Homosocial desire in mens talk – Keilsing

I downloaded this paper in a batch, looking for quant-linguistics on masculine talk and discourse. On skimming the abstract I was put off at the lack of corpus scope but after reading I was reminded of the importance of reference papers.

These are papers where you can scalp a whole bunch of useful info to use in your future research, even if the paper in question is of negligible use.

Kiesling, Scott Fabius. “Homosocial desire in men’s talk: Balancing and re-creating cultural discourses of masculinity.” Language in Society 34, no. 5 (2005): 695-726.

The key takeaways that I took away from this paper were the importance of cultural discourse on linguistic research and the networked nature of the performance of masculinity. The rest of the paper is good enough but is limited to how a fraternity talks and performs masculinity that negotiates the tension of vulnerability in needing social acceptance and the masculine need to be invulnerable. Spoiler alert: it’s through power performance and through marginal social transgressions.

Keilsing explains these transgressions really interestingly in this phrase;

 “intimacy is often achieved, at least in part, through the transgression of public taboos” (2003:115). Assuming that we can have a homosocial as well as a sexual intimacy, the practices (including language) in the fraternity clearly work by transgressing some public taboos: talking explicitly about sex, engaging in unsafe, dangerous, and prohibited behavior, and using taboo lexis in public situations.

Fascinating and potential for a follow up quant-linguistic piece buuuut there’s no data to back it up and from memory (and my notes) the topic of transgressions isnt mentioned again 😦

wait… that was really interesting though!!!

The importance of Foucault in linguistics

My masters was full of the joy of Foucault’s power discourse analysis and at the time I didn’t give it the time that it deserved because here it was really interesting. It set up the framework for the networked masculine (next heading) and also showed me an interesting proposal from Whitehead; gender (and all performances) is performed to be accepted by the group, who will validate and contribute to the ontological security of the performance.

This is a meta-theory to explain the group dynamics of how a group will create core performances that they will refer to when creating their own identity… or actually in ANY communication.

Networked performance of masculinities

so .. the importance of cultural discourse is that masculinity is a referral, a sampling of a shared masculine ideal that is then remixed into the individuals own identity that is then validated as ‘one of us’ because of it’s similarity.

This explains the need to exclude those who perform femininity from these social spaces as they would be seen to reflect this non-masculinity on the masculine performances and the homosocial space would collapse though the invalidation of the network of references.

… a circular network of “referenced” manhood…

Thus the use of references, connections and samples forms the basis of the performance of masculinity AND the means for men to pay others compliments through referencing their friends masculinity and re-enforcing that. In the end, all this masculinity will refer to masculine ideals that the group subscribes to, in the case of the fraternity it’s social recognition in sports or sexual pursuits but the author is clear in not specifying the traits of this masculinity in general… he does have a few potshots at Kimmel’s idea of hegemonic masculinity for codifying inherently fluxing values as universal generalizations!

Overall, it’s a good paper if you want to get your hand back into the topic of Foucaultian cultural discourses and performances, particularly in masculinity. If you’re after quant-linguistics… you’re out of luck but might benefit from opening your mind to some sociological goodness?

Next week? Hell, I’ll probably talk about the paper I’ve been writing and is in the process of peer review!


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