Contemporary theoretical tools in the social sciences and humanities hinder an understanding of the dynamic interplay between reflexivity and routine in the formation of sex, gender, and sexual identities. In A Kaleidoscope of Identities, James W. Messerschmidt and Tristan Bridges build on the work of feminist sociologists in examining the relationship among situational interaction, accountability, and relational and discursive social structures to uniquely conceptualize sex, gender, and sexual practice as both reflexive and routine. Drawing on nuanced and powerful life-history interviews, Messerschmidt and Bridges present a new theoretical framework situating reflexivity and routine in a much more symbiotic relationship than has been previously acknowledged. Without privileging either, Messerschmidt and Bridges explore this relationship through a novel analysis of the ways reflexivity and routine collaboratively shape sex, gender, and sexual identities over time and across space. A Kaleidoscope of Identities provides a fresh, accessible, and provocative argument advancing our knowledge on the changing nature of sex, gender, and sexual identity formations alongside transforming systems of power and inequality.
James W. Messerschmidt is Distinguished University Professor Emeritus of Sociology, who previously taught for 35 years in the Criminology Department at the University of Southern Maine, USA. In addition to over eighty research articles and book chapters, he has authored fifteen books, most recently, Hegemonic Masculinity: Formulation, Reformulation, and Amplification and Gender Reckonings: New Social Theory and Research co-edited with Patricia Yancey Martin, Michael Messner, and Raewyn Connell. His research interests focus on cognitive sociology; inequalities; the mutual constitution of identities; gender, masculinities, and sexualities; criminology, youth crime, and violence; and political sociology.
Tristan Bridges is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is presently Co-Editor of the Sage journal, Men and Masculinities and Co-Editor of Exploring Masculinities: Identity, Inequality, Continuity, and Change (2016 Oxford University Press). His research is broadly concerned with shifts in gender and sexual identities and inequalities with a focus on masculinity. He has conducted research with bodybuilders, fathers’ rights activists, pro-feminist men, and bar regulars, as well as research on gendered demographic shifts in sexual minority identities in the U.S., the relationship between American masculinity and mass shootings, and gendered anxieties present in search data on Google.com. He lives in Goleta, California with his family.
James W. Messerschmidt and Tristan Bridges have done us a great service. Re-examining theories of gender, they identify a key problem and offer a new solution. Then with two remarkable case studies, they show how these ideas illuminate non-normative but still-gendered lives—and show the implications for gender justice.
Messerschmidt and Bridges are among the cutting-edge gender theorists writing today. Building on such powerhouse theorists as Pierre Bourdieu, Raewyn Connell, and Patricia Yancey Martin, they tease out the intricacies of gender and sexuality as social practice and delve deeper into the creativity and mundanity of identity work in everyday life. A Kaleidoscope of Identities gets us ever closer to an understanding of how gender, sexuality, and embodiment, for all of us, are simultaneously fluid and constrained.
Through their analysis of the accounts of two white genderqueer people, one of whom thinks of themselves as both masculine and feminine and the other who thinks of themselves as neither, Messerschmidt and Bridges beautifully illustrate how sex, gender, and sexual identities are mutually constituted throughout the life course. The deep analyses of these life histories make clear that identities are shaped collaboratively through both routine and reflexive practices. The book also offers a deep representation of how kaleidoscopic genderqueer identities can be intensely fulfilling, meaningful, and pleasurable.
This is a book about becoming—the development of a sense of self in terms of sex, gender, and sexuality. Messerschmidt and Bridges argue that current theories of gender lack a critical element: they cannot account for the simultaneously fluid and fixed nature of individual identities. Drawing on the work of Raewyn Connell, the authors maintain that identity is shaped through and facilitates the interplay of routine and reflexive practices in the context of an individual’s particular circumstances. This jam-packed text suggests that a more variable set of possibilities, a kaleidoscope of publicly expressed identities, has become available in recent years. Recommended. Advanced undergraduates.