Denzin, N.K. 1993. “Sexuality and Gender: An Interactionist/Poststructual Reading.”

Denzin, Norman K. 1993. “Sexuality and Gender: An Interactionist/Poststructural Reading.”  Pp. 199-221 in Theory on Gender/Feminism on Theory, edited by Paula England. New York: Walter de Gruyter.

Examines sexuality and gender through combining symbolic interactionism, post-structuralism, cultural studies


Differentiates between gender and sex – assignment of biologically determined sex class at birth, male or female (Cahill 1989) – gender becomes sociocultural meanings that are added to sex class – learned masculine and feminine behaviors. Gender as also involving sexuality, desire, being sexual < (“enacting a gendered sexual identity with another” (200))- sexuality as also socially constructed, and mapped upon the biography of the individual. Emotional codes as learned and gendered, which structure gendered expectations of work, disposition, etc. “The gendered identity is an interactional production.  It is embedded in those interactional places (home, work) that give recurring meaning to ordinary experience” (200). Sites where meaning is (re)produced, through offering Althusserian “hails” and “interpellations,” constructing concrete subjects, with gendered meanings and assumptions often guiding these calls (see also Althusser 1971, 173). However, interactions are dialectical, and connect abstract meanings to material worlds. “The sexually gendered human being in the late twentieth-century America is a social, economic, and historic construction, built up out of the patriarchal cultural myths that have been articulated in American popular culture for the last two hundred years” (201).

Gender in SI

Gender arising through interactions that work to interrelate materials, texts, meanings, and experiences. Gender as situated, accomplished (Garfinkel 1967, Denzin 1989b, West and Zimmerman 1987), and influence/are influenced by sociocultural contexts. SI guided by four basic assumptions: (1) humans act toward things/each other based upon meanings of “social objects”, (2) meanings of these objects arise from interaction, (3) meanings are interpreted and reacted on, and can change based on inter/action, (4) “everyday reality is socially constructed through the interactions that occur between self-reflective individuals in concrete situations” (203, see also Blumer 1969, 3). Interactionist historical perspectives often introduce primordially or altogether ignore gender, or take a Freudian stand on it – Goffman included.

Gender in poststructuralism

PS asks how human subjects are constructed through language and ideology, involving the deconstruction (critical analysis) of texts (“any printed, visual, oral, or auditory production that is available for reading, viewing, or hearing” (204)) which are always interactional and indeterminate.

How Si+poststructuralism aids the understanding of gender:

  • Ideology and political economy of gender
  • Textual production of gendered subjects by social scientists
  • Real world, lived gender

(kx^ this part is incredibly weak.  Though a good literature review as to how SI and poststructuralism frame gender, applications of this seem a bit scant, most likely because of page limitations.  Evidence here is not well explained, and I’m left with the question of how to appropriately combine these two theoretical camps).


Althusser, Louis. 1971. Lenin and Philosophy. New York: Monthly Review Press.

Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic Interactionism. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Cahill, Spencer E. 1989. “Fashioning Males and Females: Appearance Management and the Social Reproduction of Gender.” Symbolic Interaction 12: 281-298.

Denzinm, Norman K. 1989. Interpretative Interactionism. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Garfinkel, Harold. 1967. “Passing and the Managed Achievement of Sex Status in an Intersexed Person.” Pp. 116-185 in Studies of Ethnomethodology, edited by Harold Garfinkel. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

West, Candace and Don Zimmerman. 1987. “Doing Gender.” Gender and Society 1: 125-151.


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