Making gender relevant: Conversation analysis and gender categories in interaction

  • Stokoe E
  • Smithson J
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In this article, we critically evaluate a conversation analytic approach to the study of the links between gender and language from a feminist perspective. In so doing, we engage in the recent series of exchanges about conversation analysis (CA) and other strands of discourse analysis that have been published in Discourse & Society. We consider talk from two sets of discourse data, focusing on participants' orientation to gender categories as they crop up in the interactions. We suggest that a CA approach produces a rich understanding of the links between discourse and gender. However, we are critical of several, often unexamined aspects and conundrums of conversation analytic methodology. First, we consider the extent to which the `analytic stances' of feminism and conversation analysis are compatible. Second, we question whether, as Schegloff (1997) suggests, it is fruitful to rely on descriptions of and orientations to gender solely in participants' terms, as well as problematizing the notion of `orienting to gender' itself. Finally, while we propose CA is a useful tool for making claims about the relevance of gender in conversational interaction, and that such claims are grounded in speakers' orientations, we suggest that culture and common-sense knowledge, of both members and analysts, are largely unacknowledged and unexplicated resources in CA.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Categories
  • Conversation analysis
  • Culture
  • Feminism
  • Gender
  • Gender orientations
  • Participants

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  • Elizabeth H. Stokoe

  • Janet Smithson

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