Gender Talk: Feminism, Discourse and Conversation Analysis

Speer, Susan A.
Routledge, London
041524644x (hb), 0415246431 (pb)

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Cover of book This book is published as part of the 'cutting edge' Women and Psychology series edited by Jane Ussher. Speer's book easily achieves the run's ambition by tackling three aims which collectively seek to reenergise the field of gender and language research and suggest new directions for advancing the field. Speer skilfully guides the reader through the concepts and themes that lie at the crossroads of feminism, discourse analysis (DA) and conversation analysis (CA) mapping significant relationships between them. Secondly Speer engages with current debates in the field of language and gender by detailing the distinctive feminist approach she has developed in her own research and how it relates to and challenges other perspectives on gender and language. Lastly she demonstrates how the benefits of this fine-grained data driven methodological approach that draws on the sociological perspective of CA and the psychological perspective of discursive psychology (DP) can be combined to rethink the relationship between the agency structure debate and the abstract theoretical framework upon which such distinctions rest.

Currently lecturing at the University of Manchester and principle investigator researching transsexual identities as part of the ESRC Social Identities and Social Action Research Programme, Speer capitalises on her academic experience of sociology and social psychology to connect not only with her research interests but with her social science readership. Gender Talk is written for feminist social scientists, critical psychologists and lesbian and gay psychologists and their advanced students, but I believe will appeal to a wider audience.

Gender Talk is readable comprising seven chapters. In the introduction Speer provides a comprehensible critical appraisal of the research on gender and language in which she situates her own distinctive analytical approach. Speer's framework employs insights from both CA and DP that is characterised by five key features which serve as the book's organising framework for developing and presenting the argument and evaluating the array of other perspectives. Subsequent chapters provide an overview of established feminist research including: sex differences in language; conversation and interruption; reformulating context; power and asymmetry; gender identity categories; masculinity and femininity.

Well written and presented throughout, there is a useful addition of a postscript on the future of feminist CA and methodological issues, plus an appendix on transcription conventions. Data examples from a variety of sources add life to Speer's line of reasoning. Headings at key points and summaries of the argument at the beginning and end of each chapter add further precision. The high academic quality of this book makes it suitable for senior undergraduate as well as postgraduate students in several social science disciplines. The result is a thorough appraisal of the field of gender and language, a stimulating fusion of discursive and conversational analytic methodologies and some suggestions for developing and extending the field. This excellent book is good value for money, will be of interest to scholars from numerous social science disciplines and all sociology and psychology libraries should purchase it

Kim Clarke
King's College London