“Typical guy response”: Categorial reference and the construction of gendered contexts in talk-in-interaction

Elizabeth Stokoe

Loughborough University, UK

WS149: CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges

This paper considers the problem of analysing the purported relevancies of “wider social contexts” in everyday social interaction. However, rather than focusing on the debate about such contexts between conversation analysts and sociolinguists or critical discourse analysts, it examines the way speakers may orient to “wider social contexts” in the very details of their talk. Drawing on a large corpus of conversations recorded in everyday and institutional settings, including domestic telephone calls, radio programmes, neighbour dispute helplines and police interrogations, I show how “contexts” and “structures” are analyzable in terms of what speakers and recipients do with categorial formulations (e.g., “you know what women are like”, “that’s men for you”) as they progress through courses of action. In particular, I show how participants invoke and realize gendered contextual knowledge (what some call “discourses”, “narratives”, etc.) as a resource for accomplishing social actions such as narrating, complaining, accounting, denying, or affiliating. For example, consider the following fragment, taken from a British radio programme about erectile dysfunction in men. The interviewer (I) is talking to a consultant pharmacist (P) who has been trialling the prescription of Viagra in a high-street chemist.

BBC R4 ‘Case Notes’ 09-07

1 I: What sort’v people (.) have been co:ming

2 t’you.

3 (0.2)

4 P: .hh we’ve had a: wi:de variety of ?gentlemen

5 coming to see us:. to access the Viagra

6 thro:ugh our programme .hh a lot of men when

7 we ta:lk to them have said I’ve been meaning

8 to do something about this for a:ges an’ I’ve

9 just never got round to it, (0.2) ?typical

10 guy response.=re(h)ally y’know.=.hh an’

11 eventually they think w’ll I really do need

12 to do something about it now.=it’s not going

13 away. .hh and once they’ve sat down had a

14 chat they feel jus’ s::o much better they’ve

15 actually ta:lked about the problem .hh […]

Analysis of this and other data will demonstrate the following observations: (i) Participants’ practices of person reference and categorization built within and across turns (e.g., here, “people” ? “gentlemen” ? “men” ? “guy”), may build gendered contexts out of non-gendered contexts. (ii) Speakers move between the practices of description and categorization, building membership categories and their category-bound features in situ. (iii) When a categorial formulation co-occurs with lexical items such as “y’know”, as we see in the above extract, the resultant phrases take on an idiomatic quality (“that’s young lads for you isn’t it?”). Such phrases are the building blocks of intersubjectivity, producing recipients as “knowing in common” a category’s features, or the “wider social contexts” that may be relevant. These categorial formulations are foundational to the smooth progress of activities under way. (iv) “Gendered contexts” are therefore built in participants’ methodic deployment of gender categories, as part of the ongoing maintenance of a commonly shared, objectively existing world.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 05