Gender and Language, Vol 5, No 2 (2011)

The interactional construction of desire as gender

Scott Kiesling
Issued Date: 20 Dec 2011


Recently there have been spirited debates about the role of desire in the study of language, gender and sexuality – debates largely centred around the publication of Cameron and Kulick’s (2003) volume, Language and Sexuality. In the present paper, I address two important questions arising from this debate: defining evidence of desire in interaction, and the relationship of this ‘interactional desire’ to gender and masculinities more specifically. First, I argue for a definition of desire that goes beyond sexual desire, in a direction indicated by Cameron and Kulick; following Whitehead (2002:205-221), I suggest that another kind of desire that we should think about (in addition to interpersonal desire) is ontological desire -- essentially the desire to have or emulate qualities of a particular identity. Second, I use the notion of alignment to discover interactants ‘doing’ desire of different types in interaction. Finally, I argue that these alignments and how they are accomplished are not a separate part of masculine (and other gender) constructions of performances, but are at the centre of such identities. I use three excerpts, selected for their likelihood to have desire as an issue in the speech event, to illustrate these points.

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DOI: 10.1558/genl.v5i2.213


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