You Da Man – Mucholtz

Why and how is black masculinity replicated by white boys in a mixed race US high school? The answer may only be regarding one boy, in one racially charged situation but it does offer some pointers on how masculinity is represented in linguistics.

Bucholtz, M. (1999). You da man: Narrating the racial other in the production of white masculinity. Journal of sociolinguistics, 3(4), 443-460.

it’s not anecdotal if it’s peer reviewed

I’ll admit that I started this paper just to get some context on what sociolinguistics has to offer and boy did it deliver, both in opportunities and in learning points. The paper delivered strongly in terms of context. I was fascinated to learn that what I was doing in my dissertation was already being pioneered by people back in 1999. Mucholtz wrote ” social categories once thought to be fixed and unproblematic are in fact constructed through linguistic practices”, a quote that I would have loved to integrate with the potential of identity and gender construction online.

Furthermore, Mucholtz elaborates on how masculinity can be split and dynamic in its creation, construction and reaction to other rising masculinities. A key quote regarding this is mentioning how hegemonic masculinity “creatively responds to dominant ideologies rather than mechanically reflecting them”. Unfortunately, this would be difficult to formulate as a hypothesis prior to engaging with a corpus. I think that the methodology would run along the lines of identifying a social trend that falls outside of traditional masculinity, say a Twitter trending hashtag, monitor the general responses to it as a baseline and then apply traditional masculinity n-grams, keyword frequency and so on to test whether men are changing their masculinity to fit with a social trend. Furthermore, we could use these changes and look for them in wider Twitter interactions to seek for other situations where they have been used and see if they link back to the performance of masculinity… maybe?

According to Google, this is how to make a tongue click!

African American masculinity is core to Mucholtz thesis and thus there’s a fair quantity of evidence that they provide that elaborates the signifiers of performing AAVE. Terminology such as “this dude”, tongue clicks, suffixing “-ass” to strengthen statements and “hella” are keywords that are identified. Interestingly there is no comparison to white linguistics as a comparison in terms of their usage. This was a shame as so much of the paper regards the interaction/appropriation of AAVE by white middle-class boys. Perhaps taking transcripts of classes interactions/social clubs at the same school could have backed up the trends that Mucholtz mentions. Eh, for an interview with one child regarding one racially charged incident, claimed to be an ethnography, I’m not surprised that there’s no counterfactual comparison to re-enforce their conclusions.

These conclusions were that their study aligned and re-enforced a study by Wetherall and Edley in 1997 that found boys in a school were rejecting or creating masculinities in opposition to the physical masculinity of the dominant masculinity (rugby boys). I’m taking the opportunity to learn about how sociolinguistics can be performed, how keywords can be justified through semi-plausible means. Joking aside, I’ve learnt from this paper how to identify a group’s dialect, identify it in speech, note it’s interactions with other social groupings and how to put these findings into a wider context. I accessed this paper here (and it’s free!!) so you’ve no excuses not to peer-review my review… or something!

Next up could either be the keyword work I mentioned last week, a blog about how I’m applying this paper on a racially diverse corpus to identify the conclusions that Mucholtz identifies or it could be a review of another sociolinguistic paper on gender!


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