Gender and Language, Vol 9, No 2 (2015)

‘His belly dancer’: young women’s interactional negotiation of sexual bodies and desire at a Baptist university

Shawn Warner-Garcia
Issued Date: 5 Aug 2015


While spirituality and sexuality are often dichotomised as oppositional, they are in fact socially constructed in complex ways in everyday practice. This article investigates the ways in which a group of young women at a Baptist university in Texas interactionally negotiate the cultural construct of a ‘belly dancer’ and its perceived sexualised associations in relation to the moral codes and principles of their religious community of practice. The analysis examines the ways in which the participants take both positive and negative stances toward belly dancing through strategic ambiguity, which is the process whereby participants juxtapose seemingly incongruous elements in order to try out different identities and ideologies while maintaining a certain degree of deniability. In the four examples I analyse, I show how the participants achieve strategic ambiguity through the use of categorisation devices, interactional framing, hyperbolic parallelism, and stance alternation. Given that the participants’ Christian community of practice promotes – and to a certain extent requires – sexual integrity and modesty from its members, strategic ambiguity is a valuable interactional resource for negotiating the taboo topic of belly dancing and its perceived sexual associations.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v9i2.18356


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