Identity Categories as Action in Talk

Authored by: Ann Weatherall

The Handbook of Intergroup Communication

Print publication date:  May  2012
Online publication date:  June  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415889643
eBook ISBN: 9780203148624
Adobe ISBN: 9781136513619


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This chapter discusses Discursive Psychology (DP)—a distinctive approach to intergroup communication. DP investigates social identities as they are invoked, produced, sustained, or disavowed in talk in the service of action. DP as an approach will be illustrated in what follows largely with reference to gender and sexual identities. Much work on intergroup communication assumes that people enter into an interaction with a particular identity or set of identities, which effectively drives their conduct during an interaction. Identity is examined for the amount of quantifiable variance in some aspect of language use that it statistically accounts for (see Chapters 6, 8, 15, & 18, this volume). DP is atypical for examining how any particular identity with its associated characteristics is observably (rather than statistically) relevant and consequential for action in particular stretches of a single encounter. Referring to oneself or others in terms of a specific social category, at a certain moment, is interesting because it begs the question why that categorization and not another. Research asking that question finds particular categorizations become live as practices for managing mundane but important psychological business such as justifying, denying or blaming.

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