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date: 26 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Ethnographic research is to a great extent a process of language socialization. Like children and other neophytes, ethnographers learn how to use language to participate in the social worlds they are studying. For scholars of language, gender, and sexuality, this ideally entails developing communicative competence as gendered and sexual subjects: we learn how people talk, and don’t talk, about gender and sex. This chapter describes how long-term participant-observation, the core ethnographic research method, allowed the author to come to a (partial) appreciation of the language and subjectivities articulated by Hausa-speaking men in northern Nigeria, who saw themselves as “feminine” and/or enjoyed sex with other men. Using examples of miscommunication that occurred at different stages of fieldwork, the chapter illustrates how the time and attention required for ethnographic research can contribute to nuanced understandings of language, gender, and sexuality in particular cultural contexts.

Keywords: ethnography, method, socialization, subjectivities, communicative competence, participant-observation, miscommunication

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