On the Relevance of Gender in the Analysis of Discourse: A Case Study from Hillary Rodham Clinton’s Presidential Bid in 2007–2008

Published In

Discourse & Society

Document Type


Publication Date



This article presents an analysis of politicians’ laughter in broadcast news interviews and of mass media representations of Hillary Rodham Clinton’s laughter during her failed bid for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States in 2007–2008. It examines spoken, interactional data and written, representational data, each requiring different theoretical and methodological apparatus. The first component of the analysis employs the methodological framework of Conversation Analysis to examine the interactional work accomplished by Clinton’s laughter and other politicians in situ (i.e. in the interviews themselves). The second component employs an indexical approach to analyze the post-hoc recontextualization of Clinton’s laughter by mainstream media as a gendered representation, namely, as a ‘cackle’. Analyzing Clinton’s laughter in talk-in-interaction and its subsequent representation in talk-out-of-interaction reveals how communicative behavior that is not gendered by original participants may nevertheless become gendered by other participants. This article thus makes a distinctive contribution to a central question in discourse studies – when exogenous categories such as gender should be invoked as an explanatory category.


© The Author(s) 2016.



Persistent Identifier