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Gendertalk: Masculinity in Transit

A GALE Interview with Professor Michael Bamberg >

By Tina Ottman

(Author's note: The Gender Awareness in Language Education Special Interest Group held a Forum "Inquiring into Gender Identity and Education" at PAC3/JALT 2001, a joint event of Pan-Asian Conferences and the 27th Annual International Conference of the Japan Association of Language Teaching, in Kitakyushu, Japan. One of the key speakers was Michael Bamberg, professor of psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts. This dialogue is the result of over a year of email correspondence and reflections upon the work of an extraordinary researcher who is at the cutting edge of research into young adolescent male discourse and masculinities, through the interface of language and the positioning of the self in interactive discourse -research which may have important pointers amid the current concerns about male high-school 'burnout', an affective phenomenon that plays as a large a part in the language classroom as in any other educational environment.)

Q: May I start by asking you to tell us about your extraordinarily cosmopolitan background, and your current teaching position? It was refreshing to see a non-North American at JALT, albeit based in the U.S. ... and I was utterly intrigued to know about your background, about which I knew shamefully little until I'd read up about you on your web site [ http://www.clarku.edu/~mbamberg/ ]. I see that your education spans three countries, and you've held positions in at least nine different countries, and that you speak a handful of languages in addition to your native German ...

A: Yes, I have been around quite a bit, and at times, when I look at my vita on my web site, I am wondering myself who this person is I am looking at, because there doesn't seem to be a straight line with a clear developmental trajectory or an aim in life. Of course, to me it all makes sense, but from an outside perspective it looks like either a lot of active searching at different locales or like being tossed around from place to place. But let me give a short rationale of where I'm actually coming from - without being able to tie everything together here:

I was born in Germany right after World War II and grew up in a humanistic strand of traditional German high school education - with nine years of Latin and six years of Ancient Greek. I went to college (Universitat) in Marburg, Germany, studying German (linguistics and literature), Political Science, and Theology - with the aim to become a progressive, politically involved high school teacher. Just before starting my teaching career in German schools, I was given the opportunity to teach German as a foreign language to British university students at the University of York in the Department of Language. One year became three, and I ended up getting my first post-graduate degree from the very same place, with a thesis on the topic of 'Language Acquisition'. Somehow this subject had opened up a new field for me that I wanted to pursue in more detail, though from a perspective that was pulling in the individual and socio-cultural aspects - aspects that went largely unacknowledged in the study of language and how it is learnt within the more formalistic frameworks that were privileged in the 1970s.

With a little bit of luck, this opportunity opened up when I was admitted to the graduate program in Psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, where I had the chance to study under the mentorship of Susan Ervin-Tripp, Dan Slobin and Elinor Rosch (in Psychology), Wally Chafe and George Lakoff (in Linguistics), and last but not least John Gumperz (in Anthropology). The project I sailed into with my dissertation research (I finished in 1985) became a large cross-linguistic comparison of how different languages offer different routes into learning them, simply because they present different problem spaces to be solved by the learner (published in 1994).

But as so often happens, before this project was completed, I already was involved in new challenges: I had tried out a few years' teaching in Sociology at the Free University in Berlin, and one year in the Foreign Language Department of the Tongji University in Shanghai, China, before I was given the opportunity to join the Psychology Department of Clark University in the U.S., which in the next decades became my 'home institution' - where I am now for almost 17 years. In the meantime, my wife (and colleague in the same department) Nancy had given birth to our sons Zachary and Jeremy, and we had made Worcester, Massachusetts, about 40 minutes west from Boston, the place that has become our 'home'.

Q: You are particularly known for your interest in emerging identities through narrative discourse, particularly that which is employed within conversations to take up positions in order to 'make sense of the self' in relation to others ... How did you arrive at that?

In terms of my general research interests, I had complemented and expanded on my earlier cognitive orientation by adding the question how linguistic forms and functions are employed by interactants in discursive contexts, in particular when it comes to displays of their social and individual identities. This concern became very pronounced and in a way superseded my more general interest in 'narrative' and 'narratology'. While stimulated early on by investigating the origins and development of narrative competencies, I became more strongly focused on how narrative competencies are employed in identity displays, particularly in everyday contexts, with a focus for the last four years on issues of male identity displays - especially around the time children turn into young adults.

So, if I had to summarize where I am coming from and how this all feeds into what I am doing now, I would answer that it is my interest in language and languages (as different culturally-valued ways of expression or "communities of practices"), and how language is used so that we can express who we are, or how we as individuals and members of particular groups and communities want to be understood - or, in other words, it is my interest in people and how they display themselves in their language use (and here in particular in their stories about themselves and about others) that is the thread working through my studies as well as through my personal life: I guess, that's why I like to travel, learn all about languages, and study 'identities' - how they emerge in the stories told, how they change from childhood to adolescence, and how they contribute to people's lives as worthy to live and worthy to share with others.

Q: How did you come to be such a frequent academic visitor to these shores - and how did it happen that you took up the challenge to join the GALE gender forum?

Right, my interest in Japan and in GALE ... The fact that I came to Japan the first time was more of an accident. I had been invited by two professors in Osaka and Hyogo to give a keynote at an international forum on 'Narrative Research' in Kobe; and I also was given the opportunity to give a number of workshops on my own work with narratives in Osaka, Hyogo, and Tokyo. It was at these occasions that I fell in love with Japan as a country and a culture. Of course, my first impressions were tainted through my year in Shanghai, China, which led me to compare what I thought I already knew about Asia in my understanding of my colleagues and the cultural patters and forms of life that I became exposed to. I was wrong; and it took me a while to totally reorganize the way I was trying to make sense of this (for me very new) cultural experience. Not speaking the language, I was assisted by my new friends, and was given the opportunity to visit several schools and observe (and interact - with the help of a translator) girls and boys (between the ages of 10- and 15 years) in their classrooms and during their recess. I was struck by the way the two genders seem to organize their 'boundaries', i.e., how they engage in the 'border work' of 'being different', but straying off-and-on into the territory of the other.

Q: These marked borders - with, as you say, occasional forays or incursions into the unknown territory - are a phenomenon much noted (mostly with despair or frustration) by foreign language educators in Japan, who frequently engage in strenuous activities to soften/subvert the 'lines in the sand' ... So, was this during or before your work on the development of narrative in children aged between four and twelve?

This is a tricky question. Let me try the following answer: In my early work on narrative development, I always was asked whether there are any gender differences in how children break into this very important genre and use it to tell stories. These questions generally made me aware that I actually wasn't able to answer it. On the one hand, I realized that I was predominantly interested in structural aspects of story-telling, and therefore, I didn't really pay close attention to the contents of what their talk was about; but possibly even more so, and this is the other side of my original orientation, because I wasn't really interested in comparing the performance on a particular task of one group (boys) with another group (girls). I always was sceptical of this kind of research, and basically still am, because I am lacking a 'tertium comparationis' (= a common third) from where boys and girls can be productively compared. In other words, unless you have a motivation to view certain performances as inequalities and use your research to document these inequalities, there was no good reason for me to pursue this question.

This, however, changed somewhat when I began to look deeper into where and how children insert evaluations in their narratives, and even more so, how they talk about emotions. This research led me to see that there are very different ways (in boys and in girls) to thematize one's own role in accounts of one's own wrong-doing (for instance by down-playing one's own agency), or in accounts of one's own achievements (for instance by highlighting one's involvement more or less subtly). It was here where I came across particular instances of displaying 'cool' and flaunting, realizing that issues of self-presentation are at stake. I think that these observations, in particular in children who were older and in particular in boys, led me to consider more deeply the question how children use language in their displays of selves. And in order to avoid a gender comparison study, I decided to focus on one sex at the time, starting out with boys, but still trying to be very open to comparative aspects, as for instance between different cultures and nation states.

Q; Anyway, from these observations, you were encouraged to set up the cross-cultural project? Could you explain to us about that?

Yes, it was these experiences that laid the foundation to the plan to turn my own interest in adolescent identity formation into a cross-cultural project and to explore teenagers' identities from a more ethnographic perspective in Japan and the U.S.

I should mention that at the very same time my friendships with two colleagues in Rio de Janeiro had led to a similar fusion of interests, so that the bi-cultural project in the transitions from childhood to adolescence in Japan and the U.S. quickly became a tri-cultural one.

Q: These three particular countries are so very different at first glance. Do they have any commonalities, in terms of research into masculinities? Wouldn't the vastly differing cultural conventions cause interference in your project?

In contrast to the advice-giving literature that is around everywhere on how to bring up young males appropriately, and in contrast to the (growing) body of literature that views the young male as (intrinsically - or forced, due to the breakdown of dominant masculinity discourses) emotionally handicapped, potentially violent and socially cut-off from their own feelings and suffering, I am trying to explore the types of discourses produced by young males (at different ages, in different discourse sites, and in different cultural locations/nation states). More particularly, I am suggesting to examine in more detail how young males' talk is employed for the practical purpose to manage a male identity - or more precisely, to shift productively between different male identity discourses. This meant to me to be particularly open toward the (often intrinsic) incoherencies and contradictions between these discourses. Thus, rather than aiming for general characterizations of these discourses, the project is supposed to place emphasis on how in actual talk different discourses are pieced together and achieved (i.e., at the level of what could be called "the micro-management of the discourses") leading to insights into developmental aspects of identity formation processes.

What we will be finding out in terms of differences (between the different nation states as well as between the different age groups), of course, is wide open; and I am actually not sure that we, at the end, have any general answers in terms of "this is typical for Japan, and this is typical for Brazil or the U.S.". Looking into the contradictions of male discourses in terms of 'managing different types of masculinities' does not lend itself to quick generalizations across cultures or populations.

Q: You described 'boy's talk' as being 'our window into the world of how young males construct their masculine identity'. Can you describe how you are investigating this central/ongoing theme in your current research project, which as you have mentioned above, spans three countries? Moreover, how does your practical approach differ from other researchers in this field? Has anything like this ever been attempted previously?

Okay - let me give a little bit more background here, because so far I have been using these terms 'discourse' and 'discourses' as synonyms with 'talk', without explaining why we are actually looking at talk-data of 10-15-year-oldsand what these talk-data of young kids mean to us. In contrast to traditional theories of identity and identity development we prefer to use the plural form: "identities". The underlying idea here is not only that there are a number of different ways of making sense of oneself as male (or as female), so that masculinity (nor femininity) is no longer anything stable, and also that identities are no longer anything that we "have" and carry around with us as our essential character components, but rather something that we "make" - or better, something we are continuously in the process of 'making' and 're-making'. Consequently, it should not come as a surprise that our project focuses more on the contradictions and shifting between different ways of producing ourselves as male, rather than on constancies or essentials. Of course, there are a number of other means to show 'who we are' as in the way we dress, our haircuts, and in other habits; but speaking seems to be a very central way of being exposed to social ways of making sense (with parents, teachers and peers) and of producing sense in ones own involvement with others.

So, rather than following well-established measurements of identity and identity development, we decided to take a new look at what young adolescents actually do when they talk about their friends, girls, their parents and teachers - and last but not least about themselves. We went and interviewed the participants in our study in groups and individually on all these different topics, we asked them to write on these topics in journals, and we observed and taped them in their interactions at recess, lunch and during after-school activities. And in the analysis of this incredibly rich material, we are at this point predominantly interested in the kinds of discourse strategies (i.e., language choices) that are being employed in order to position themselves vis-a-vis different types of masculinity, but also vis-a-vis the world of adults on the one hand, and, increasing with age, the world of children on the other. This way we hope to ultimately contribute new insights in HOW young boys construe themselves as males and as young adults, what these processes of identity constructions look like, and what obstacles, contradictions and problems are emerging - always from the vantage point of the youths themselves, with as little as possible of an adult or research orientation, of what we think youth development and male development should be oriented to. In other words, we are trying to capture aspects of the life-world of young males in a predominantly descriptive rather than prescriptive way, something that is very hard, but I think it would be even harder if done in terms of a gender comparison study.

Q: In this project, you chose to target boys between the ages of 10 to 15 years. Can you explain the rationale for choosing this particular age bracket (as opposed to say, examining young masculine identities between ages of 13-17)?

One of the reasons I started with 10-year olds is due to the fact that I wanted to capture as much as possible of what has been described as typical "childish" ways in which young boys position themselves vis-a-vis females and adults. And indeed, the discourse of our 10-year-olds displays a sense self as a child who is tied into the adult world in different ways than at the age of 12- or 15-years: With increasing age, young adolescents fend off their position more critically and more contrastively toward the adult-world, but also toward a child-world. Although it is much too early to turn this into some more general kinds of claims, but it looks as if there is something that is emerging in this age bracket from 10-15 that can be characterized as a culturally highly specific space of adolescence, a space that is currently becoming more and more extended into the college years, where our students become bombarded with the contradictions of American college culture, i.e., being treated as 'kids' on the one hand, and as 'academic peers' on the other. These are the kinds of things that at this point are highly speculative. But if we succeed to lay out these contradictions early on in more detail, I think it would be dynamite to see how they are played out and dealt with in the cultural contexts of Japan or Brazil.

With regard to the positional shifts of young boys vis-a-vis girls or women, we are finding a clear need in the 10-year olds to strongly differentiate a 'male space' from a 'female space' (or 'territory'). Again, at the moment we are trying to lay out in more detail how this male space is differentiated (from the vantage point of our "natives") from the space of 'girls as others'. But it is also very clear from the cross-sectional data we have collected two years ago, and those interviews that are currently coming in that between 10- and 15-years of age there are some major reconstructions of the two gender territories. The early characterization of girls as weird, just talking, and not desirable is increasingly replaced by stories in which girls play a more and more predominant part as objects of desire, as status symbols, and also as friends and potential partners. This shift becomes particularly clear around the talk and teasing routines in the different age groups on the topic of 'having a girlfriend': While early on other boys are constantly ridiculed for hanging around with girls or expressing an interest in girls, these particular routines seem to die out with increasing age, and girls become the topic of new discourse routines that have a more distinguished hetero-sexual orientation. I believe that this shift in discourse practices around 12-14 years of age makes it so hard at this developmental phase for young adolescents to come to grips with other sexual orientations.

Q: To backtrack a little, for the sake of clarification ... how did your specific interest in the gendered discourse of young males arise?

Right, I guess you want to hear more about 'why males'? - something I already touched upon earlier when I mentioned that I didn't intend to embark on a (more traditional) gender comparison study, but something that is rooted in another strand of my developmental orientation. In the late eighties, I had the opportunity to co-teach a graduate seminar at Harvard with Bernie Kaplan and Carol Gilligan, and became very interested in the exploration of gender identity by use of narrative methodology. Ten years later, after I had collected some expertise in working with narratives in children up to the age of 12 years, I realized that there was relatively little research on the years later than 12, and in particular in young males; as if this transition phase between childhood and adolescence was something that was marked by male standards and orientations that girls often seemed to have orient themselves toward, but that were not further questioned or questionable. This suspicion led me to the attempt to jump out of the gender comparison business into a research question that started within the 'gender as culture' framework and attempted to investigate young men as a culture 'in its own right'; one that is as 'indigenous' as any other life world, one that needed to be studied in its own terms, from the perspective of "the adolescents as natives", escaping the adult research gaze as much and as long as this is possible. This at least was the original idea, and that's why I think the research design of working with the discursive testimonies of these young adolescents, particularly their accounts in the form of stories, is such a neat way to do cultural work that nevertheless is able to bring out to the foreground the deep differences in cultural orientations between Japanese, Brazilian and U.S. (Massachusetts) teenagers.

As I already mentioned before, at this point, we are in the second phase of collecting longitudinal (and cross-sectional) data in the U.S. Actually, we are just in the middle of working with the same boys who were 10- and 12-years-olds two years ago, and it is interesting to see the changes in their self constructions. Last year, we also started to collect data in Brazil, (with the help of a Brazilian graduate student who has joined me this fall). - Let me use this as an opportunity to mention that we still are looking for students from Japan who would like to join our graduate program "we fund our students!!", and who would like to collect comparable data in Japan. - So, you see that my career and expertise in 'gender' and 'masculinity' is actually quite young, and probably still somewhat underdeveloped. But I hope to bring my interest and knowledge in identity formation processes as well as my background in working with narratives into the discipline of 'gender studies', and we'll see how it will work out.

Q: There is a lot of talk nowadays about a crisis in masculinity, owing to three decades of radical social and economic changes, and - dare I say it - the achievements of the women's movement (I am thinking particularly of such postfeminist pronouncements as British journalist Ros Coward's Sacred Cows). In Britain this phenomenon describes itself as 'laddism' - a range of anti-social behaviour extrapolated from young males falling behind academically and engaging in violent and disruptive behaviour (although this is hardly confined to the U.K.) You too mentioned this phenomenon - the need to maintain a cool and tough identity - in your presentation. Can you talk about this a little? Was it one of the motivations for your investigation?

Gee - what were my motivations - originally and now? - I guess in the course of this interview I am beginning to construct a good chunk of my own identity, professionally as well as individually (as a white male)? Well, let me try: Maybe, at the time when gender studies began to focus on girls' life worlds and the contradictions and obstacles girls hit upon in their development of a female identity, I guess I was just intrigued by the ways young males were either a non-topic or viewed in antagonistic positions, kind of as the agents who are blocking the trajectories of young girls' developments. This at least was my impression in the landscape of early feminist gender studies that focused heavily on the exploration of girls' disadvantages in growing up as women. My own attempts in remaining "purely" descriptive and describing gender categorizations (or "Doing Gender") from the perspective of the subjects was and is simply carried by the goal to better understand what is going on. In other words, the agenda are to first understand how children and young adolescents organize their own space, before we bring evaluative (political) perspectives to these characterizations in terms of what is wrong and what is right, what is healthy and unhealthy, and what should be changed. I am aware that this is an ideal goal that ultimately cannot be obtained. However, methodologically, it is possible to hold back the kinds of judgements that are in use in our common-sense predicaments, and discourse and conversation analyses are two tools that recently have been developed to a level of expertise to do exactly that. I am also aware that this attempt is being critically eye-balled with a good amount of suspicion and that it will slither down and end in the recreation of old hegemonic male ideologies. Of course, this is far from what I have in mind. But the design for our project has occasionally been targeted by these kinds of criticism - something I feel our first publications have debunked very clearly.

Q: You mentioned in your presentation that you were concerned to investigate how boys' discourse changes over time, and in particular, that you were interested in the question of 'identity maintenance'. What did you find out? (Or should I say, what have you found out so far?) Do you have any significant results already from your cross-cultural project?

Of course, being three years into the project we can't make any far-reaching claims; and I'm not so sure whether we will ever be able to make any sweeping claims and whether we actually would want to. Our business at this point is much more to look into the details of how - at particular occasions - young teenagers construe themselves as males. How is this done? And what are the mechanics that 'allow' or 'afford' (and in that sense 'are necessary' for) this to happen? At the same time, we are looking into the different options that 'are around' for construing oneself as a male and their different potentialities. Again, that's why we talk about identities in the plural, particularly for young adolescents who are in the business of trying to figure out what's good and 'workable' for them. In other words, before we want to move closer to make any judgments in terms of whether the constructs young males are working with are assisting or hampering their healthy developments, we need to get a better grasp and understanding of the forms and functions of their constructs. However, when it comes to doing work in educational settings, we already have some understandings, namely that for many of our American teenagers, and from relatively early on, their notions of 'being male and masculine' are in direct conflict with 'being a good student'. Being good and successful at school is commonly feminized and poses a threat to what is assumed to be 'cool'. And some of our participants display clear behavioral indices that point at 'being a good son' as equally 'uncool'.

Q: Could you elaborate on the findings in this area? It is perhaps the area, which has garnered the most debate, even if the approach to the debate is, as you have indicated, perhaps wrongheaded.

OK, regarding our first "findings" starting with our 10-year-olds but spanning across the 12-year-olds, well into the 15-year-olds, is that 'doing well in school' is un-hip and un- masculine: Without being able to lay this out here in a detailed analysis, some of the interview and conversational excerpts we have collected clearly point in this direction: First of all, the characterization of female teachers and their interactions with "the girls" as a group is characterized as "leaving them out". Often male teachers also are characterized as "preferring the girls".

Let me give you an example that I just came across the other week in the interview with a now 12-year-old boy who was already in our study two years ago, and at that time constructed himself as an okay student but in clear contrast to girls and women. Now, two years later, he proudly positions himself as "being bad", and when probed gives elaborate details of how he repeatedly (and almost 'skilfully') accomplishes "being bad". In the course of our further conversation he makes clear that these stories are important ways of accounting for a self that gains its 'sense of self' vis-a-vis others who credit these accounts as currency for status and friendship.

It was interesting to see that I was torn here: On the one hand, as an educator and father, I would have liked to continue with this boy and work up the contradictive nature of this way of accounting (without simply rejecting or scorning it); however, as researcher who is interested in 'descriptions' from the natives' point of view, I was not able to do this - or at least not in a fuller sense. At any rate, it is this kind of display of 'being bad' and what it means for our participants that is opening up in front of our eyes to be analysable for its detailed structures and contents so that we ultimately may be able to help to reformulate these narratives as new self accounts, accounts that orient toward a new sense of self.

Q: These behaviours are often noted here too, in regard to language classes ... We also got a sense from your presentation that young males feel somewhat disempowered by young females, that there was a sense of helplessness - you said that boys perceived girls as 'incomprehensible ... but have a power over teachers'. Can you comment on the boys' perceptions? And how do you suggest we teachers deal with this phenomenon?

Well, as I mentioned, we are checking into how these accounts are manufactured, because one has to very carefully see how these positions are drawn up, because they also are great justifications for one's own shortcomings in school. However, it really looks as if we are tapping into a very vicious cycle here. - Another characteristic of the way our participants draw up 'doing well in school' as being "the teachers' pet" (and sometimes boys who are 'teachers' pets' are straight out called "girls"), clearly indexes their impression that their own identity display as 'cool' and 'tough' is not tolerated in classroom practices and can only find expression outside of school. In other words, there seems to be a clash between the ways how young men are supposed to present themselves inside and outside the classroom. Let me spin this a little further and speculate that these young men are presented with a choice to either buy into the school culture and take on and make certain of these female identity features their own, i.e., to integrate them into their male identities (or to integrate their male identities in these school practices); or they draw themselves up as antagonists who are bound to go down.

Q: Those are stark choices, at least for the unrelentingly alienated. It has been suggested that a restoration of traditional masculine certainties´┐Ża form of affirmative action--is necessary in order to bring back young male students into the fold. In concrete terms, what would you propose?

Again, all this should not be taken to imply to go back and change our school practices and cater straight back into these traditional male value structures. However, in first and second language teaching we have the opportunity to use the worlds of fictional (and personal) narratives to show and document in exemplary forms how others struggle with very similar identity contradictions (historically as well as contemporarily), and that learning a language opens up new territories to explore new identity projections. This is what I mean when I said earlier, that we as teachers have to learn ways to equip our students with new discourses (or portfolios) that enable them to risk their old identities and explore new ones.

Q: But aren't the cultural differences key here?

Right, the cultural differences in this respect are of great importance! Retrospectively, I have to admit how naive I was when I taught my language classes 17 years ago in Shanghai China. I simply thought I was in the business of teaching Chinese students foreign language skills, not being able to see that I was interacting with male and female 18-year-old adolescents on topics of what constitutes responsible agency, gender, nationalities and race, always negotiating any rights to supremacy and power. And I don't mean that these necessarily should become the topics of language teaching practices; but my increasing awareness that these topics are always part of our teaching practices has helped me a great deal to develop more respect for what others from their different cultural ends bring into these negotiations.

Q: In the paper you described at the Gender Forum (We are Young, Responsible and Male: Identity Construction in 15 year-old males. Topic: Promiscuity. Activity: Slut-bashing) you conclude that educators need greater insight into how such positions 'become pieced together' in order to encourage 'responsible and reflective' development ...

Yes, in order to be able to counteract these kinds of tendencies, we first need to know more about how exactly they are worked up and pieced together in different communicative situations. It may be highly counterproductive to simply counteract these tendencies from an adult vantage point, and caricature them as immature, as 'typical adolescent' (= not yet adult), or as 'typical male' (= as insensitive and non-caring). An alternative way (for teachers and parents) is to know of their identity-generating functions, to appropriate and integrate them into one's own discourse, and to turn them productively around - to assist American adolescent males to acquire new portfolios that enable them early on to participate in school practices (e.g., foreign language learning) as well as in family communications at home (and other institutions) in novel and emancipating ways. - Now, what exactly this means in the U.S., we are slowly beginning to figure out - possibly more by trial and error than by designing long- or medium-range models and plans. However, it is very clear that what we are slowly beginning to learn here in the U.S. cannot be translated directly into Brazilian or Japanese traditions. This requires a very separate investigation of the specifics of what it means-with all its contradiction-to grow up as a Japanese or Brazilian male and what identity projections are possible in these very different cultures. But I believe it would be extremely interesting to look into this and to begin to learn from one another.

Q: From Fall 2002, you began offering workshops in interactive narrative analysis at Clark University. I see you have also presented such workshops at Meiji Gakuin University and Japan Women's University. Could you tell us a little about them? And are there aspects of these workshops that might be of benefit for language educators such as GALE members?

Yes, I must say, I really enjoy 'running' these workshops! They are meant to teach graduate students or researchers who are considering using narratives as a research tool to study identity issues of all sorts and shades. The shorter 4-hour versions are for those interested in exploring this tool and to see how I make use of it when it comes to gendered identities. The more elaborate versions are designed for researchers who either already have their particular questions and/or some narrative data that we jointly can begin to work with. Overall, I hope that these workshops will promote the work with narratives, particularly narratives as conversational data. I am still developing the web entry for these workshops, but some preliminary information is already available at: http://www.clarku.edu/~mbamberg/narrative%20workshops.htm

Q: How do you see your future, in terms of your general research directions and life plans?

Well, what does the future hold for me? I don't know ... but I feel that as long as I am learning (particularly from my own children and my students) that the way I have put things together thus far is not sufficient, I guess I have to get going after it. As I mentioned before, one aspect of continuous learning for me is travelling. And I am actually lucky that I was back in Japan last fall (in October) and in Singapore (in December). For this Spring/Summer (2003) I have organized a number of panels and symposia: two panels on Positioning (AAAL-Meetings in Arlington in March, and IprA Conference in Toronto in July) and a Symposium on Discourse and Gender Development (Jean Piaget Meetings in Chicago in June, with four students from Clark presenting our project). Apart from that there are no further travel plans at this point in time.

In more general terms, first, I plan to widen my interest in youth and gender to include girls (again, not in comparison with boys); this is an absolute MUST! Then, I really would love to get more involved with the collection and analysis of naturalistic data, e.g., peer interactions on the bus, on the school grounds and during after school activities. And as I already mentioned earlier, my dream is to open this type of orientation up to larger cross- and inter-cultural comparisons: not only focusing on differences between different nations states and cultures, but also on the possibilities to engage in new processes of communication and understanding.

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