Peter Harvey (Sociology)
Gender Theory and Class: Bridging the Theoretical Divide
Within sociology, gender theory and the theorizing of masculinities was originally built on ethnomethodological foundations that were highly sensitive to the micro-interactional context. And yet popular formulations within these theoretical traditions – such as “doing gender,” “multiple masculinities,” and “hegemonic masculinity” – are typically deployed de-contextually, thereby implying a consistency of gendered behavior across interactions. Meanwhile, the dominant theorizing of class – namely, Bourdieu’s work on “cultural capital,” “habitus,” and “social reproduction” – makes little pretense to be interactional. Rather, children are depicted as being socialized into classed norms that are largely fixed and consistent across adult life. I draw from both of these theoretical traditions to develop a new approach that emphasizes the “elasticity” of gendered and classed behavior (that is also sensitive to other structures such as race). Supported by over two years of ethnographic observations in two elementary schools – one private, one public, both racially diverse – I suggest that my new, elastic approach better accounts for situational variation, while better incorporating intersectionality.