WP163 How an individual becomes a subject: Discourse, interaction, and subjectification at a Brazilian gender identity clinic

Collection: Key word


Grounded in a Foucauldian genealogical approach to discourse analysis and in Goffmanian-inspired interactional analysis, this paper investigates how knowledge systems that pathologize transsexuality as a mental disorder get gradually embodied in consultations at a Brazilian gender identity clinic. It investigates the Programa de Aten??o Integral ? Sa?de Transexual (PAIST). The research draws upon 13-month ethnographic fieldwork. It analyses how pathologizing biomedical knowledge systems make available certain semiotic resources for the identification of ?true transsexuals?, solidifying, thus, a metapragmatic model of identity (Wortham 2006). The analyses focus on the micro-interactional dynamics of socialization trajectories (Wortham 2006) during which a new transsexual client of the clinic gradually learned how to entextualize (Silverstein and Urban 1996) the identity model of ?true transsexual? in her identity and linguistic performances and, thus, gradually became a docile body for the purposes of the clinic. This learning dynamics took place in the sequential organization of turns-at-talk in the consultations and, above all, in the question-answer adjacency pair in which a psychologist repeatedly offered her interlocutor semiotic items for the construction of a performance that fulfills the requirements of the Brazilian trans-specific healthcare program. The research indicates that in the micro-interactional details of the consultations, clients? local understandings of their subjectivities and bodily practices are gradually eclipsed (or in the Foucauldian jargon, are docilized) by the diagnostic construct of the ?true transsexual?.