Ethnography and the shifting semiotics of gender and sexuality

Authored by: Kira Hall , Jenny L. Davis

The Routledge Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Print publication date:  April  2021
Online publication date:  April  2021

Print ISBN: 9781138200265
eBook ISBN: 9781315514857
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter focuses on ethnography as a multi-method research approach in the study of language, gender, and sexuality. The approach is especially appropriate to the field’s understanding of gender and sexuality as intertwined social systems that are brought into being through situated discursive practice. Yet the dynamism of gender and sexuality is difficult to capture in published work. H ow can researchers write about a particular time and place in a way that acknowledges the ongoing processual nature of that particularity? The chapter illustrates how ethnography answers this question through its attention to the conceptual triad of practice, ideology, and theory. Drawing from fieldwork among groups in the United States and India associated with systems of gender outside colonial cisnormativity and heteropatriarchy, the discussion demonstrates the advantages of ethnography for assessing how gender and sexuality come to matter in the semiotic exchange of everyday life.

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