The interactional organization of the gender attribution process

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    This article illustrates some interactional properties of the 'gender attribution process' - that is, the methodical procedures through which members come to identify others as male or female (Kessler and McKenna, 1978). Drawing on data from interviews and group discussions where respondents were asked to comment on a series of pictures containing gendered images, I explore instances where members have trouble identifying the gender of the person in the picture. I analyse the procedures through which they manage that trouble, and collectively assign a coherent gender identity to the person in the image - thus re-establishing what Garfinkel (1967) has termed the 'natural attitude' toward 'normally sexed persons'. Although, in most instances, an 'uncertain' or 'incorrect' gender attribution is treated as an accountable phenomenon which requires identity work on the part of the speaker, in some cases, members' displayed 'doubt' or failure to attribute, itself becomes an interactional resource, used as a relatively 'safe' form of negative identity attribution. Copyright © 2005 BSA Publications Ltd®.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)67-87
    Number of pages20
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2005


    • Conversation analysis
    • Ethnomethodology
    • Gender attribution
    • Gender identity
    • Natural attitude


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