Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

No una boda a la Barbie: Performativity in Wedding Narratives of Same- and Mixed-Sex Couples
by Williams, Serena Alyce, Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2015, 200; 3706707
Abstract (Summary)

The basis of this investigation is the concept that identity is an emergent, or performative (Butler, 1990), process rather than a stable set of characteristics. Rituals such as weddings are moments when many, as individuals and as couples, socially construct identities through their interactions with others, and reflecting on one's wedding is also an event of intense identity construction.

This dissertation examines how language is used in the social construction of identity through the analysis of couples' wedding narratives. It is situated within the research domains of language and identity (Bucholtz & Hall, 2004) as well as language and ideologies (Fairclough, 1992; Gee, 2014). Interviews were conducted in English, Spanish, or bilingually with 12 mixed-sex couples and 3 same-sex couples (a total of 30 participants) about their weddings in order to identify how couples performed identity and how such performances are connected to beliefs and attitudes.

Understanding that processes of identity construction are at times deliberate and planned, such as when one plans a wedding, and at others spontaneous and unconscious, such as when one reflects on her wedding, the analysis focuses both on the wedding event as reported by couples as well as on the interview as an event. This event is one in which couples and the interviewer interact to produce identity dialogically (Bakhtin, 1981) through relative position and stance (Wortham, 2004) via indexical labeling, presupposition, orientation to stereotypes, conversation structure, narrative structure, and evaluation during social interaction.

This study demonstrates how, in interviews about weddings, individual semiotic acts that contribute to the construction of identity may reproduce prior acts, giving a sense of cohesion, belonging, legitimacy, and authenticity to our identities, or may add another layer to a partial picture of who we are. These acts might even contradict the identities that we have constructed in the past, showing that identity is always complex and incomplete in a given moment. The analysis concludes that social change, especially regarding gender roles and attitudes toward same-sex relationships, occurs through performativity at macro- and micro-levels as participants both aligned with and pushed the boundaries of social expectations about how weddings should be and who should be in them in order to locate themselves and others within the social order.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Menard-Warwick, Julia
Commitee: Colombi, M. Cecilia, Constable, Liz
School: University of California, Davis
Department: Linguistics
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 76/10(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Linguistics, Womens studies, Sociolinguistics
Keywords: Discourse analysis, Gender, Marriage equality, Narrative analysis, Performativity, Weddings
Publication Number: 3706707
ISBN: 978-1-321-80768-4
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