Masculine Identity and Identification as Ethnomethodological Phenomena

Revisiting Cameron and Kulick


  • Bethan Benwell University of Stirling



masculinity, Cameron and Kulick, identity, identification, ethnomethodology, 'gross out'


The aim of this paper is to explore possible discourse and conversation analytical approaches to articulations of masculinity in and around sites of popular culture. The research presented in this paper arises from work on the relationship between men’s magazines, constructions/discourses of masculinity and lived cultures of masculinity. My particular interest in this paper is to explore the process by which we assign gendered identities to familiar cultural discourses, and in doing so, to engage critically with the ideas of Cameron and Kulick (2003; 2005) who have postulated a distinction between ‘identity’ and ‘identification’ as a means of reconceiving the relationship between discourse and sexuality. By adopting an ethnomethodological approach to conversational data, I will argue that it is possible to demonstrate how gendered identities - both the explicit alignments and claim-staking of ‘identity’ work, as well as the more ambivalent, shifting and contradictory footings that could be thought to characterise ‘identification’ - are available for analysis on the surface of talk. In a final analysis, I move beyond strict ethnomethodological principles in order to extend this consideration of ‘identity’ and ‘identification’ to a particular popular discourse - that of ‘gross out’ - whose intuitive labelling as masculine can be traced and supported by the forms and contexts of the various intertexts within which it occurs.

Author Biography

Bethan Benwell, University of Stirling

Bethan Benwell is Senior Lecturer in English Language and Linguistics at the University of Stirling with a long interest in the relationship between gender and discourse. She has published chapters and articles on discourses and representations of masculinity in popular culture, discursive and ethnomethodological approaches to reading and reception (including a focus on male readers of men’s magazines), and (with Elizabeth Stokoe) on tutorial discourse and student identity. She is the editor of Masculinity and Men's Lifestyle Magazines (2003, Blackwell) and co-author (with Stokoe) of Discourse and Identity (2006, EUP), which was shortlisted for the BAAL bookprize in 2007. She was co-investigator (with Kay, Procter and Robinson) on an AHRC-funded project (2007-2010) examining the relationship between readers, location and diaspora literature: from which an edited collection, Postcolonial Audiences: Readers, Viewers and Reception (Routledge 2011), a Special Issue of New Formations (2011), and a monograph, The Odyssean Reader, co-authored with Procter, are forthcoming.


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How to Cite

Benwell, B. (2011). Masculine Identity and Identification as Ethnomethodological Phenomena: Revisiting Cameron and Kulick. Gender and Language, 5(2), 187–211.