Deborah Cameron & Don Kulick, Language and
sexuality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Pp. xvi, 176.
Paul McIlvenny (ed.), Talking gender and sexuality.
Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2002. Pp. x, 332. Hb $106.00.
Two recent books, Language and sexuality, by Deborah Cameron
and Don Kulick, and Talking gender and sexuality (TGS), edited by
Paul McIlvenny, seek to elucidate the social construction of gender and
sexuality by combining the methods of interactive discourse analysis with
the theoretical insights of poststructuralism, feminism, and queer theory.
Guided by the basic ethnomethodological question “How are gender and
sexuality ‘done’?”, the authors of both volumes are
motivated, at least implicitly, by a political commitment to
deconstructing and opposing sexism and heteronormativity (the
ideologically enforced assumption that all people are or should be
straight). In one way or another, therefore, both books also ask,
paraphrasing McIlvenny, “By what linguistic-interactional means
might normative gender and sexual identities be
‘undone’?” Although McIlvenny's coauthors all share
his theoretical concerns at a general level, the chapters in TGS
focus primarily on the means whereby gender and sexual categories are
positively instantiated and indexed in talk; only a few
explicitly engage how these modes of categorization might be resisted or
transformed. Cameron & Kulick take their theorizing one step further,
questioning the analytical and political utility of the concept of sexual