I am a Lecturer in Linguistics and Programme Leader of the Postgraduate Linguistics Network at Manchester Metropolitan University. My professional philosophy is underpinned by a commitment to rationality, freedom of expression and pluralism. As a teacher, I encourage critical thinking through connecting personal experience with theory and evidence. By questioning our own assumptions, experiences and behaviours, we can more critically and rationally engage with the social world for better ends.
My research explores the relationship between (digital) media, communication and culture. More specifically, I use a combination of corpus linguistics, critical discourse studies and cultural political economy to explore antagonistic contexts. In so doing, I seek to promote pluralism over authoritarianism for social development and cohesion. I contend that it is necessary to meaningfully consider competing perspectives in order to bring about lasting social change. Thus, we must have access to dissenting opinion and contradictory evidence if we are to rationally conclude that a course of action is genuinely a social good.
Lecturer in Linguistics (2019 - Present)
Manchester Metropolitan University, UKProgramme Leader of the Postgraduate Linguistics Network
Associate Lecturer in Linguistics (2018 - 2019)
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Student Experience Support Tutor (2016 - 2019)
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
- Invited Talks
Few in the humanities and social sciences will doubt the long-standing historical conflation of sex, sexuality and gender both within and without academia. Despite research and socio-political movements aiming for the contrary, it continues even now. This paper discusses the ongoing conflation between these interrelated but independent social categories in current linguistic research, including how it can serve to reflect and reinforce socio-political antagonism outside of academia. I propose two potential directions of travel: (1) welcoming ideological pluralism between scholars on the primacy of either sex, gender or sexuality; and (2) horizontally disaggregating the three categories. I argue that engaging with both strategies in tandem serves to benefit researchers, participants and the public. The former encourages trust in academic research during a time wherein that trust is waning. The latter enables an analytical distinction between sex, gender, and sexuality in linguistic research, whilst continuing to acknowledge their interrelatedness. Implemented together, they will allow researchers to embed research in the 21st century, which entails pluralistic and competing socio-political activism between equally deserving groups.Go To Publication
This article analyses identity constructions and representations of self-identifying transgender individuals on a web-based forum. Although the forum is aimed towards all transgender users, the primary user-group are transfeminine users (intending on) undergoing medico-surgical interventions to align their physiology and identity. The data for this analysis are initial text posts from the forum board used for introductions (i.e. new users of the forum introducing themselves). The article assumes that introductions are the context in which one asserts key identity features; hence, this board is the most pertinent for analysing identity construction. In this article, I use a combination of corpus linguistics and Critical Discourse Studies tools to analyse the use of pronouns and gender-indexical nouns in identity constructions and the representation of social categorisations. This article is an attempt to demonstrate that transgender is not a collective homogeneous identity, and that gender-sex incongruence may not be a salient identity feature for some forum-users. I also examine the ideologies (re)produced in the local forum communication discourse, and the evaluation of hegemonic practices within transgender discourse and wider gender discourse to further demonstrate the heterogeneity of transgender identity.Go To Publication
The paradigmatic transgender woman is often negatively oversexualised, pornographised and fetishized in mainstream conceptualisations and discourses, whilst self-sexualisation by transgender individuals is often portrayed as a (sex-)positive social phenomenon. However, little research has been conducted that analyses the self-sexualisation strategies of the multiple instantiations of gender-variant identity, including transmasculine and nonbinary social actors. This paper uses a corpus-informed socio-cognitive approach to critical discourse studies to identify differences between the self-sexualisation strategies and underpinning cognitive models of different gender-variant user-groups on Twitter. 2,565 users are coded into five categories: 1) transfeminine; 2) transmasculine; 3) transsexual; 4) transvestite; 5) nonbinary. Findings show that transvestite- and transsexual-identifying users most closely fit the pornographised and fetishized conceptualisation, whilst nonbinary users are the least self-sexualising user-group.Go To Publication
This contribution is a corpus-based analysis of gender-variant discourse on Twitter, exploring users’ strategies for organizing their experience and understanding of employment. The data are two specialized corpora: (1) the biographies of each of 2,881 self-identifying gender-variant users; (2) c.4,000,000 tweets posted by those users. The corpora are analyzed using a sociocognitive approach to discourse analysis (Van Dijk, 2009, 2015, 2017). The biographies are used to determine the demographic make-up of the sample. An analysis of the corpus of users’ tweets will explore, and attempt to explain, the activated discourses around aspects of employment (i.e. representations of the self-as-employee, co-worker relationships, employers, and experiences in employment). In considering the contribution linguistics can make in understanding gender-variant people’s experiences of employment, the focus of this research is three-fold: (1) I consider the role of gender-variant users’ cognitive organization of employment experience in either perpetuating or challenging marginalization in the workplace; (2) I consider the validity and reliability of a corpus-driven analysis in comparison to the credibility and validity of previous studies on the employment experiences of gender[variant people; (3) I consider the logical and ethical implications of considering only the roles of employers, policymakers, and co-workers in remedying marginalization in the workplace.Go To Publication
This paper presents an approach to cultural political economy that explicitly incorporates political economy analysis, or the operationalised exploration of macro-, meso-, and micro-levels of political-economic context within which imaginaries are embedded. Given that cultural political economy relies on the meta-theoretical underpinning of critical realism and – de facto – judgemental rationality, I argue that specifically incorporating political economy analysis enables a method of scientific enquiry with greater correspondence to the material realities of the actually existing economy.
Political economy analysis acknowledges the causal mechanisms of naturalised political-economic conditions and has specific aims of identifying feasible reform opportunities therein. Thus, political economy analysis provides a two-fold contribution to existing approaches to cultural political economy. In this paper, I explicate the means by which political economy analysis can be embedded into a critical approach to discourse analysis, accounting for naturalised political and economic processes in the identification of reform opportunities for social development. I argue that the incorporation of political economy analysis in a new cultural political economy framework illuminates feasible opportunities for the emancipation of socially dominated imaginaries without recourse to radical – and largely infeasible – transformative projects.
This paper operationalises a novel approach to critical discourse analysis, combining corpus tools and techniques with approaches to political economy to identify barriers to and opportunities for social reform.
In this paper, I refer to two approaches to political economy that share a critical imperative for social change. Cultural political economy (CPE) considers how imaginaries, and discourses therein, are reproduced (e.g. Jessop & Oosterlynck, 2008). If sufficiently retained and reproduced, selected discourses become ‘[integrated] into patterns of structured coherence’ (Jessop, 2010: 341), and illuminate how social imaginaries are both organised and governed (Jessop, 2004). With this information, CPE aims to critique harmful social formations. Political economy analysis, then, seeks reform opportunities by identifying inconsistencies in the ‘prevailing political and economic processes of society’ (McLoughlin, 2014: 5). Hence, both approaches attempt to understand the hegemonic structures of an imaginary and identify opportunities for positive change. However, neither approach fully operationalises a method for identifying hegemonic processes and/or discourses.
Using corpus linguistic techniques, this novel approach takes a holistic view of hegemonisation and analyses discursive dominance in three ways. That is, I identify: (1) characteristic discursive structures per keyness scores; (2) horizontally dominant discourses frequently reproduced by many actors, and; (3) vertically dominant structures granted authoritative status via political or economic means. Inconsistencies between the three levels of hegemonisation constitute barriers to and opportunities for reform.
This paper critically analyses identity constructions and representations among gender-variant Twitter users in an effort to demonstrate the heterogeneity of gender-variant identities. It is a response to the definition of ‘transgender’ as a catch-all term for behaviours diverging from the current norm of binary sex-gender congruence, and the individuals who display said behaviours (Stryker, 2006).
The data are two specialised corpora from Twitter data of approximately 4,500 general gender-variant users (one corpus of user bios and one of tweets), and two specialised reference corpora of 14 superordinate users (celebrity users and gender-variance activist/press groups). The general users are coded into the categories of transfeminine, transmasculine, non-binary, transgender (no specific reference to gender), and transsexual.
I use corpus linguistic techniques to identify word frequencies and collocates (including strength and likelihood of collocation), illuminating key features of language use in constructing social identity and social categorisations (Tajfel, 1972) on Twitter – e.g. pronouns, hashtags. Following this shallow content analysis, I perform an in-depth critical analysis in order to compare the use of the identified key linguistic features within and between user categories (i.e. exploring how transmasculine and transfeminine users construct social identity differently via hashtags).
This paper takes a primarily socio-cognitive approach to Critical Discourse Analysis, viewing collective identities as socio-cognitive representations (see Koller, 2012) and considering in-/out-group construction (van Dijk, 2009) within and between user categories, in an effort to identify, explore and explain gender-variant Twitter users’ shared cognitive models (Lakoff, 1987) of collective social identity/ies.
This paper seeks to identify the linguistic features used by gender-variant Twitter users to construct and represent sex acts, bodies and sexualities. Specifically, I explore the differences between gender-variant user groups in such constructions.
Previous research has provided preliminary evidence of the vast heterogeneity of gender-variant identities on Twitter (e.g. Webster, 2016); I categorise the user-groups according to ‘gender-similarity’. Hence, the users are coded into the categories transfeminine, transmasculine, non-binary (specific reference to non-binary identity), transgender (trans; no specific reference to binary or non-binary gender identity), and transsexual.
Two specialised text corpora (one of user biographies; one of text posts), comprising data from 4,500 gender-variant Twitter users, are initially analysed for word frequencies and collocates (i.e. collocate frequencies, likelihood of collocation and strength of collocation). After identifying key features of gender-variant user-groups’ language use (e.g. an absence of indexing genitalia by non-binary users), an in-depth and critical analysis of the features is performed in order to gain a more qualitative understanding of the data in order to explore ideological underpinnings and hegemonic practices represented in the data. I use tools including van Leeuwen’s social action (1995) and social actor (1996) taxonomies, and van Dijk’s in-/out-group construction (2009) to critically analyse users’ construction/representation of bodies (and their parts), sexual acts, and sexual identities. These critical analyses of sexuality construction may provide insight into differences between gender-variant user-groups and their conceptualisations of sex and sexuality. It may also help to demonstrate the heterogeneity of (sexual) identities in gender-variant discourse.
This paper critically analyses identity construction and representation among transgender people, demonstrating the heterogeneity of transgender identities.
‘Transgender’ can be considered a catch-all term for behaviours diverging from the current norm of binary sex-gender congruence, and the individuals who display said behaviours (Stryker and Whittle, 2006). Hence, I will use the terms ‘transgender’ and ‘gender variant/variance’ interchangeably.
Only recently has research regarding the linguistic practices of gender variant persons been positioned from a perspective internal to the discourse. There is now sociolinguistic/-phonetic research into the speech of female-to-male transgender persons, the perception of transgender sexuality, and discursive constructions of sex/body by transgender persons (Edelman and Zimman, 2014; Zimman, 2013, 2014).
Where Zimman uses small groups of people with a specific identity (i.e. female-to-male transgender persons) in much of his research, I am building a database that captures the semiotic behaviours of a variety of gender variant individuals on social media platforms (e.g. Twitter, Instagram). The database comprises profile biographies, profile pictures, and text posts of NUMBER social media users; it also includes key metadata, such as the number of times a particular post has been retweeted or commented on. Text data mined from the user’s profiles will be used to construct four corpora, and will be analysed in their entirety. A proportion of the profile pictures will be randomly sampled for manual analysis.
I will combine aspects of several CDA approaches in order to more completely examine the identity representations and constructions of transgender people. In-/out-group construction (van Dijk, 2009), though primarily aimed at identifying social elites among different social groups, can be used in identifying social elites within transgender discourse. Pronouns and noun phrases are key indicators of social actors within a discourse; hence, these are of central interest to the research. Another key feature of discourse is the presence of historical narratives, as suggested in the Discourse-Historical Approach (Wodak, 2001; Reisigl and Wodak, 2009): the political nature of transgender history suggests that the historical narratives of transgender are salient in the identity constructions and representations of transgender persons at present.
Lancaster University, UK
Identifying social reform opportunities from transgender Twitter using corpus-informed socio-cognitive political economy analysis.
Supervisor: Professor Veronika Koller