The Dynamic Construction of Race, Class, and Gender through Linguistic Practice among Women in a Black Appalachian Community

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Title: The Dynamic Construction of Race, Class, and Gender through Linguistic Practice among Women in a Black Appalachian Community
Author: Mallinson, Christine
Advisors: L. Richard Della Fave, Committee Chair
Abstract: This dissertation conceptualizes and analyzes the dynamic construction of race, class, and gender through linguistic practice in a way that integrates the sociological study of social organization with the study of language in its social context. I illustrate the efficacy of the approach in its application to a field study of gender, race, and class variation in language among women in the black Southern Appalachian community of Texana, North Carolina. I begin by contextualizing the setting using qualitative evidence from naturalistic observation and interviews with residents. I then move to the focus of my study: the social and linguistic habits of two groups of four women in the community. Drawing from observation and interviews, I analyze qualitative data on the groups' contemporary situations, shared memories, and ways of life. The qualitative data provides content for interpreting quantitative analyses of sociolinguistic data with regard to race, class, and gender identities. Drawing on both data sources, I show that the two groups of women exhibit distinctions based on lifestyle and presentation that divide them into discrete status groups. I thus provide evidence to show how social status is articulated with local character but rooted in the system of stratification, in ways that intersect with gender, race, and language, in everyday practice. My findings exemplify how agentive social actors use language as symbolic vehicles in daily interaction, in concert with other social practices, to constitute intersecting social structures. I draw these conclusions from within an integrative framework that incorporates three bodies of social theory: intersectionality and structuration theories from sociology and community of practice theory as it has developed within variationist sociolinguistics. In framing variationist sociolinguistics with two bodies of current social theory, I establish viable avenues for cross-disciplinary collaboration and insight.
Date: 2006-08-02
Degree: PhD
Discipline: Sociology
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/5680


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