Doing Difference” – Interferences of Social Differentiation


For a long time, the sociology of science held the opinion that a social order for gender and ethnicity, due to increasing modernization and a growing functional division of labor, would disappear. However, numerous studies that followed on this topic came to the surprising conclusion that only the beginning of modernity was decisive for the establishment of gender and ethnicity as a principle of organization in our society. For many years, various scientists of sociology have studied inequality. Nevertheless, they have not been able to establish a link between different dimensions of social inequality. The presumption that interactions might exist between these inequality dimensions was not only the starting point for the microsociological “Doing gender” approach, but also for the ethnomethodological “Doing Difference” concept by Sarah Fenstermaker and Candace West.

By focusing on possible interferences between the dimensions of gender, class and ethnicity, Fensteramker and West criticized the one-sided investigations of their predecessors in gender research. The model by Fenstermaker and West was at first successful, however it was later subject to many critiques.

Her concepts as well as other articles, which have appeared in the following years, comprise the focus of my post, entitled “Doing Difference” – Interferences of Social Differentiation. I want to give you an insight of the publications by Fenstermaker and West on the subject of “Doing Difference”, as well as present criticism towards it. Following this, I will present my empirical study and I will show how “doing Difference” becomes clear by children’s behavior in grammar schools. In order to do this, it is important to analyze the school as a one-dimensional organization. In this perspective, the term “gendered organization” is used, and consequently, organizations are organized by gender. However, gender differences play a significant role in the structures and processes of the organization. So, how can I get into a “gendered organization” and how it is possible to find out where and how it is gendered?


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