Volume 8, No. 2, Art. 10 – May 2007

Foucault, Bakhtin, Ethnomethodology: Accounting for Hybridity in Talk-in-Interaction

Shirley Anne Tate

Abstract: Theorising hybridity within Postcolonial Studies is often done at a level which seems to exclude the everyday with the exception of its relevance for the cultural productions of migrants and dominant culture's "eating the other". This article uses the exploration of hybridity as an everyday interactional achievement within Black "mixed race" British women's conversations on identity to look at the production of an analytic method as process based on the task of the analyst as translator. This method as process thinks the links between FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN in the emergence of an ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis (eda) which is called on to make sense of a hybridity of the everyday where Black women reflexively translate discourses on identity positions in order to construct their own identifications in conversations. FOUCAULT's discourses and BAKHTIN's heteroglossia and addressivity allow us to theorise this movement in the talk which ethnomethodological transcription and theory enables us to first pinpoint occurring. The article begins by looking at first, how hybridity as identification emerges in talk-in-interaction through both speaker and analyst translations. Having established this, it then goes on to look at the theoretical convergences and divergences between FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN on the subject, identity and discourses in the eda enterprise. Looking at data through the lens of eda means that we must be aware of the subject positions which speakers identify as having the effect of constraining or facilitating particular actions and experiences and there is always the possibility for challenge to subjectification

Key words: third space, dialogism, reflexivity, discourse, translation, ethnomethods, addressivity, hybridity, heteroglossía

Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Method as Process—Talk, Hybridity, Translation

3. Blurring the Line Between Theory and Story

4. Discourses, Translation as Reflexivity and Dialogism in Talk on Identification

5. FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN—"Race", Discourses and Dialogics

6. FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN: Ethnomethodology, Discourse Analysis and the Membership Category "Black Woman"

7. Conclusion







1. Introduction

The third space of hybridity for Homi BHABHA (1990, p.211) is not an identity but rather an identification, "a process of identifying with and through another object, an object of otherness". This description of hybridity and others (for example, IFEKWUNIGWE, 19991); YOUNG, 19952)) have been articulated without reference to how real-time phenomena are oriented to in the production of hybrid identifications. In the wider research from which I draw I use examples of what I call a hybridity-of-the-everyday contained in extracts of talk3) from Black4) "mixed race" women who "speak back" to their positioning within Blackness/Whiteness/ambiguity, to explicate my own point of view that hybridity is about the ongoing assemblage of identifications in talk (TATE, 2000a, 2000b, 2005). This assemblage in terms of the data occurs within the context of discourses of Black womanhood on "community", "race" and "culture" in which otherness haunts the possibility of identification as in the following extract:

Tape 1 Side A LF: 54

L To me a:hm (.6) especi:ally elderly whi:te pe:ople o:h you (.4) first they'll ask what you are=

Sh =Mhm (1.0)

L So the me:re fact that they a:sk you what you are means that they can see that you're [different] that you're not li:ke them=

Sh =[ Yeah yeah that's true ]

L [((.hhh .hhh .hhh)) ] And then when you say I'm Bla:ck (.4)

Sh Yeah (.8)

L But you kno:w (.) what I've said is I've got a whi:te parent and a Bla:ck parent but I'm Bla:ck then they'll say well you're not Bla:ck re:ally (.6) then I'll say but I am that is how I see myself (.) as Black.5) [1]

In the example Laura shares the problems that she has in being seen to be Black because her skin marks her as "mixed race", as other than her identification.6) She illustrates the interaction of identity positions in the space of talk. In her first turn she shows us that because of her skin, what she is, is often questioned because she is "not quite white". This "not quite white" is what the elderly white people she is speaking about want to keep in place so that she will be meaningful to them as a "mixed race" woman. After Sharon's "Mhm" and a pause, Laura reflexively translates the relevance of her experience in terms of being marked as different from Whiteness irrespective of having a white mother. Sharon agrees with her, she laughs in overlap with the agreement and then begins talk that disavows the place of ambiguity in which she has been placed. Within this disavowal she repositions herself in terms of her identification as she claims Blackness, explains her heritage and then claims Blackness again. Her talk then continues based on even her claim not being seen to be enough as the elderly white people she is speaking about still say "well you're not Black really". To which her reply is "but I am that is how I see myself as Black". Seeing oneself as Black implies a psychic commitment to a politics of Blackness which remains in place even in the face of challenge. The conversation is characterised by a diversity of voices in dialogue. That is, there is a layering (GÜNTHNER, 1998) of different "voices as speakers" in the talk, in reported speech and in translation, where the speaker's voice critiques and undermines the talk of others. The movement between voices in the extract illustrates Laura reflexively positioning herself in dialogue with another. Further, the talk shows the interaction of discursive positioning, translation as reflexivity and repositioning in talk where an-other Black identity position emerges. This is my understanding of how a hybridity of the everyday arises and shows particular orientations to the connections between theory and method when talk-in-interaction is used as data. [2]

In the extract we see that, identifications arise in the telling of life stories, "race" continues to be a presence in Black identifications and hybridity is a part of the texture of talk-in-interaction. Conversations such as this one introduce the voices of Black women in my exploration of hybridity as a negotiation of identity positions in talk. In this negotiation women perform the identity of different- from- but- the- same- as- Black in opposition to being positioned by discourses of Blackness as not Black but "not-quite-white". I made these observations after listening to and transcribing audio-taped conversations like Laura's, between groups of friends, colleagues and family members about their life experiences. In what follows I will chart some of the convergences and tensions between FOUCAULT, BAKTHIN, ethnomethodology and discourse analysis that I negotiated in trying to make sense of a hybridity of the everyday within conversations and set out the theoretical challenges in the development of an ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis. I will first move to looking at method as process in talk-in-interaction before focusing on how theory helps to think method and vice versa. [3]

2. Method as Process—Talk, Hybridity, Translation

"Why use talk as data?" This is an important question. For Homi BHABHA (1983), the question of enunciation is an important one because of the agonistic constitution of the subject in colonial discourse (YOUNG, 1995). If we relate this to everyday talk then as for Judith BUTLER (2004, p.173) we can see that:

"If saying is a form of doing, and part of what is getting done is the self, then conversation is a mode of doing something together and becoming otherwise; something will be accomplished in the course of this exchange, but no one will know what or who is being made until it is done". [4]

Extending these observations to discourses of/on identity makes it possible to see the agonistic negotiation of identity positions in talk-in-interaction as speakers reproduce positional identities in terms of "relations of hierarchy, distance or perhaps affiliation" (HOLLAND, LACHICOTTE, SKINNER & CAIN, 1998, p.128). The term "talk-in-interaction" was coined by SCHEGLOFF and used over a number of writings (BODEN, 1994, p.236). SACKS, SCHEGLOFF and JEFFERSON isolated and analysed a turn-taking model, "a very general yet specific system for handling turns, topics, and speakers in the most pervasive of all social activities: talk. Although the original work led to the name conversation analysis, it is clear that what is at stake is talk-in-interaction" and this can be everyday and institutional (BODEN, 1994, p.73). [5]

These ideas formed the basis for looking at hybridity as an everyday interactional phenomenon and meant that I had to use different theoretical approaches to make sense of the talk. Different approaches have varying perspectives on power, agency, structure and identity. However, what I gained from them in terms of understanding hybridity as a process in talk was for me more important than these differences. Therefore I did not try to reconcile these theories, but used them to facilitate data analysis. The approach to analysis is based on using what I came to call an ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis (eda). eda uses conversations as data and shifts the focus from hybridity as fusion/raceless chaos to hybridity as a process of identificatory movement in talk facilitated by the translation of identification discourses. The "third space" of hybridity does not occur in some nebulous zone but within talk itself. [6]

The literary critic Homi BHABHA (1990, p.211) places translation very centrally within "The Third Space" of hybridity as:

"the act of cultural translation [...] denies the essentialism of a prior given original or originary culture [...] hybridity is to me the 'third space' which enables other positions to emerge [...] the importance of hybridity is that it bears the traces of those feelings and practices which inform it, just like a translation so that hybridity puts together the traces of certain other meanings or discourses". [7]

In BHABHA's view translation carries the traces of other meanings and discourses as is the case for hybridity. My reading of this is that translation underlies hybridity itself and is vital for the emergence of other identifications which, although different, still bear the traces of identification discourses in order to be meaningful. In my exploration of hybridity women translate the cultural meanings and discourses of their racialised skin and use these as the basis for identity positionings. For Laura in the above extract as for others, Blackness means that skin is "a site and a primary means of communicating with others, of establishing signifying relations; it is moreover an 'inscribing surface' for the marks of those others" (ANZIEU, 1989, p.40). Discourses of racialised skin mean that hybrid identificatory practices cannot be free-floating as they are bounded by the essentialisms of "race", by "the facts of Blackness". These "facts" mean for Laura that she could not be seen as white or as Black by her interlocutors and even when she herself identified as Black this is open to question. [8]

I have spoken above about the translations in which speakers engage but what about my own engagement in the process of translation from tape-to-transcript-to-analysis-theorising? I did not approach the talk with a particular question about hybridity, as I was trying to "let the talk speak to me". As I listened to the tapes I was trying to engage in "unmotivated looking" (HUTCHBY & WOOFFITT, 1998, p.94). My initial approach to the talk was to transcribe it in detail using the conventions of conversation analysis. I then looked at these transcripts and listened to the tapes in order to draw out themes that were emerging. These themes helped to generate collections of sequences of talk in which Black identity was being constructed through the use of discourses of Blackness. Such discourses in the talk positioned speakers and those being spoken about socially, politically and "racially" as "the same" or "the different"7) in terms of Blackness. For example, Laura speaks about being positioned as not white or Black by elderly white people before she then goes on to position herself as Black identified. Once I noticed this basic pattern of discourses of positioning, I began to look for instances of what I call a hybridity of the everyday in the sequential organisation of the talk. I did this because it is a given in conversation analysis that analysing patterns in the sequential organisation of the talk "enables the analyst to make robust claims about the 'strategic' uses of conversational sequences: the ways in which culturally available resources may be methodically used to accomplish mutually recognizable interactional tasks" (HUTCHBY & WOOFFITT, 1998, p.93). [9]

For example, in the extract Laura was positioned as not Black because of her white mother but she re-positioned herself as a Black woman irrespective of her heritage. She was able to do this because she translated the meaning of an encounter for her identification through critique of impermeable identity positions. In her account the identity discourses of white and Black could be described as hegemonic as they position speakers through their binary logic. In the same conversation though, she produces an-other discourse of "mixed race" Blackness that seeks to subvert these binaries and create a new positioning—"what I've said is I've got a white parent and a Black parent but I'm Black then they'll say well you're not Black really then I'll say but I am that is how I see myself as Black". Through such translation she re-positions herself within Blackness and outside of the space of ambiguity in which she had been placed. [10]

BHABHA's (1990, 1996) view that hybridity is about a space of negotiation of discourses made sense in terms of Laura's extract and other conversations. As a result, I started to look at the data for sequences in which positioning and re-positioning occurred. What I have come to call an ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis began to emerge through my own translations from data to theory and back again. eda entailed transcribing the data in detail using a conversation analytic transcription; locating the subject positionings which were being talked into being; looking at the sequential organisation of subject positioning and re-positioning; and, naming the process which facilitates this movement in talk. That is, I noticed the contradiction, construction and practice (PARKER, 1999, p.6) in which a hybridity of the everyday emerged through speakers' engagement in:

My engagements with theory and data make clear that as a translator I myself am engaged in blurring the line between theory and story. [12]

3. Blurring the Line Between Theory and Story

Whether data are called stories, narratives or autobiographies, we can use the assembly of life episodes to show how individuals see themselves and place their understanding of social life (BIRCH, 1998). As Black women perform identifications through their stories, they create texts that are selective representations of experience. These texts cannot be interpreted without reference to power/knowledge discourses of, for example, "race", class, gender, sexuality and ability. Like FOUCAULT (1994, p.262), it is necessary to:

"deal with practices, institutions and theories on the same plane […] and […] look for the underlying knowledge [savoir] that makes them possible, the stratum of knowledge that constitutes them [...] to formulate an analysis from the position of what one could call the 'theoretico-active'". [13]

Stories are interpretative, but also require interpretation and in these acts of interpretation, speakers produce theory in SCHUTZ's (1967) sense, of knowledge found in the thinking of people in everyday life. [14]

As I look for these speaker produced theories, a focus on both process and content in talk is important because for Michel FOUCAULT (1994, p.262; my emphases):

"All these practices, then, these institutions and theories, I take at the level of traces, that is, almost always at the level of the verbal traces. The ensemble of these traces constitutes a sort of domain considered to be homogeneous: one doesn't establish any differences a priori. The problem is to find common traits between these traces of orders different enough to constitute [...] the invariants common to a certain number of traces ". [15]

In conversation speakers show us that the construction of identifications at the level of verbal traces has a sequential and interactional basis as identities are results of the identification work in which speakers engage (BODEN, 1994; WIDDICOMBE & WOFFITT, 1995; SEBBA & TATE, 2002; TATE, 2003). An account of a hybridity of the everyday must look at both the turn-by-turn detail of talk-in-interaction and the use of discourses in order to account for hybridity as a process in talk-in-interaction. This meant that I had to link FOUCAULT, BAKHTIN, ethnomethodology and discourse analysis. [16]

In linking FOUCAULT, BAKHTIN, ethnomethodology and discourse analysis, I am not interested in "discover[ing] indisputable facts about a single social reality" (MILLER, 1997, p.25). Rather I am interested in setting up a dialogical relationship between theoretical perspectives on the subject and methodological strategies. I blur the line between theory and story in order to understand hybridity as a trace in identity talk. How do discourses, translation and dialogism contribute to looking at a hybridity of the everyday? [17]

4. Discourses, Translation as Reflexivity and Dialogism in Talk on Identification

In analyses we have to be mindful of what speakers do with their talk and the discursive resources they draw on. This for me entails an ethnomethodological preoccupation with constructing Blackness in interaction. Looking at discursive resources means that we explore "the role of discourse in the construction of objects and subjects, including the 'self"', in terms of whether they constrain or facilitate particular subject positions (WILLIG, 1999, pp.2-3). Translation as reflexivity is my conceptual tool for analysing speaker negotiations of the identity positionings and re-positionings through which hybridity is accomplished. Translation is the critique involved in the deconstruction, reconstruction and application of discourses by speakers. Reflexivity refers to how talk about social realities both describe and constitute them (GARFINKEL, 1967). This view of reflexivity as both describing and constituting realities is similar to Mikhail BAKHTIN's (1986) idea that our world is informed through others (HOLLAND et al, 1998). Identity as it is spoken is dialogical at moments of expression, listening and speaking. In BAKHTIN's (1986) terms because the self is the nexus of a flow of activity in which it also participates, it cannot be finalised. [18]

Identities are reflexive and dialogical as the view of others is necessary for "authoring the self". The self authors itself and is made knowable in the words of others. If to be perceptible to others we cast ourselves in terms of "the other', then we do that by seeing ourselves from the outside. That is we assume a position of transgredience9) or outsideness (HOLLAND et al, 1998, pp.173-174). This outsideness in my view relates to both translating the gaze of dominant discourses as Laura does when she is made ambiguous and constructing new identifications. As speakers produce outsideness in talk, translation as reflexivity can be seen to be dialogical critique where the meaning of verbal interaction depends upon the organisation of actions and interactions in time and space. This links in to conversation analysis because interaction is produced and translated as "responsive to the immediate, local contingencies of interaction" (POMERANTZ & FEHR, 1997, p.69). The contributions of speakers are understood in relation to the previous turn at talk, such that each contribution provides a new context for the next contribution (POMERANTZ & FEHR, 1997). Conversation analysis is then an analysis of dialogism in action. [19]

The juxtaposition of multiple plots and voices of identification as the "same"/"other" arrayed across time and space leads to a questioning of the notion of a unified self that narrates itself. Further, BAKHTIN's theory of the transgredience of identity challenges the concept of the interiority of selfhood by reinterpreting "boundary" (de PEUTER, 1998, p.38). Boundary ceases to be exclusive of otherness and becomes, instead, a site of the dialogical definition of the self. Identity becomes a dialogue on the boundary of same and other, a continuing dialogue between real or imagined interlocutors in which "the voices of others are equal partners in self-dialogues" (de PEUTER, 1998, p.38) within lived experience. This means that "the dialogical-narrative self is not a fixed text, but is a multitude of situated dialogic reinterpretations, reordered with each telling and hearing in changing social contexts" (de PEUTER, 1998, p.45). [20]

Through the interaction of voices in Black women's talk what we see is the "liminal self: the self on the border of identity and difference" (de PEUTER, 1998, p.45). A hybridity of the everyday emerges in talk as a discursive re-versioning of Black identities. Such dynamic interaction with discourses fits into my point of view that Black identities are texts of social practice (TATE, 2005). Following SCHUTZ (1967), these texts are "social" because they are "other-oriented' and intend the other as a conscious intelligent being, who can be affected to produce a response which is oriented back to the self (CROSSLEY, 1996, p.79). Identity is produced through and reflexively embedded in language use and it is in looking at how experience is described and oriented to that we might glimpse how speakers make identifications. [21]

Meaning is an important part of this production and reproduction of identifications. In speaking of meaning I do not want to focus on the mind "but rather [on] interaction, or social groups, or societal structures" (VAN DIJK, 1997a, p.9). This is so as there is no authentic subject whose identity is independent of, or prior to, culture.10) Black identities are clearly texts of social practice (TATE, 2005) which means that we have to think discursively as, "the notion of social practice usually implies a broader dimension of discourse than [the] various acts accomplished by language users in interpersonal interaction" (VAN DIJK, 1997b, p.5). In other words, we must engage in thinking about the interaction of discourses and dialogics in talk on identification. [22]

5. FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN—"Race", Discourses and Dialogics

For Mikhail BAKHTIN (1981) language is not a system of abstract grammatical categories but a world that is ideologically saturated. "Thus a unitary language gives expression to forces working towards [...] ideological centralization which develop in vital connection with the processes of sociopolitical and cultural centralization" (BAKHTIN, 1981, p.271). Heteroglossia is a way of conceiving the world as constituted by a multiplicity of languages each with its own distinct formal markers (HOLQUIST, 1991, p.69). The subject is surrounded by a myriad of responses, each of which must be framed in a specific discourse chosen from this available multiplicity. Heteroglossia reflects BAKHTIN's preoccupation with the multiple voicedness of human experience. However, his "dialogism is primarily oriented to the canonical spheres of 'verbal' art and this prevented BAKHTIN from theorising heteroglossia as a general paradigm for all social and cultural formations" (SANDYWELL, 1998, p.209). In HOLQUIST's (1991, p.70) view the concept of heteroglossia "comes as close as possible to conceptualizing a locus where the great centripetal and centrifugal forces that shape discourse can meaningfully come together". The space between centripetal and centrifugal forces therefore represents a "third space" within BAKHTIN in which heteroglossia allows for agency in the construction of Black women's identities in talk-in-interaction. [23]

BAKHTIN's unitary language as opposed to the possibility of heteroglossia is reminiscent of FOUCAULT's notion that in any era alongside subjugated knowledges there is a deep-seated set of discursive regularities which determine what it is possible to see, think and experience. At the level of language there is also a connection between FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN in terms of "the word". For BAKHTIN, "the word" in living conversation is oriented towards an answer word and forms itself within the time and space of the already spoken and the as yet unsaid11). "The word in language is half someone else's" (BAKHTIN, 1981, p.293). Indeed, "all words have the "taste" of a profession, a genre, a tendency, a party, an age group, the day and hour" (BAKHTIN, 1981, p.280). Heteroglossia disrupts the centripetal forces and allows the emergence of a hybridity of the everyday in terms of the development of agency through talk. Methodologically what this means is that it "is possible to give a concrete and detailed analysis of any utterance, once having exposed it as a contradiction ridden, tension filled unity of two embattled tendencies [...]" (BAKHTIN, 1981, p.272)12). [24]

The two embattled tendencies in Laura's talk on identification are "race" discourses on Whiteness and Blackness as immutable and her Black antiracist derived discourses on Blackness as not only being about heritage but also about political identification. "Race" is socially constructed13) but nonetheless "knowledge" about how racialised skin marks out the boundaries of Whiteness and Blackness abound and is powerfully salient in people's lives within societies structured by "racial" domination (OMI & WINANT, 1986; GILROY, 2000; GOLDBERG, 2002; FRANKENBERG, 1993). As Laura's talk makes clear "race" power/knowledge still attempts to produce the truth about subjects through the "what are you question" and the "you're not really Black negation" in order to stabilise the norm of who is Black/white and who is not. Frantz FANON's (1986) "Black Skin, White Masks" makes clear that in the colonial system of power/knowledge sustained by "the look" from the place of the Other, the bodily schema is culturally and historically shaped (HALL, 1996b). However, FANON also reminds us of the possibility for dis-identification with essentialist images (FANON, 1986, p.136) that facilitates the emergence of difference through a call to racialising bodily schema, as Laura does when she says that she has a white mother but she sees herself as Black. This fixing of the same and the emergence of difference within the same occurs through a "speaking back" to dominant "race" discourses. Laura's "speaking back" is enabled by a translation of identification discourses in the space of postcolonial Britain. [25]

Although BAKHTIN operates in abstraction from the institutional sites in which the complex relations of discourse and power are negotiated (PECHEY, 1989, p.52), we can draw parallels between his thoughts on "the word" and FOUCAULT's discourses. This is so as "in any period, it is only possible to speak a few things, […] because the rarefaction14) of discourse is crucially linked to the reproduction of relations of social domination through the control of meaning" (MCNAY, 1996, p.75). Discourses and meanings are the sites of struggle as hegemonic social relations attempt to fix meanings. The construction of "racial" identity through the stereotype or through "race", as in the example, demonstrates this attempt to fix meanings. To resist hegemonic meaning entails the disruption of naturalised forms of discourse and power as productive. BAKHTIN's heteroglossia shows us the possibility for such a disruption. This possibility is also hinted at by FOUCAULT (1991) when he asserts that it is possible to struggle against domination as individuals can resist the grip of power because power has many points of confrontation/instability and temporary inversions of power relations are always possible. [26]

Although BAKHTIN's heteroglossia contains the possibility for struggle, FOUCAULT's assertion of the anteriority of discourse forecloses this as "power is transferred from the realm of the non-discursive into a formal principle of discursive regulation" (MCNAY, 1996, p.74). Such discursive regulation means "discursive subject positions become a priori categories which individuals seem to occupy in an unproblematic fashion" (MCNAY, 1996, p.77). As was said earlier FOUCAULT does allow for resistance from below but "archaeology brackets off a consideration of how ideology and meaning is mobilised to maintain asymmetrical social relations through the suturing of dissonant subject positions and the effacement of contradiction" (MCNAY, 1996, p.77). [27]

Post-colonial and feminist theorists praise the post-structuralist dissolution of the subject (MCNAY, 1996, p.79). However, for these theorists the stress on the fragmentation of the subject denies groups excluded from mainstream discourse the space in which to construct alternative identities and we must recognise the necessity for the subject in political identities (MCNAY, 1996, p.79). Post-colonial feminism problematises FOUCAULT's assertion that in the analysis of discourse it does not matter who is speaking because the "question of who speaks and the issues of power and communication it raises are as important as how it is that subjects are positioned in a discursive structure" (MCNAY, 1996, p.79). Further, the lack of a fuller analysis of the role of the subject in the discursive formation creates difficulties in terms of FOUCAULT's conceptualisation of "the other". There is no interconnection or dialectical relation between the dominant and its others and "difference and alterity can only be thought in the problematic form of an epistemic break" (MCNAY, 1996, p.80). Thinking of difference as a radical epistemic break replaces the subject of resistance with a subjectless practice. Resistance cannot come from below in ordinary everyday interactions but must come from above as an elite poetic practice (MCNAY, 1996, p.82). For our analysis this is somewhat problematic as Laura has shown that there is resistance from below in which the negotiation of "the same" and "the other" of Whiteness/Blackness and "speaking back" to discourses of identity positioning, matter for identification. A BAKHTINian approach that sees the possibility for resistance in everyday talk is also needed as this facilitates an analysis of a hybridity of the everyday. How then can we synthesise FOUCAULT, BAKHTIN, ethnomethodology and discourse analysis? [28]

6. FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN: Ethnomethodology, Discourse Analysis and the Membership Category "Black Woman"

Although different, these approaches implicate the role of language and reflexivity in talk as simultaneously describing and making a multiplicity of social realities. An ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis goes from local interactions to global discourses. Approaches based on FOUCAULT's work look at how culturally standardised discourses on/of the "Black woman" impact on the "reality constructing activities of everyday life" (MILLER, 1997, p.27). In combination these approaches offer the possibility for the analysis of concrete, empirical aspects of social life. [29]

FOUCAULT's work also undermines the distinction between the public and the personal because of his emphasis on how public discourses become inscribed in our subjectivities (EDWARDS & RIBBENS, 1998, p.12). This construction of the self is mirrored in the work of BAKHTIN as he tried to account for MARX's view that "the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual […] in its reality it is the ensemble of social relations" (HOLLAND et al., 1998, p.35). BAKHTIN conceptualises individuals as being in a state of being "addressed" and in the process of "answering". When one is addressed by discourses on/of "the Black woman" one can use a variety of answers as Laura shows us. Dialogism allows us to look at the dynamic movement to the identity position of an-other Black woman in the extract as Laura negotiates identity discourses through translation as reflexivity when her unexpected answer exerts control over the meaning(s) of the membership category "Black woman". [30]

FOUCAULT allows us to see how speakers construct versions of public discourses and how they use or disavow these in identification construction. An ethnomethodological way of looking at these is to see how "subjugated knowledges" come into being through talk. The focus is on traces of different power/knowledge forms rooted in social settings and experiences in which women speak about their interpersonal relationships and the broader social, political and cultural contexts within which they live. This is where BAKHTIN's work on addressivity15) assumes significance. [31]

Addressivity implies that meaning is negotiable because of the intervention of the addressee, as is the case in the extract. Two questions central to ethnomethodology point to the instability of meaning in everyday life. That is, what are the circumstances in which socially constructed identities change and, in what ways do socially constructed identities change? This focus on the instability of meaning is important given my orientation towards looking at a hybridity of the everyday as being about a negotiation of identity positions. This hybrid Blackness draws on and re-makes discourses of Blackness because:

"We enter into discourses as we go about the practical activities of our lives. The discourses are conditions of possibility that provide us with the resources for constructing a limited array of social realities, and make others less available to us. We enter into discourses and use the resources that they provide to construct concrete social realities by engaging in discursive practices that are similar to the interpretive methods and conversational procedures analysed by ethnomethodologists [and discourse analysts]. Realities so produced are reflexive, because the discourses that we enter into in order to describe social realities also constitute those realities" (MILLER, 1997, p.33). [32]

Hybridity as a struggle over identity positions is discursive and dialogical. Speakers like Laura move between and manipulate different discourses on/of "the Black woman" in making identifications in terms of "assumptions, categories, logics and claims—the constitutive elements of discourses" (MILLER, 1997, p.34). Discourse analysis is significant here because of its interest in how identities are constituted in interaction. [33]

Why this emphasis on identities as constructed in interaction? It is important because it means that we need to look at how speakers accomplish social, political or cultural acts in interaction. This is the case as, "language users engaging in discourse accomplish social acts and participate in social interaction, typically so in conversation and other forms of dialogue. Such interaction is in turn embedded in various social and cultural contexts [...]" (VAN DIJK, 1997b, p.2). As such, interactants are actively engaged in the selection of accounts so as to maximise their warrant or claim to be heard (POTTER & WETHERALL, 1992, p.108). Speakers' strategic performance makes discourses coherent and meaningful as well as reflexively constructing their identifications as Black women in the sequential organisation of talk. [34]

As an ethnomethodologically inclined researcher listening to the talk and reading the texts, my task is to look at a participant's display of ascription to/disavowal of, the membership category "Black woman". I need to see what features this category carries as an identification and how they are used in identification talk. This becomes obvious to me through looking at interlocutor understandings because:

"membership of a category is ascribed (and rejected), avowed (and disavowed), displayed (and ignored) in local places and at certain times, and it does these things as part of the interactional work that constitutes people's lives. In other words [...] it [is] not that people passively or latently have this or that identity which then causes feelings and actions, but that they work up and work to this or that identity, for themselves and others, there and then, either as an end in itself or towards some other end" (ANTAKI & WIDDICOMBE, 1998, p.2). [35]

Looking at discourses in talk means that I am mindful that speakers operate in and against discursive constructions that attempt to fix boundaries and that these discourses reflect power relations. Issues of power and inequality are central to analysis. The necessity is to look at the distinctive knowledge and power relations that interactants speak in their identification stories. For example, how they resist these relations and build different power/knowledge relations in their construction of hybrid identity positionings. This is reminiscent of GARFINKEL's argument that ordinary members of society are "capable of rationally understanding and accounting for their own actions in society. Indeed it is precisely in this rational accountability that members come to be treated and see themselves as members of society" (HUTCHBY & WOOFFITT, 1998, p.30). [36]

A key notion of discourse analysis is that "by selecting […] vocabulary from available cultural themes and concepts, and by its choice of their arrangement [a speaker] makes positive claim to a certain vision of the world" (ANTAKI, 1994, p.7). As she reads texts the discourse analyst focuses on contradiction, construction and practice (PARKER, 1999). She does not seek to uncover an underlying theme that will explain the real meaning of the texts but contradictions between different significations and the way different pictures of the world are constructed. It is then possible to identify dominant and subjugated meanings and highlight processes of resistance (PARKER, 1999). Discourse analysts do not take meaning for granted but look at how meaning has been socially constructed (PARKER, 1999). Their concern is "with issues of power and open[ing] up a place for agency, as people struggle to make sense of texts. This is where people push at the limits of what is socially constructed and actively construct something different"(PARKER, 1999, p.7). It is within this dialogical tension between accounts in interaction and culturally available accounts, that we can see the emergence of BHABHA's (1990) "third space of hybridity" in talk as women produce their own "critical textwork"16). [37]

Sue WIDDICOMBE and Robin WOOFFITT (1995, p.65) remind us of the negative consequences of discourse analysis as being that "although analysts may wish to use discourse analysis on behalf of powerless and marginalized groups, their analytic concerns do not give these groups a voice". In looking at talk only to evidence the influence of discourses, analysts deny interactants voice by not looking at what they may be doing through their talk. Thus, language becomes a resource for theorising rather than a topic in itself. Using language as a resource means that we dismiss the ways in which speakers construct and negotiate the meaning of the identifications that they make, in and through talk. My approach to discourse analysis thus includes the sequential practices through which Black women's identities are negotiated in interactions. As I look at identifications made in talk I take account of identity constructions and the meanings held in common about these. I also look at accounts of individuals' views of Black identity, as people struggling towards their own versions of authenticity, autonomy and difference. Asserting that women struggle for their own versions of Blackness means that I am also saying that meanings are transformed in interaction, so there is an on-going process of construction and change within the dialogical process of identity making. [38]

I see discourse interactionally as continually being made relevant by interactants trying to make meanings. I say this because it seems to me from looking at the interactions that the making of identifications in action are "intentionally accomplished in order to realise or bring about something else, that is, other actions, events, situations, or states of mind: they have goals that make these actions meaningful or have a 'point', and that make their actors appear purposeful" (VAN DIJK, 1997b, p.8). As I look at the emergence of Black women's identifications in talk I am looking at "the social reasoning that people go through to make sense of their worlds, and (perhaps) impose that sense on other people" (ANTAKI, 1994, p.1). I am looking at talk on identification as dialogical, focused on speakers' social practices, rather than what is in their heads. For BAKHTIN talk is never a mere reflection of something already existing and outside of it, which is given and final (SHOTTER & BILLIG, 1998, p.13). Talk "always creates something that has never existed before, something absolutely new and unrepeatable" (BAKHTIN, 1986, pp.119-120). [39]

7. Conclusion

In looking for a hybridity of the everyday in talk the interplay between theory, ways of knowing about the social world, methodology and practice is significant. This has involved reviewing the intersections and divergences between FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN on the subject, identity and discourses. First, I looked at the insights of FOUCAULT and BAKHTIN on the speaking subject and, second, I focused on ethnomethods and critical textwork. This impacted on how I listened to the talk, read the transcriptions and gave meaning to the texts of social practice, the Black women identities, which speakers performed. [40]

I have said that FOUCAULT does not adequately account for the speaking subject in ordinary everyday interaction. Neither does his work account for the possibility of otherness, the difference so central in the production of hybridity in talk. BAKHTIN's work on the self as other, the self as multiple and in process and addressivity is needed to account for such a subject constituted in talk-in-interaction. [41]

FOUCAULT's focus on discourses in the construction of subjects allows us to see discourse analysis as an important tool which enables the identification of subject positions that constrain or facilitate particular actions and experiences (WILLIG, 1999, p.2). That is, to take a more ethnomethodological perspective, the subject positions which speakers themselves identify as having this effect. If we remember that subjugated knowledges have a place within FOUCAULT, then we can see that he allows for "critical textwork". [42]

BAKHTIN's dialogism means that there is always a possibility for challenge. The self as agentic and dialogical means that we have to look for the readings and translations of discursive positioning made by speakers and the production of alternative self-positionings in talk. The multiplicity of selves and the intimate interaction with otherness which this involves entails that hybridity as a process in talk-in-interaction need not imply a total break with discursively constructed essentialisms. Rather, what should be looked at is how essentialism, as sameness, interacts with difference in talk-in-interaction. [43]

Extrapolating from BAKHTIN onto analysis has meant that a turn-by-turn transcription allows for dialogism. This transcription shows the dynamic movement in the talk from positioning to repositioning: the negotiation of discourses of identity positionings that constitutes a hybridity of the everyday. Further, BAKHTIN's heteroglossia allows an orientation to the talk based on ethnomethods. So I look at speakers' translations of identification discourses focused on their constructions of addressivity in the turn-by-turn performance of identifications. The strength of this analytic approach which I call an ethnomethodologically inclined discourse analysis is that it allows us to see identifications in process in talk-in-interaction. [44]


I would like to thank the women who contributed to my study.


1) IFEKWUNIGWE (1999) talks about hybridity as a product of racist pseudo-science and uses metísse and metíssage to critique it. For her we should not use hybridity uncritically because then we loose its historical connection to the "race" science fiction of biological hybridities. <back>

2) For YOUNG (1995) hybridity has been theorised as being about creolisation, that is fusion of two different cultural forms, BHABHA describes it as restless chaos but it is about the simultaneous presence of sameness and difference in identities. "Hybridity thus makes difference into sameness and sameness into difference, but in a way that makes the same no longer simply different. In that sense it operates according to the form of logic that Derrida isolates in the term 'brisure' a breaking and a joining at the same time, in the same place: difference and sameness in an impossible simultaneity" (YOUNG, 1995, p.26). <back>

3) The example is drawn from a much larger corpus of data on identity collected during the late 1990s from Black women aged between 25-40 who were of Caribbean heritage <back>

4) "Black" is used rather than "black" to show that this description extends past skin colour to the level of politics within societies structured by racial dominance. <back>

5) Here I have used a modified conversation analytic transcription for ease of reading. <back>

6) Speakers use this term as a description of themselves and others. However, "mixed race" reifies "race" in my view. <back>

7) For Robert YOUNG (1995) hybridity is the same and the different in an impossible simultaneity. <back>

8) This is my term for the talk which occurs between identity positioning and re-positioning which seems to facilitate the movement between identifications in talk. <back>

9) For HOLQUIST (1991, pp.32-33), "'transgradientsvo' is reached when the [...] existence of others is seen from outside [...] their own knowledge that they are being perceived by somebody else, [and] from beyond an awareness that such an other exists. [In] dialogism [...] there is [...] no way 'I' can be completely transgredient to another living subject, nor can he or she be completely transgredient to me". <back>

10) For example, FOUCAULT persuasively details the historical process of "subjectification by discursive practices, and the politics of exclusion which all such subjectification appears to entail" (HALL, 1996, p.2). While for HOLQUIST (1991, pp.28-29), "the Bakhtinian just-so story of subjectivity is the tale of how I get myself from the other [...]. I see my self as I conceive others might see it. In order to forge a self, I must do so from outside. In other words, I author myself. [...] [But] in existence that is shared there can be nothing absolute, including nothing absolutely new". <back>

11) The word forms itself within the context of "the already spoken, the word is at the same time determined by that which has not yet been said but which is needed and in fact anticipated by the answering word" (BAKHTIN, 1981, p.280). <back>

12) Interestingly, contradiction is a part of a discourse analytic approach to looking at texts. <back>

13) "The popular folk concepts of 'race', which give shape and form to bi-racialization, place a high premium on perceived phenotypic (physical) differences between groups. In ordinary terms, access to structures of opportunity can be denied or extended to individuals on the basis of the social meaning attached to perceived phenotypes (physical characteristics)—skin pigmentation, hair texture, hair and eye colour. Yet, because popular folk concepts of "race" have no grounding in biological science, their social manifestations are at best paradoxical. Popular folk concepts of 'race' cannot easily accommodate phenotypic ambiguities" (IFEKWUNIGWE, 1999, p.13). <back>

14) "The principle of rarefaction is offered as an explanation of why it is that in any era [...] in relation to the wealth of possible statements that can be formulated in natural language, only relatively few things are actually said [...] rarefaction must not be understood as a principle of repression, that is that at any given time there is a great unsaid waiting to be uttered" (MCNAY, 1996, pp.74). <back>

15) "An essential (constitutive) marker of the utterance is its quality of being directed to someone, its addressivity [...] This addressee can be an immediate participant-interlocutor in an everyday dialogue, a differentiated collective of specialists in some particular area of cultural communication, a more or less differentiated public, ethnic group, contemporaries [...] and it can also be an indefinite, unconcretized other" (PEARCE, 1994, pp.73-74). New addressivity here denotes the repositioning within discourses accomplished by speakers. <back>

16) For Ian PARKER (1999, p.7) "critical textwork" in Discourse Analysis arises from our "attention to contradiction, construction and practice combined with an attention to the position of the researcher". My point of view is that speakers use these same approaches in their ethno-methods in talk so that both speaker and researcher are engaged in critical textwork. <back>


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Shirley Anne TATE is Director of Studies in the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at The University of Leeds, UK. She has published widely on "race", gender and postcoloniality and her publications include her monograph "Black Skins, Black Masks: Hybridity, Dialogism, Performativity" (Ashgate, 2005). She is currently working on a book on Black beauty.


Dr. Shirley Anne Tate

Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies,
The Coach House
The University of Leeds
West Yorkshire, UK. LS2 9JT

Tel.: +44 (0) 113 343 4903
Fax: +44 (0) 113 343 4415

E-mail: s.a.tate@leeds.ac.uk
URL: http://www.leeds.ac.uk/gender-studies/about/tate.shtml


Tate, Shirley Anne (2007). Foucault, Bakhtin, Ethnomethodology: Accounting for Hybridity in Talk-in-Interaction [44 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 8(2), Art. 10, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0702107.

Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research (FQS)

ISSN 1438-5627

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