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Critique Essay Law/Legal Nonfiction Social Sciences Theory

Talking gender: How (con)text shapes gender – The discursive positioning of transgender people in prison, work and private settings

By Alexander Hochdorn,Vicente P. Faleiros, Brigido V. Camargo & Paolo F. Cottone, 2016

The present study aims to shed light on how trans people discursively reproduce gendered habitus with regard to semantic means, following from the masculine or feminine designation in Roman languages. For this purpose, 11 interviews were conducted with trans women in prison, work, and private settings in Italy. In addition, three trans people who preferred not to be interviewed shared their diaries. By critically investigating the collected data, the discursive, relational, and symbolic processes, which define the (con)textual structure of gender, were accessed, and the quali-quantitative ALCESTE software was adopted for lexicometric analysis. The results show that the sexualized, dualistic coordinates of the Italian language, on one hand, promote an outward identity conforming to a heteronormative representation of gender, whereas interactions within the private sphere, on the other hand, empower trans people’s agency in claiming a peculiar and authentic sense of self. Trans people actually are talking and, consequently, doing gender through the gendered semantics of Italian in everyday life and are undoing gender through the emotional bonds in intimate situations. Coping strategies, based on positive affectivity, should be implemented therefore in all social, institutional, and clinical policies that are devoted to promoting assistance and support for trans people who suffer stigmatization, marginalization, and physical and institutional violence. KEYWORDS: Linguistic practices, prison, symbolic power, transgender, work

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