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The Language of Hunter-Gatherers

Edited by Tom Güldemann, Patrick McConvell, Richard A. Rhodes

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The Oxford Handbook of Negation

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Construction of Identity in a Lesbian Community of Practice: A sociocultural linguistics approach Add Dissertation
Author: Lucy Jones Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Sheffield, English Language and Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Sociolinguistics; Anthropological Linguistics;
Director(s): Emma Moore

Abstract: This dissertation documents a fifteen-month ethnographic research project
in which the interactive construction of shared identity in a lesbian
community of practice (a hiking group named the Sapphic Stompers) is
examined. The women in this group vary considerably in terms of their
individual style and practice yet, upon coming together as a group, engage
in interactive tactics which combine to construct mutually-negotiated norms
of lesbian authenticity. The author engages in micro-level discourse
analysis of a range of recorded interactions between the six core members
of this group in order to identify their use of such tactics.

The women in this study mutually construct a sense of homogeneity in order
to project a group-specific, authentic persona of 'dyke', erasing and
adequating sociocultural or linguistic differences between them. The
women's shared experiences are shown to be crucial to an understanding of
this constructed authentic self. Specifically, broader norms associated
with lesbian culture relevant to the women's shared age, socioeconomic
class and political persuasion are shown to impact upon the 'dykey'
identity. The constructed nature of this authentic lesbianism is further
illustrated by interactions during which the differences between the women
are exposed, as they shift their stances in order to rework 'dyke' in line
with the emergent norms of the conversational moment. Taking this view of
identity as fluid and contextually-specific and employing an ethnographic,
discourse analytical approach allows sexuality to be interpreted as a fluid
cultural construct. As such, this thesis tests the sociocultural
linguistics framework provided by Bucholtz and Hall (2004) for the field of
language and sexuality. Furthermore, it challenges the restrictive
definition of the community of practice approach, implementing it within a
non-institutional context in order to assess its applicability in such