Doing gender, doing categorisation:
Recent developments in language and gender research
Elizabeth H. Stokoe
Ethnomethodology, gender and categorization
In 1967, Harold Garfinkel, the founder of ethnomethodology (EM), wrote what grew to be a groundbreaking work on the social production of gender. His writing formed the basis for a branch of feminist theorising that has been increasingly influential across the social sciences and, in particular, within post-modern and discursive understandings of gender as a performance, enactment and dynamic social construction (Butler, 1990; Kessler and McKenna, 1978; West and Zimmerman, 1987). These ideas have been explored practically by conversation analysts who examine, in the turn-by-turn sequencing of talk, the way men and women ‘do’ gender in interactional routines. As a result, conversation analysis (CA) has become a well-established method for explicating the gendered order of social life, and its usefulness and appropriateness as a feminist tool of inquiry has been closely debated (e.g. Kitzinger, 2000; McIlvenny, 2002; Speer, 1999; Stokoe, 1998; 2000; Stokoe and Smithson, 2001; 2002; Stokoe and Weatherall, 2002; Wetherell, 1998). However, it has recently been suggested that a second ethnomethodological apparatus, membership categorisation analysis (MCA, c.f. Sacks, 1992), may be more fruitful for feminist researchers wanting to explore the everyday reproduction of gender (Stokoe, 2003). To date, it has been utilised far less as one of the numerous discursive approaches that are available to feminist discourse analysts.