Pink and Gangsta Blue - co-construction of gender in conversations

Pia Quist and Mathilde Østergaard

University of Copenhagen, Denmark


Pink and Gangsta Blue – co-construction of gender in conversations

Drawing on Butler, among others, Søndergaard (2005: 191) contends that gender is "produced, reproduced, negotiated and reshaped through all kinds of discursive practices – all of which involve humans being read and identified as belonging to a specific sex/gender category depending on (interpretations of) the signs on their bodies". In this paper we want to demonstrate how such discursive practices operate interactionally in conversations. Through an in-depth analysis of a conversation between three girls and two boys we shall show how specific gender positions are produced and reproduced relationally in the course of a conversation. We shall show that the 'reading' and 'identification' of a person's belongingness to a gender category is a continuous relational process which involves active interactional cooperation between the participants.

As Stewart Hall (1996: 4) argues, identity is "constituted within, not outside of representation, within, not outside, discourse, and constructed through, not outside, difference". Representations, discourses and differences take very concrete (material, one might say) forms in conversations where participants make themselves and each other readable through the exchange and deployment of linguistic-discursive signs. We shall demonstrate how different signs such as colours, teaming up, laughter etc. are being used actively by participants to constitute differences that can be read as gendered. These signs are deployed through relational performances where both boys and girls play their co-dependent parts. Hence, the main aim of this paper is to demonstrate how gender as a "collaborative" (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet 2003: 31) works in actual concrete interactions.

We will concentrate our analysis on one conversation which took place between five high school students in September 2002. The conversation is taken from a larger corpus of recordings from a study of linguistic variation at a multi ethnic high school in Copenhagen (Quist 2005).


Eckert, Penelope & Sally McConnell-Ginet 2003: Language and Gender. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, Stuart 1996: "Introduction: Who Needs Identity?" In Stuart Hall & Paul du Gay (Eds.) Questions of Cultural Identity. Sage: London pp. 1-19

Quist, Pia 2005: Stilistiske praksisser i storbyens heterogene skole – en etnografisk og sociolingvistisk undersøgelse af sproglig variation. PhD dissertation, University of Copenhagen.

Søndergaard, Dorthe 2005:

Session: Paper session
Gender / Discourse
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 16