations, and which relies on participants explicitly attending to the topic under investigation, offers little by way of resources to advance core feminist aims. As Hannah Frith (1998:535) notes, it is highly doubtful whether all the dimensions relevant to a piece of interaction, such as participants’ ‘shared whiteness’, will be ‘interactionally displayed’, or made explicitly manifest in the ‘micro-interactional’—that is, the small-scale, discursive features of an interaction. This view has led some feminists to suggest that Schegloff’s approach ‘limits admissible context so severely that only the most blatant aspects of gendered discursive practice, such as the overt topicalizing of gender in conversation, are likely candidates for Schegloffian analysis’ (Bucholtz 2003:52). For some critically oriented researchers, neither CA nor DP should be treated as self-sufficient paradigms (Hammersley 2003a: 751). Rather, both need subsidizing with other methods. Others argue that the ‘symmetrical’, seemingly ‘neutral’ form of analysis associated with a participants’ orientations approach, is apolitical, ‘invites missed opportunities’ and ‘risks a form of ideological complicity’ (Edley 2001b:137). Mick Billig (1999b:554–6), for example, claims that CA’s ‘participatory rhetoric’ encourages the analyst to treat participants’ contributions equally, thus ignoring the power differential between—say— rapist and victim. Finally, some assert that, contrary to the conversation analyst’s injunction that we must stick closely to an analysis of ‘participants’ orientations’, that CA analyses already involve—indeed rely on—the articulation of members’ and analysts’ cultural and commonsense knowledge as ‘largely unacknowledged and unexplicated resources’ (Stokoe and Smithson 2001, 2002). From this perspective, a ‘pure’ form of CA which does not go beyond the text and an analysis of members’ perspectives is not only an inaccurate and unrealistic portrayal of the actual practice of CA, but is also impossible (Stokoe and Smithson 2001, 2002). Thus, for most of these researchers, we must venture beyond the limits of the text and the micro-analysis of members’ perspectives, in order to be able to observe, and say anything politically effective about, the ‘constraining’ or ‘enabling’ impact of a range of large-scale, ‘extra-discursive’, ‘macro’ social structural factors. Indeed, similar concerns do not just preoccupy feminists, but are part of a much broader and longstanding social scientific debate concerning the relative importance that we should give to the macro- social structural and micro-interactional realms, and which realm is primary or determinate of the other (Giddens 1981, 1984; Knorr-Cetina and Cicourel 1981). Introduction 11 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. How should the relationship between gender and language be conceptualized? A view that I articulate in this book is that there is nothing intrinsic to a strongly CA- aligned discursive approach which would prevent feminists and others with a critical agenda from using it to ask politically motivated questions, or to reach politically efficacious outcomes. Indeed, I suggest that we should take seriously precisely those features of CA (for example, its focus on ‘participants’ orientations’ and the fine-grained analysis of talk), which have frequently been dismissed as anti-feminist (see also Kitzinger 2000a). We should see how far we can get with such analyses, and what they can offer us in terms of advancing our understanding of the constitution of gender, sexuality and prejudice in talk, and in terms of ‘grounding’ our feminist politics. I argue that an adequate feminist discursive approach that draws on insights from the sociological perspective of CA, and the closely related psychological perspective of DP, would be characterized by five key features: (i) a constructionist approach; (ii) discourse of mind and world as topic, not resource; (iii) language as a form of social action; (iv) analysts’ claims are grounded in participants’ practices; and (v) a relativist approach. These five features serve as an organizing framework throughout the book, and provide a template for the reader to understand my particular analytic approach, and the criteria that I use to evaluate a range of other perspectives. It’s important to note that these criteria do not map onto some preexisting feminist discursive type, and that not all researchers who are influenced by CA or DP would agree with the criteria that I have chosen (for example, as I will show later in this book, many conversation analysts would reject the suggestion that their work can be described as constructionist, or even relativist in its focus). I have chosen to combine elements from both perspectives because I believe that combined, they provide the most productive and ‘complete’ framework for reconceptualizing the relationship between gender and language. (i) A constructionist approach In many social scientific studies, researchers adopt an essentialist approach to analysis, in which they treat people as having relatively fixed ‘traits’, ‘attributes’ or ‘essences’ residing inside them that condition what they do or say. Essentialist assumptions about sex and gender manifest themselves most clearly in the variationist and sociolinguistic studies of the type described earlier in this chapter. In sociolinguistic ‘sex differences’ research, for example, research participants are divided into groups of males and females, and sex differences in their use of language are mapped and measured accordingly. Sex and gender are treated as pre-given traits or ‘natural facts’, that reside in individuals and which determine the linguistic resources men and women use to speak. Many feminists problematize essentialism on the grounds that it sustains and reproduces ‘binary thinking’ (Bing and Bergvall 1998; see also Ferree et al. 1999; Hare- Mustin and Maracek 1994; Hollway 1994; Kitzinger 1994b). Essentialist studies will always support arguments that men and women are fundamentally different, because they start from the assumption that the sex of the speaker both causes and accounts for male- female linguistic differences. Gender talk 12 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. In order to avoid this kind of circular reasoning, the approach I adopt throughout this book, is, by contrast, a constructionist one (Burr 2003; Gergen and Gergen 2003). In a constructionist analysis, both sex and gender are treated as fluid accomplishments. Gender is something one does rather than as something that one has (see Bohan 1993; Cealey Harrison and Hood-Williams 2002; Harding 1998; Lorber 1994; West and Zimmerman 1987). Researchers who adopt a constructionist perspective focus on how gender identities are achieved, and treat the coherence of gender as something which is produced and reproduced in the course of social interaction. In constructionist analyses, the focus of inquiry shifts away from studies which correlate linguistic variables with demographic variables, and which claim that ‘men talk like this’ and ‘women talk like that’, toward analyses of the dynamic ‘processes by which people come to describe, explain or otherwise account for the world (including themselves) in which they live’ (Gergen 1985:266, emphasis added). The focus is on how language users produce speakers as male and female, and construct, orient towards, and use gendered identities in their talk. This paves the way for a more detailed analysis of the ways in which people use language to produce gender difference, and to construct gender dualism as natural, inevitable and timeless (Cameron 1992; Fenstermaker and West 2002). I discuss the relationship between constructionist and essentialist theories of gender and language further in Chapters 2 and 3. (ii) Discourse of mind and world as topic, not resource Mainstream sociology and psychology (and their feminist derivatives) work with a model of the world that is divided into three realms: the macro-social structural realm, the cognitive-psychological realm, and the micro-interactional, discursive realm. In mainstream sociology, for example, explanations for activity, discourse and other social phenomena (such as crime and prejudice) tend to be sought in terms of the ‘broader’, ‘extra-situational’, ‘macro-social’ contexts within which they are embedded. These contexts may include social institutions (such as the family and marriage), social structures (such as the law, economy or education system) or the social norms and conventions which are learnt through socialization and which give rise to particular ideologies and patterns of social behaviour (ideas about appropriate ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ behaviours, for example) (Burr 2003:8–9). Psychologists working within the dominant ‘cognitivist’ paradigm add a further level to this explanation, in that they treat such macro-social structural contexts as things which, in order to be perceived, experienced, and understood—that is, in order to have their effects—they must pass through the ‘interior’ cognitive psychological realm of mental states, cognitive structures and processes (Potter 1998c:33). From within this framework, macro-social structures (‘the world’) and cognitive- psychological processes (‘the mind’) are treated as primary ‘inputs’ to social action, while activity, discourse and other social phenomena (e.g. crime or prejudice) are treated as something secondary—a by-product or ‘output’ of the system (Edwards and Potter 2001:15). In both cases, discourse—to the extent that it is studied ‘first hand’ at all—is treated as an analytic resource which, barring certain kinds of methodological bias and distortion or error, reflects the world and people’s perceptions of it (Edwards and Potter 2001:12). Introduction 13 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. The perspective I adopt in this book inverts this distinction. Instead of treating discourse as a secondary resource that can be used to access facts or information about the macro-social structural, and cognitive-psychological realms, world and mind (and their corresponding ‘realms’) are treated as phenomena that are constructed and oriented to by people in discourse as they go about their everyday lives and tasks (Edwards and Potter 2001:15). It follows that discourses of mind and world become studiable as the primary topic, or domain for analysis in their own right (Edwards and Potter 2001:15). I demonstrate what this approach looks like in Chapters 4 to 6. (iii) Language as a form of social action As I showed in my discussion of sexist talk above, some researchers have sought to isolate and remedy problematic linguistic terms, and treat ‘discourses’ as having fixed meanings. In this book, by contrast, I treat discourse as a social practice rather than a thing (Potter et al. 1990). One of the central tenets of both CA and DP is that talk and texts have an action orientation—that is, the precise way we construct the world, and the import of an utterance, depends on the specific action or business that talk is designed to achieve. ‘Action’ here can refer to a whole range of practical, technical and interpersonal tasks that people perform as they go about their everyday lives and tasks. For example, as both CA and DP researchers have shown, discourse can be used to constitute events and identities, to manage issues of responsibility and stake, to present oneself in a favourable light, to account for one’s actions (to offer excuses, for example), to make invitations, requests, offers and assessments, to persuade and argue, and to achieve and manage justifications, mitigations and blamings. The analytic approach I adopt focuses on what discourse is doing, how it is constructed to make certain things happen, and the conversational resources that are drawn on to facilitate that action or activity (Potter 2004b). The idea that language does things—that it creates rather than reflects meaning—is closely tied to the concept of indexicality. The notion of indexicality captures the ethnomethodological (Garfinkel 1967) idea that we settle or ‘fill in’ the meaning of an utterance on any given occasion, by noting information about the context in which the words are uttered. ‘Context’ here refers to the sequential or interactional environment of the talk itself, in which events unfold turn-by-turn, as well as the local context—the setting in which an activity takes place. If the import of an utterance is tied to its context, then it follows that the same statement can be used to perform different actions, depending on the interpretative context in which it is uttered. For example, consider the evaluative phrase ‘I love dancing’: (a) when used in a conversation with a friend, the words ‘I love dancing’ may be an attempt to elicit an invitation to a night club (an implicit request); (b) when said to a friend who accuses you of dancing too much, and not spending enough time chatting to them in a night club, may be used as a justification or an excuse; and (c) when said to a partner who has just cancelled your ballroom dancing lesson, may be part of a blaming, or an attempt to make that person feel guilty. Thus, in order to understand what an utterance is doing, we need to analyse the local contextual and sequential environment in which it is situated. I flesh out what an ‘action orientation’ approach to discourse looks like, in Chapters 4 to 6. Gender talk 14 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. (iv) Analysts’ claims are grounded in participants’ practices Feminist research is epistemologically and methodologically diverse. However, a strong trend among second wave feminist writing on methodology has been a critique of mainstream social scientific methods. Many feminists reject ‘masculine’ notions of objectivity, value neutrality and scientific detachment, because they are thought to reinforce the objectification, exploitation and subordination of women (Cook and Fonow 1990:72). Consequently, many feminists adopt data collection practices that foster egalitarian and non-hierarchical research relations. Methods are chosen that will minimize harm to respondents, and which will ‘shift the balance of power and control toward the research participants’ (Wilkinson 1999:233). The overriding concern is to avoid imposing the researcher’s own analytic categories and concepts on what respondents say, and to encourage them to ‘assert their own interpretations and agendas’ (1999:233). In this way, the researcher gains access to participants’ own language, meanings and vocabulary, their ‘opinions and conceptual worlds’ (1999:233). While the majority of feminists agree that data collection practices should cultivate non-hierarchical research relations, and that respondents ‘must be in the driver’s seat of research’ (Campbell and Salem 1999:67; see also DuBois 1983), the concern to adopt ‘respondent centred’ data collection practices in which the researcher’s role is minimized, tends not to be translated at the analytic level, where the relative importance given to the perspective of the respondent over that of the researcher is reversed. Indeed, many feminists argue that since women are not always in a position to see— and thus problematize—their own oppression, that when it comes to our analyses, our role is not simply to act as a ‘neutral conduit’ through which participants speak, or to uncritically accept and ‘give voice’ to the generally non-feminist, non-politicized arguments of our participants (Kitzinger and Wilkinson 1997; see also Kitzinger 2003). Instead, we are morally and politically obliged to ‘go beyond’ our data, to prioritize our feminist political agenda, and to treat our analyses as an occasion for doing politics. Rather than simply reflecting and validating ‘whatever women tell us about their experience’, many of us use our analyses specifically in order to challenge and criticize ‘the way in which women’s experience is constructed under (hetero) patriarchy’ (Kitzinger and Wilkinson 1997:573). In the feminist analytic approach I advocate in this book, by contrast, I avoid producing analyses which are driven, in the first instance, by my politics, and by my assumptions about the constraining or enabling features of a range of ‘extra-discursive’, ‘macro-structural’ or ‘cognitive-psychological’ factors. Instead, following Schegloff (1997), I consider, first and foremost, what is going on from a member’s perspective, and how the social and political is constituted and oriented to (if at all) in participants’ talk. I explore the notion of participants’ orientations further in Chapters 4 to 6. (v) A relativist approach Many social scientists working within the mainstream positivist and inter-pretivist paradigms adopt a realist approach which supports the view ‘that there is a reality independent of the researcher whose nature can be known, and that the aim of research is to produce accounts that correspond to that reality’ (Hammersley 1992:43). From this perspective, providing that all sources of methodological bias and extraneous influences Introduction 15 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. are eliminated from our data (through the control of ‘contaminating’ variables, for example), then the discourse that the researcher collects can be treated as a transparent medium through which they can gain unmediated access to facts about the world and respondents’ perceptions of it, or the objectively measurable ‘reality’ that lies beyond or beneath talk. By contrast, the relativist approach I adopt in this book can be defined as: a stance of systematic and thoroughgoing doubt about objectivist, essentialist and foundational positions. It is not so much a position as an anti-position or a meta-position. Relativist arguments emphasise the inescapable role of rhetoric in constructing claims as objective and foundational, and the contingency of tests, criteria, rules, experimentation and other procedures that are claimed to guarantee objective foundations. (Potter 2004c:951–2) The relativist argues that all knowledge (including ‘scientific facts’) is historically and culturally relative. It follows that there are no independent means of determining what is ‘true’ (Edwards et al. 1995). There are infinite possible ways of constructing the world, and an infinite number of ways in which the same events can be recounted and constituted. As such, there is no way of knowing whether any particular version offers an accurate description of ‘what really happened’, or whether it corresponds to what took place ‘in the real world’. Since, as Wetherell and Potter (1992:62) put it, ‘there is no versionless reality’, a relativist approach urges us to take a critical stance towards all knowledge claims. It encourages us to question our commonsense assumptions about the way the world works, and particularly about those objects, events and categories that are presented to us as ‘naturally occurring givens’—including ‘scientific facts’ about biology, subjectivity and mind. Indeed, this approach ‘is fundamentally anti-intuitive: it specifically aims to deconstruct those things we ‘just know’ on the basis of personal experience or introspection’ (Kitzinger 1992:224). Sex, for example, is one of our primary means for classifying and organizing the world, and sexual dimorphism, the idea that the world consists of two and only two sexes, is a distinction upon which heterosexuality depends (Butler 1990a). While it may seem obvious, or even sensible, that we divide the world up according to male-female ‘reproductive differences’, a relativist would question whether there is anything intrinsic to the nature of persons that requires us to divide the world up in this way—and to develop a whole host of institutionalized practices based on gender dualism (e.g., sex- demarcated toilet cubicles, sports teams, leisure pursuits, bicycle frames, gym shoe colours, dress codes, children’s toys, and so on). The relativist might ask why we cannot equally organize the world on the basis of some other classification system based on categories of weight, height or eye colour, for example (see Burr 2003:3). Thus, just because biological ‘sex differences’ are made to be important in modern western societies, it does not mean that they must inevitably be that way. Institutionalized gender demarcation is a choice rather than an inevitability. For the feminist relativist, the goal of social scientific inquiry is not ‘truth-seeking’. Rather, the focus shifts to an examination of how certain truths, ways of seeing the world, or versions of reality are constructed, and Gender talk 16 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. the social practices that sustain some oppressive, sexist and heterosexist versions over others. A relativist approach ultimately leads us to reflexivity, where the researcher must recognize that their own practice of constructing knowledge and studying the world is itself socially constructed and organized. From this perspective, the researcher must self- consciously acknowledge and pay attention to their own role in practices of knowledge construction—for example how the role of the researcher and their methods for collecting gender talk in part shape the nature of the gender talk obtained (Speer 2002d). I will explore these issues further in Chapters 4 and 7 and in the Postscript. Together these five features generate a distinctive feminist analytic approach. My aim in the rest of this book is to demonstrate what this approach might look like, and how and why it offers the most productive form of analysis for feminism. Chapter overviews In Chapters 2 and 3 I introduce some important work on the relationship between gender, language and identity that has developed within sociolinguistics, poststructuralism and ethnomethodology. This research underpins, and forms a precursor to, much research on gender and language, and can be broadly divided into two strands or types: the first strand of research, which has been conducted primarily within sociolinguistics, explores sex differences in language. The second strand of research, which has been conducted primarily within poststructuralism and ethnomethodology, explores how gender identity is constituted—how people ‘do’ gender. Research conducted from within these two traditions represents often competing theoretical and methodological assumptions about the nature of the relationship between gender and language, and how it might best be grasped analytically. My aim in Chapters 2 and 3 is to provide a focused overview and critique of research conducted within both perspectives, with a view to illustrating the distinctiveness of my own position. I begin, in Chapter 2, by interrogating the theoretical and methodological assumptions that underpin three classic studies within the socio-linguistic ‘sex differences’ paradigm. I argue that even while work within this tradition has had a significant impact on the field of research on gender and language, that the sex differences framework nonetheless suffers a number of problems when it comes to the empirical analysis of gender and language. Specifically, this research has a tendency to reinforce dualistic understandings about sex and gender, and take us further away from, rather than closer to, an understanding of how gender and sexism are constituted and reproduced in interaction. In Chapter 3, I contrast the ‘sex differences’ approach to gender and language considered in Chapter 2, with some important work on ‘doing’ gender that developed concurrently outside linguistics within poststructuralism and ethnomethodology. This work, while concerned more with gender identity than with language, challenges us to see sex and gender as a performance, or an accomplishment, rather than an essence. Poststructuralism and ethnomethodology have had a significant impact on the development of the two discourse strands that I identified earlier in this chapter: the ‘critical’ discursive work informed by critical theory, poststructuralism and psychoanalysis on the one hand, and the discursive work informed by ethnomethodology Introduction 17 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. and CA on the other. By inspecting the theoretical and methodological assumptions underpinning poststructuralist and ethno-methodological studies of gender identity construction, I begin to flesh out some of the similarities and differences that underpin these two discourse strands, and the rather different feminist analyses of gender and language that derive from them. I suggest that despite the radical political potential this poststructuralist and ethnomethodological work has offered feminism, that neither of these perspectives, in and of themselves, offer an adequate empirical programme for the analysis of talk-in-interaction. Instead, I argue that an approach which draws on insights from CA, and the closely related constructionist perspective of DP, is the most fruitful analytic framework for feminism. In Chapter 4 I demonstrate how insights from CA and DP contribute theoretically and methodologically to the five criteria for the development of an adequate feminist analytic approach set out in this chapter. I show how feminists and others with a critical agenda have used insights from both perspectives to interrogate the relevance of gender in talk, and to explore ‘what counts’ as gender, or an ‘orientation to gender’ in an interaction. I suggest that these studies challenge both the essentialist gender-typing story associated with the vast bulk of variationist and sociolinguistic research conducted to date, and the ‘broader’ forms of analysis associated with poststructuralist, ‘top-down’ approaches to discourse. I argue that an approach which is concerned with the turn-by-turn analysis of taped and transcribed segments of talk, provides the tools with which we may begin to produce an empirically grounded form of feminism, and ultimately to rethink what we mean by ‘gender-talk’. This discussion sets the scene for Chapters 5 and 6, where I argue against the anti-CA critics, to show how an analytic approach which sticks closely to an analysis of participants’ orientations, can be applied to, and used to rework our understanding of, the relationship between the purportedly ‘external’ macro-social structural context of gender norms, ideology and ‘the world out there’, on the one hand (Chapter 5), and the purportedly ‘internal’, cognitive-psychological context of gender identity, subjectivity, prejudicial attitudes and beliefs, and ‘the world in here’, on the other (Chapter 6). These chapters demonstrate how traditional sociological and psychological understandings of the relationship between macro-social and cognitive-psychological realms (particularly as they are formulated in ‘critical’ and poststructuralist approaches to discourse) can be rethought using a micro-interactional framework, and without losing a political thrust. I make this case in Chapter 5 by reviewing Wetherell and Edley’s (1999) critical discursive work on the widely used ‘macro-analytic’ concept of hegemonic masculinity. Using data from two informal interviews with men in their early twenties, I explore how participants construct masculinity and situate themselves and others in relation to those constructions. I ask whether participants themselves orient toward something that analysts have glossed—in more abstract, theoretical contexts—as hegemonic masculinity, and consider what such orientations may be doing interactionally. Specifically, I look to see just how far an approach which does not go beyond participant orientations can take us in our understanding of the discursive constitution of gender identity. I argue that even while participants may align with, and differentiate themselves from, a version of masculinity that they define in similar ways across extracts, that hegemony and hegemonic masculinity are not participants’ categories, and that, in its particularities, Gender talk 18 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved. masculinity is defined in variable ways that are appropriate for the local interactional context, and the work that needs to be done to invoke or manage a particular identity. In Chapter 6, I show how a participants’ orientations approach can be applied to rethink ‘cognitive-psychological’ understandings of prejudice and—specifically— heterosexist talk. I begin by criticizing current psychological work on heterosexism, highlighting the way its operationalization tends to obscure flexible discursive practices and settle them into stable, causal attitudes within individuals. Then, drawing on extracts from a variety of sources where sexuality is made relevant, I examine whether participants themselves orient to their talk as heterosexist or problematic in any way, and consider what such ‘attending to’ may be doing interactionally. I suggest that speakers use various conversational and interactional resources to manage the potential trouble that their remarks may engender, and to foreclose possible counter-arguments and challenges. Importantly, I argue that it is in this very management—this attending to potential trouble—that we can find the constitution of what the participants take to be prejudicial, accountable ‘heterosexist talk’. Finally, I show (cf. much critical discursive and ‘sex differences’ research) that heterosexist utterances do not have their negativity built into them, but become prejudicial, troublesome or otherwise for participants in situ, as their sense is produced and negotiated. In Chapter 7 I summarize some of the main themes to come out of the book, and consider their implications. My discussion is framed in terms of several questions that readers may still have about the five key features of the feminist analytic approach I advocate. My responses to these questions point to some common misunderstandings of both CA and DP. I explain why I believe my approach is a theoretically and methodologically fruitful one for feminism, and how, contrary to popular belief, it may be politically and practically consequential. Finally, in the Postscript, I consider some methodological issues that will influence the future development of feminist CA, and which researchers interested in using this perspective might usefully consider. Introduction 19 Speer, S. A. (2005). Gender talk : Feminism, discourse and conversation analysis. Taylor & Francis Group. Created from umanitoba on 2022-01-31 03:03:40. Copyright © 2005. Taylor & Francis Group. All rights reserved.
one guide is attached with 3 readings. Tutor needs to choose only 1. Critical Response Papers: Tutor is required to write 3 Critical Response Papers throughout the term. Each paper should be about 1
Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory Judith Butler Philosophers rarely think about acting in the theatrical sense, but they do have a discourse of ‘acts’ that maintains associative semantic meanings with theories of performance and acting. For example, John Searle’s ‘speech acts,’ those verbal as- surances and promises which seem not only to refer to a speaking relationship, but to constitute a moral bond between speakers, illustrate one of the illocutionary ges- tures that constitutes the stage of the analytic philosophy of language. Further, ‘action theory,’ a domain of moral philosophy, seeks to understand what it is ‘to do’ prior to any claim of what one ought to do. Finally, the phenomenological theory of ‘acts,’ espoused by Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and George Herbert Mead, among others, seeks to explain the mundane way in which social agents constitute social reality through language, gesture, and all manner of symbolic social sign. Though phenomenology sometimes appears to assume the existence of a choosing and constituting agent prior to language (who poses as the sole source of its con- stituting acts), there is also a more radical use of the doctrine of constitution that takes the social agent as an object rather than the subject of constitutive acts. When Simone de Beauvoir claims, “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,” she is appropriating and reinterpreting this doctrine of constituting acts from the phenomenological tradition.1 In this sense, gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time-an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be under- stood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formulation Judith Butler is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at George Washington University. She is the author of Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflection in Twentieth-Century France. She has published articles in post-structuralist and gender theory. ‘For a further discussion of Beauvoir’s feminist contribution to phenomenological theory, see my “Variations on Sex and Gender: Beauvoir’s The Second Sex,” Yale French Studies 172 (1986). 519 520 / Judith Butler moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of a constituted social temporality. Significantly, if gender is instituted through acts which are internally discontinuous, then the appearance of substance is precisely that, a constructed identity, a performative accomplishment which the mundane social audience, including the actors themselves, come to believe and to perform in the mode of belief. If the ground of gender identity is the stylized repetition of acts through time, and not a seemingly seamless identity, then the possibilities of gender transformation are to be found in the arbitrary relation between such acts, in the possibility of a different sort of repeating, in the breaking or sub- versive repetition of that style. Through the conception of gender acts sketched above, I will try to show some ways in which reified and naturalized conceptions of gender might be understood as constituted and, hence, capable of being constituted differently. In opposition to theatrical or phenomenological models which take the gendered self to be prior to its acts, I will understand constituting acts not only as constituting the identity of the actor, but as constituting that identity as a compelling illusion, an object of belief. In the course of making my argument, I will draw from theatrical, anthropological, and philosophical discourses, but mainly phenomenology, to show that what is called gender identity is a performative accomplishment compelled by social sanction and taboo. In its very character as performative resides the possibility of contesting its reified status. I. Sex/Gender: Feminist and Phenomenological Views Feminist theory has often been critical of naturalistic explanations of sex and sex- uality that assume that the meaning of women’s social existence can be derived from some fact of their physiology. In distinguishing sex from gender, feminist theorists have disputed causal explanations that assume that sex dictates or necessitates certain social meanings for women’s experience. Phenomenological theories of human em- bodiment have also been concerned to distinguish between the various physiological and biological causalities that structure bodily existence and the meanings that em- bodied existence assumes in the context of lived experience. In Merleau-Ponty’s reflections in The Phenomenology of Perception on “the body in its sexual being,” he takes issue with such accounts of bodily experience and claims that the body is “an historical idea” rather than “a natural species.”2 Significantly, it is this claim that Simone de Beauvoir cites in The Second Sex when she sets the stage for her claim that “woman,” and by extension, any gender, is an historical situation rather than a natural fact.3 In both contexts, the existence and facticity of the material or natural dimensions of the body are not denied, but reconceived as distinct from the process by which the body comes to bear cultural meanings. For both Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty, 2Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “The Body in its Sexual Being,” in The Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Colin Smith (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1962). 3Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. H. M. Parshley (New York: Vintage, 1974), 38. PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 521 the body is understood to be an active process of embodying certain cultural and historical possibilities, a complicated process of appropriation which any phenom- enological theory of embodiment needs to describe. In order to describe the gendered body, a phenomenological theory of constitution requires an expansion of the con- ventional view of acts to mean both that which constitutes meaning and that through which meaning is performed or enacted. In other words, the acts by which gender is constituted bear similarities to performative acts within theatrical contexts. My task, then, is to examine in what ways gender is constructed through specific corporeal acts, and what possibilities exist for the cultural transformation of gender through such acts. Merleau-Ponty maintains not only that the body is an historical idea but a set of possibilities to be continually realized. In claiming that the body is an historical idea, Merleau-Ponty means that it gains its meaning through a concrete and historically mediated expression in the world. That the body is a set of possibilities signifies (a) that its appearance in the world, for perception, is not predetermined by some manner of interior essence, and (b) that its concrete expression in the world must be un- derstood as the taking up and rendering specific of a set of historical possibilities. Hence, there is an agency which is understood as the process of rendering such possibilities determinate. These possibilities are necessarily constrained by available historical conventions. The body is not a self-identical or merely factic materiality; it is a materiality that bears meaning, if nothing else, and the manner of this bearing is fundamentally dramatic. By dramatic I mean only that the body is not merely matter but a continual and incessant materializing of possibilities. One is not simply a body, but, in some very key sense, one does one’s body and, indeed, one does one’s body differently from one’s contemporaries and from one’s embodied prede- cessors and successors as well. It is, however, clearly unfortunate grammar to claim that there is a ‘we’ or an ‘I’ that does its body, as if a disembodied agency preceded and directed an embodied exterior. More appropriate, I suggest, would be a vocabulary that resists the substance metaphysics of subject-verb formations and relies instead on an ontology of present participles. The ‘I’ that is its body is, of necessity, a mode of embodying, and the ‘what’ that it embodies is possibilities. But here again the grammar of the formulation misleads, for the possibilities that are embodied are not fundamentally exterior or antecedent to the process of embodying itself. As an intentionally organized mate- riality, the body is always an embodying of possibilities both conditioned and cir- cumscribed by historical convention. In other words, the body is a historical situation, as Beauvoir has claimed, and is a manner of doing, dramatizing, and reproducing a historical situation. To do, to dramatize, to reproduce, these seem to be some of the elementary structures of embodiment. This doing of gender is not merely a way in which em- bodied agents are exterior, surfaced, open to the perception of others. Embodiment clearly manifests a set of strategies or what Sartre would perhaps have called a style of being or Foucault, “a stylistics of existence.” This style is never fully self-styled, for living styles have a history, and that history conditions and limits possibilities. Consider gender, for instance, as a corporeal style, an ‘act,’ as it were, which is both 522 / Judith Butler intentional and performative, where ‘performative’ itself carries the double-meaning of ‘dramatic’ and ‘non-referential.’ When Beauvoir claims that ‘woman’ is a historical idea and not a natural fact, she clearly underscores the distinction between sex, as biological facticity, and gender, as the cultural interpretation or signification of that facticity. To be female is, according to that distinction, a facticity which has no meaning, but to be a woman is to have become a woman, to compel the body to conform to an historical idea of ‘woman,’ to induce the body to become a cultural sign, to materialize oneself in obedience to an historically delimited possibility, and to do this as a sustained and repeated corporeal project. The notion of a ‘project’, however, suggests the originating force of a radical will, and because gender is a project which has cultural survival as its end, the term ‘strategy’ better suggests the situation of duress under which gender performance always and variously occurs. Hence, as a strategy of survival, gender is a performance with clearly punitive consequences. Discrete genders are part of what ‘humanizes’ individuals within contemporary culture; indeed, those who fail to do their gender right are regularly punished. Because there is neither an ‘essence’ that gender ex- presses or externalizes nor an objective ideal to which gender aspires; because gender is not a fact, the various acts of gender creates the idea of gender, and without those acts, there would be no gender at all. Gender is, thus, a construction that regularly conceals its genesis. The tacit collective agreement to perform, produce, and sustain discrete and polar genders as cultural fictions is obscured by the credibility of its own production. The authors of gender become entranced by their own fictions whereby the construction compels one’s belief in its necessity and naturalness. The historical possibilities materialized through various corporeal styles are nothing other than those punitively regulated cultural fictions that are alternately embodied and disguised under duress. How useful is a phenomenological point of departure for a feminist description of gender? On the surface it appears that phenomenology shares with feminist analysis a commitment to grounding theory in lived experience, and in revealing the way in which the world is produced through the constituting acts of subjective experience. Clearly, not all feminist theory would privilege the point of view of the subject, (Kristeva once objected to feminist theory as ‘too existentialist’)4 and yet the feminist claim that the personal is political suggests, in part, that subjective experience is not only structured by existing political arrangements, but effects and structures those arrangements in turn. Feminist theory has sought to understand the way in which systemic or pervasive political and cultural structures are enacted and reproduced through individual acts and practices, and how the analysis of ostensibly personal situations is clarified through situating the issues in a broader and shared cultural context. Indeed, the feminist impulse, and I am sure there is more than one, has often emerged in the recognition that my pain or my silence or my anger or my perception is finally not mine alone, and that it delimits me in a shared cultural situation which in turn enables and empowers me in certain unanticipated ways. The personal is thus implicitly political inasmuch as it is conditioned by shared social 4Julia Kristeva, Histoire d’amour (Paris: Editions Denoel, 1983), 242. PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 523 structures, but the personal has also been immunized against political challenge to the extent that public/private distinctions endure. For feminist theory, then, the personal becomes an expansive category, one which accommodates, if only implicitly, political structures usually viewed as public. Indeed, the very meaning of the political expands as well. At its best, feminist theory involves a dialectical expansion of both of these categories. My situation does not cease to be mine just because it is the situation of someone else, and my acts, individual as they are, nevertheless reproduce the situation of my gender, and do that in various ways. In other words, there is, latent in the personal is political formulation of feminist theory, a supposition that the life-world of gender relations is constituted, at least partially, through the concrete and historically mediated acts of individuals. Considering that “the” body is invariably transformed into his body or her body, the body is only known through its gendered appearance. It would seem imperative to consider the way in which this gendering of the body occurs. My suggestion is that the body becomes its gender through a series of acts which are renewed, revised, and consolidated through time. From a feminist point of view, one might try to reconceive the gendered body as the legacy of sedimented acts rather than a predetermined or foreclosed structure, essence or fact, whether natural, cultural, or linguistic. The feminist appropriation of the phenomenological theory of constitution might employ the notion of an act in a richly ambiguous sense. If the personal is a category which expands to include the wider political and social structures, then the acts of the gendered subject would be similarly expansive. Clearly, there are political acts which are deliberate and instrumental actions of political organizing, resistance col- lective intervention with the broad aim of instating a more just set of social and political relations. There are thus acts which are done in the name of women, and then there are acts in and of themselves, apart from any instrumental consequence, that challenge the category of women itself. Indeed, one ought to consider the futility of a political program which seeks radically to transform the social situation of women without first determining whether the category of woman is socially constructed in such a way that to be a woman is, by definition, to be in an oppressed situation. In an understandable desire to forge bonds of solidarity, feminist discourse has often relied upon the category of woman as a universal presupposition of cultural expe- rience which, in its universal status, provides a false ontological promise of eventual political solidarity. In a culture in which the false universal of ‘man’ has for the most part been presupposed as coextensive with humanness itself, feminist theory has sought with success to bring female specificity into visibility and to rewrite the history of culture in terms which acknowledge the presence, the influence, and the op- pression of women. Yet, in this effort to combat the invisibility of women as a category feminists run the risk of rendering visible a category which may or may not be representative of the concrete lives of women. As feminists, we have been less eager, I think, to consider the status of the category itself and, indeed, to discern the conditions of oppression which issue from an unexamined reproduction of gender identities which sustain discrete and binary categories of man and woman. When Beauvoir claims that woman is an “historical situation,” she emphasizes that the body suffers a certain cultural construction, not only through conventions that sanction and proscribe how one acts one’s body, the ‘act’ or performance that one’s 524 / Judith Butler body is, but also in the tacit conventions that structure the way the body is culturally perceived. Indeed, if gender is the cultural significance that the sexed body assumes, and if that significance is codetermined through various acts and their cultural per- ception, then it would appear that from within the terms of culture it is not possible to know sex as distinct from gender. The reproduction of the category of gender is enacted on a large political scale, as when women first enter a profession or gain certain rights, or are reconceived in legal or political discourse in significantly new ways. But the more mundane reproduction of gendered identity takes place through the various ways in which bodies are acted in relationship to the deeply entrenched or sedimented expectations of gendered existence. Consider that there is a sedi- mentation of gender norms that produces the peculiar phenomenon of a natural sex, or a real woman, or any number of prevalent and compelling social fictions, and that this is a sedimentation that over time has produced a set of corporeal styles which, in reified form, appear as the natural configuration of bodies into sexes which exist in a binary relation to one another. II. Binary Genders and the Heterosexual Contract To guarantee the reproduction of a given culture, various requirements, well- established in the anthropological literature of kinship, have instated sexual repro- duction within the confines of a heterosexually-based system of marriage which requires the reproduction of human beings in certain gendered modes which, in effect, guarantee the eventual reproduction of that kinship system. As Foucault and others have pointed out, the association of a natural sex with a discrete gender and with an ostensibly natural ‘attraction’ to the opposing sex/gender is an unnatural conjunction of cultural constructs in the service of reproductive interests.5 Feminist cultural anthropology and kinship studies have shown how cultures are governed by conventions that not only regulate and guarantee the production, exchange, and consumption of material goods, but also reproduce the bonds of kinship itself, which require taboos and a punitive regulation of reproduction to effect that end. Levi- Strauss has shown how the incest taboo works to guarantee the channeling of sex- uality into various modes of heterosexual marriage,6 Gayle Rubin has argued con- vincingly that the incest taboo produces certain kinds of discrete gendered identities and sexualities.7 My point is simply that one way in which this system of compulsory heterosexuality is reproduced and concealed is through the cultivation of bodies into discrete sexes with ‘natural’ appearances and ‘natural’ heterosexual dispositions. Although the enthnocentric conceit suggests a progression beyond the mandatory structures of kinship relations as described by Levi-Strauss, I would suggest, along with Rubin, that contemporary gender identities are so many marks or “traces” of 5See Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, trans. Robert Hurley (New York: Random House, 1980), 154: “the notion of ‘sex’ made it possible to group together, in an artificial unity, anatomical elements, biological functions, conducts, sensations, and pleasures, and it enabled one to make use of this fictitious unity as a causal principle . . .”. 6See Claude Levi-Strauss, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965). 7Gayle Rubin, “The Traffic in Women: Notes on the ‘Political Economy’ of Sex,” in Toward an Anthropology of Women, ed. Rayna R. Reiter (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1975), 178-85. PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 525 residual kinship. The contention that sex, gender, and heterosexuality are historical products which have become conjoined and reified as natural over time has received a good deal of critical attention not only from Michel Foucault, but Monique Wittig, gay historians, and various cultural anthropologists and social psychologists in recent years.8 These theories, however, still lack the critical resources for thinking radically about the historical sedimentation of sexuality and sex-related constructs if they do not delimit and describe the mundane manner in which these constructs are pro- duced, reproduced, and maintained within the field of bodies. Can phenomenology assist a feminist reconstruction of the sedimented character of sex, gender, and sexuality at the level of the body? In the first place, the phe- nomenological focus on the various acts by which cultural identity is constituted and assumed provides a felicitous starting point for the feminist effort to understand the mundane manner in which bodies get crafted into genders. The formulation of the body as a mode of dramatizing or enacting possibilities offers a way to understand how a cultural convention is embodied and enacted. But it seems difficult, if not impossible, to imagine a way to conceptualize the scale and systemic character of women’s oppression from a theoretical position which takes constituting acts to be its point of departure. Although individual acts do work to maintain and reproduce systems of oppression, and, indeed, any theory of personal political responsibility presupposes such a view, it doesn’t follow that oppression is a sole consequence of such acts. One might argue that without human beings whose various acts, largely construed, produce and maintain oppressive conditions, those conditions would fall away, but note that the relation between acts and conditions is neither unilateral nor unmediated. There are social contexts and conventions within which certain acts not only become possible but become conceivable as acts at all. The transformation of social relations becomes a matter, then, of transforming hegemonic social conditions rather than the individual acts that are spawned by those conditions. Indeed, one runs the risk of addressing the merely indirect, if not epiphenomenal, reflection of those conditions if one remains restricted to a politics of acts. But the theatrical sense of an “act” forces a revision of the individualist assumptions underlying the more restricted view of constituting acts within phenomenological discourse. As a given temporal duration within the entire performance, “acts” are a shared experience and ‘collective action.’ Just as within feminist theory the very category of the personal is expanded to include political structures, so is there a theatrically-based and, indeed, less individually-oriented view of acts that goes some of the way in defusing the criticism of act theory as ‘too existentialist.’ The act that gender is, the act that embodied agents are inasmuch as they dramatically and actively embody and, indeed, wear certain cultural significations, is clearly not one’s act alone. Surely, there are nuanced and individual ways of doing one’s gender, but that one does it, and that one does it in accord with certain sanctions and proscriptions, is clearly not a fully individual matter. Here again, I don’t mean to minimize the effect 8See my “Variations on Sex and Gender: Beauvoir, Wittig, and Foucault,” in Feminism as Critique, ed. Seyla Benhabib and Drucila Cornell (London: Basil Blackwell, 1987 [distributed by University of Minnesota Press]). 526 / Judith Butler of certain gender norms which originate within the family and are enforced through certain familial modes of punishment and reward and which, as a consequence, might be construed as highly individual, for even there family relations recapitulate, individualize, and specify pre-existing cultural relations; they are rarely, if ever, radically original. The act that one does, the act that one performs, is, in a sense, an act that has been going on before one arrived on the scene. Hence, gender is an act which has been rehearsed, much as a script survives the particular actors who make use of it, but which requires individual actors in order to be actualized and reproduced as reality once again. The complex components that go into an act must be distinguished in order to understand the kind of acting in concert and acting in accord which acting one’s gender invariably is. In what senses, then, is gender an act? As anthropologist Victor Turner suggests in his studies of ritual social drama, social action requires a performance which is repeated. This repetition is at once a reenactment and reexperiencing of a set of meanings already socially established; it is the mundane and ritualized form of their legitimation.9 When this conception of social performance is applied to gender, it is clear that although there are individual bodies that enact these significations by becoming stylized into gendered modes, this “action” is immediately public as well. There are temporal and collective dimensions to these actions, and their public nature is not inconsequential; indeed, the performance is effected with the strategic aim of maintaining gender within its binary frame. Understood in pedagogical terms, the performance renders social laws explicit. As a public action and performative act, gender is not a radical choice or project that reflects a merely individual choice, but neither is it imposed or inscribed upon the individual, as some post-structuralist displacements of the subject would contend. The body is not passively scripted with cultural codes, as if it were a lifeless recipient of wholly pre-given cultural relations. But neither do embodied selves pre-exist the cultural conventions which essentially signify bodies. Actors are always already on the stage, within the terms of the performance. Just as a script may be enacted in various ways, and just as the play requires both text and interpretation, so the gendered body acts its part in a culturally restricted corporeal space and enacts interpretations within the confines of already existing directives. 9See Victor Turner, Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1974). Clifford Geertz suggests in “Blurred Genres: The Refiguration of Thought,” in Local Knowledge, Further Essays in Interpretive Anthropology (New York: Basic Books, 1983), that the theatrical metaphor is used by recent social theory in two, often opposing, ways. Ritual theorists like Victor Turner focus on a notion of social drama of various kinds as a means for settling internal conflicts within a culture and regenerating social cohesion. On the other hand, symbolic action approaches, influenced by figures as diverse as Emile Durkheim, Kenneth Burke, and Michel Foucault, focus on the way in which political authority and questions of legitimation are thematized and settled within the terms of performed meaning. Geertz himself suggests that the tension might be viewed dialectically; his study of political organization in Bali as a “theatre-state” is a case in point. In terms of an explicitly feminist account of gender as performative, it seems clear to me that an account of gender as ritualized, public performance must be combined with an analysis of the political sanctions and taboos under which that performance may and may not occur within the public sphere free of punitive conse- quence. PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 527 Although the links between a theatrical and a social role are complex and the distinctions not easily drawn (Bruce Wilshire points out the limits of the comparison in Role-Playing and Identity: The Limits of Theatre as Metaphor’?), it seems clear that, although theatrical performances can meet with political censorship and scathing criticism, gender performances in non-theatrical contexts are governed by more clearly punitive and regulatory social conventions. Indeed, the sight of a transvestite onstage can compel pleasure and applause while the sight of the same transvestite on the seat next to us on the bus can compel fear, rage, even violence. The conventions which mediate proximity and identification in these two instances are clearly quite different. I want to make two different kinds of claims regarding this tentative dis- tinction. In the theatre, one can say, ‘this is just an act,’ and de-realize the act, make acting into something quite distinct from what is real. Because of this distinction, one can maintain one’s sense of reality in the face of this temporary challenge to our existing ontological assumptions about gender arrangements; the various conventions which announce that ‘this is only a play’ allows strict lines to be drawn between the performance and life. On the street or in the bus, the act becomes dangerous, if it does, precisely because there are no theatrical conventions to delimit the purely imaginary character of the act, indeed, on the street or in the bus, there is no presumption that the act is distinct from a reality; the disquieting effect of the act is that there are no conventions that facilitate making this separation. Clearly, there is theatre which attempts to contest or, indeed, break down those conventions that demarcate the imaginary from the real (Richard Schechner brings this out quite clearly in Between Theatre and Anthropology”). Yet in those cases one confronts the same phenomenon, namely, that the act is not contrasted with the real, but constitutes a reality that is in some sense new, a modality of gender that cannot readily be assim- ilated into the pre-existing categories that regulate gender reality. From the point of view of those established categories, one may want to claim, but oh, this is really a girl or a woman, or this is really a boy or a man, and further that the appearance contradicts the reality of the gender, that the discrete and familiar reality must be there, nascent, temporarily unrealized, perhaps realized at other times or other places. The transvestite, however, can do more than simply express the distinction between sex and gender, but challenges, at least implicitly, the distinction between appearance and reality that structures a good deal of popular thinking about gender identity. If the ‘reality’ of gender is constituted by the performance itself, then there is no recourse to an essential and unrealized ‘sex’ or ‘gender’ which gender performances ostensibly express. Indeed, the transvestite’s gender is as fully real as anyone whose perform- ance complies with social expectations. Gender reality is performative which means, quite simply, that it is real only to the extent that it is performed. It seems fair to say that certain kinds of acts are usually interpreted as expressive of a gender core or identity, and that these acts either conform to an expected gender identity or contest that expectation in some “Bruce Wilshire, Role-Playing and Identity: The Lmits of Theatre as Metaphor (Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1981). “Richard Schechner, Between Theatre and Anthropology (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1985). See especially, “News, Sex, and Performance,” 295-324. 528 / Judith Butler way. That expectation, in turn, is based upon the perception of sex, where sex is understood to be the discrete and factic datum of primary sexual characteristics. This implicit and popular theory of acts and gestures as expressive of gender suggests that gender itself is something prior to the various acts, postures, and gestures by which it is dramatized and known; indeed, gender appears to the popular imagination as a substantial core which might well be understood as the spiritual or psychological correlate of biological sex.12 If gender attributes, however, are not expressive but performative, then these attributes effectively constitute the identity they are said to express or reveal. The distinction between expression and performativeness is quite crucial, for if gender attributes and acts, the various ways in which a body shows or produces its cultural signification, are performative, then there is no preexisting identity by which an act or attribute might be measured; there would be no true or false, real or distorted acts of gender, and the postulation of a true gender identity would be revealed as a regulatory fiction. That gender reality is created through sustained social performances means that the very notions of an essential sex, a true or abiding masculinity or femininity, are also constituted as part of the strategy by which the performative aspect of gender is concealed. As a consequence, gender cannot be understood as a role which either expresses or disguises an interior ‘self,’ whether that ‘self’ is conceived as sexed or not. As performance which is performative, gender is an ‘act,’ broadly construed, which constructs the social fiction of its own psychological interiority. As opposed to a view such as Erving Goffman’s which posits a self which assumes and exchanges various ‘roles’ within the complex social expectations of the ‘game’ of modern life,13 I am suggesting that this self is not only irretrievably ‘outside,’ constituted in social dis- course, but that the ascription of interiority is itself a publically regulated and sanc- tioned form of essence fabrication. Genders, then, can be neither true nor false, neither real nor apparent. And yet, one is compelled to live in a world in which genders constitute univocal signifiers, in which gender is stabilized, polarized, ren- dered discrete and intractable. In effect, gender is made to comply with a model of truth and falsity which not only contradicts its own performative fluidity, but serves a social policy of gender regulation and control. Performing one’s gender wrong initiates a set of punishments both obvious and indirect, and performing it well provides the reassurance that there is an essentialism of gender identity after all. That this reassurance is so easily displaced by anxiety, that culture so readily punishes or marginalizes those who fail to perform the illusion of gender essentialism should be sign enough that on some level there is social knowledge that the truth or falsity of gender is only socially compelled and in no sense ontologically necessitated.14 ‘2In Mother Camp (Prentice-Hall, 1974), Anthropologist Esther Newton gives an urben ethnography of drag queens in which she suggests that all gender might be understood on the model of drag. In Gender: An Ethnomethodological Approach (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978), Suzanne J. Kessler and Wendy McKenna argue that gender is an “accomplishment” which requires the skills of constructing the body into a socially legitimate artifice. ‘3See Erving Goffmann, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (Garden City: Doubleday, 1959). 14See Michel Foucault’s edition of Herculine Barbin: The Journals of a Nineteenth Century French Hermaphrodite, trans. Richard McDougall (New York: Pantheon Books, 1984), for an interesting display PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 529 III. Feminist Theory: Beyond an Expressive Model of Gender This view of gender does not pose as a comprehensive theory about what gender is or the manner of its construction, and neither does it prescribe an explicit feminist political program. Indeed, I can imagine this view of gender being used for a number of discrepant political strategies. Some of my friends may fault me for this and insist that any theory of gender constitution has political presuppositions and implications, and that it is impossible to separate a theory of gender from a political philosophy of feminism. In fact, I would agree, and argue that it is primarily political interests which create the social phenomena of gender itself, and that without a radical critique of gender constitution feminist theory fails to take stock of the way in which op- pression structures the ontological categories through which gender is conceived. Gayatri Spivak has argued that feminists need to rely on an operational essentialism, a false ontology of women as a universal in order to advance a feminist political program. 5 She knows that the category of ‘women’ is not fully expressive, that the multiplicity and discontinuity of the referent mocks and rebels against the univocity of the sign, but suggests it could be used for strategic purposes. Kristeva suggests something similar, I think, when she prescribes that feminists use the category of women as a political tool without attributing ontological integrity to the term, and adds that, strictly speaking, women cannot be said to exist.16 Feminists might well worry about the political implications of claiming that women do not exist, especially in light of the persuasive arguments advanced by Mary Anne Warren in her book, Gendercide.17 She argues that social policies regarding population control and repro- ductive technology are designed to limit and, at times, eradicate the existence of women altogether. In light of such a claim, what good does it do to quarrel about the metaphysical status of the term, and perhaps, for clearly political reasons, fem- inists ought to silence the quarrel altogether. But it is one thing to use the term and know its ontological insufficiency and quite another to articulate a normative vision for feminist theory which celebrates or eman- cipates an essence, a nature, or a shared cultural reality which cannot be found. The option I am defending is not to redescribe the world from the point of view of women. I don’t know what that point of view is, but whatever it is, it is not singular, and not mine to espouse. It would only be half-right to claim that I am interested in how the phenomenon of a men’s or women’s point of view gets constituted, for while I do think that those points of views are, indeed, socially constituted, and that a reflexive genealogy of those points of view is important to do, it is not primarily the gender episteme that I am interested in exposing, deconstructing, or reconstructing. of the horror evoked by intersexed bodies. Foucault’s introduction makes clear that the medical delimitation of univocal sex is yet another wayward application of the discourse on truth-as-identity. See also the work of Robert Edgerton in American Anthropologist on the cross-cultural variations of response to hermaphroditic bodies. “Remarks at the Center for Humanities, Wesleyan University, Spring, 1985. “6Julia Kristeva, “Woman Can Never Be Defined”, trans. Marilyn A. August, in New French Fem- inisms, ed. Elaine Marks and Isabelle de Courtivron (New York: Schocken, 1981). 17Mary Anne Warren, Gendercide: The Implications of Sex Selection (New Jersey: Rowman and Al- lanheld, 1985). 530 / Judith Butler Indeed, it is the presupposition of the category of woman itself that requires a critical genealogy of the complex institutional and discursive means by which it is constituted. Although some feminist literary critics suggest that the presupposition of sexual difference is necessary for all discourse, that position reifies sexual difference as the founding moment of culture and precludes an analysis not only of how sexual difference is constituted to begin with but how it is continuously constituted, both by the masculine tradition that preempts the universal point of view, and by those feminist positions that construct the univocal category of ‘women’ in the name of expressing or, indeed, liberating a subjected class. As Foucault claimed about those humanist efforts to liberate the criminalized subject, the subject that is freed is even more deeply shackled than originally thought.18 Clearly, though, I envision the critical genealogy of gender to rely on a phenom- enological set of presuppositions, most important among them the expanded con- ception of an “act” which is both socially shared and historically constituted, and which is performative in the sense I previously described. But a critical genealogy needs to be supplemented by a politics of performative gender acts, one which both redescribes existing gender identities and offers a prescriptive view about the kind of gender reality there ought to be. The redescription needs to expose the reifications that tacitly serve as substantial gender cores or identities, and to elucidate both the act and the strategy of disavowal which at once constitute and conceal gender as we live it. The prescription is invariably more difficult, if only because we need to think a world in which acts, gestures, the visual body, the clothed body, the various physical attributes usually associated with gender, express nothing. In a sense, the prescription is not utopian, but consists in an imperative to acknowledge the existing complexity of gender which our vocabulary invariably disguises and to bring that complexity into a dramatic cultural interplay without punitive consequences. Certainly, it remains politically important to represent women, but to do that in a way that does not distort and reify the very collectivity the theory is supposed to emancipate. Feminist theory which presupposes sexual difference as the necessary and invariant theoretical point of departure clearly improves upon those humanist discourses which conflate the universal with the masculine and appropriate all of culture as masculine property. Clearly, it is necessary to reread the texts of western philosophy from the various points of view that have been excluded, not only to reveal the particular perspective and set of interests informing those ostensibly trans- parent descriptions of the real, but to offer alternative descriptions and prescriptions; indeed, to establish philosophy as a cultural practice, and to criticize its tenets from marginalized cultural locations. I have no quarrel with this procedure, and have clearly benefited from those analyses. My only concern is that sexual difference not become a reification which unwittingly preserves a binary restriction on gender identity and an implicitly heterosexual framework for the description of gender, gender identity, and sexuality. There is, in my view, nothing about femaleness that is waiting to be expressed; there is, on the other hand, a good deal about the diverse ‘”Ibid.; Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage Books, 1978). PERFORMANCE ACTS AND GENDER CONSTITUTION / 531 experiences of women that is being expressed and still needs to be expressed, but caution is needed with respect to that theoretical language, for it does not simply report a pre-linguistic experience, but constructs that experience as well as the limits of its analysis. Regardless of the pervasive character of patriarchy and the prevalence of sexual difference as an operative cultural distinction, there is nothing about a binary gender system that is given. As a corporeal field of cultural play, gender is a basically innovative affair, although it is quite clear that there are strict punishments for contesting the script by performing out of turn or through unwarranted improvisa- tions. Gender is not passively scripted on the body, and neither is it determined by nature, language, the symbolic, or the overwhelming history of patriarchy. Gender is what is put on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure, but if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive per- formances of various kinds.
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