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Dangerous spaces: constructing and contesting sexual identities in an online discussion forum

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This paper explores ways in which the research design of an anonymous online discussion forum on sexual orientation and schooling fostered the creation, maintenance and/or disruption of linguistic constructions of participant identity. The paper focuses on the presentation of self and the performance of sex–gender–sexuality within a research environment carefully designed as a ‘safe space’: an environment in which the body is conspicuous by its absence, and the construction and performance of identity relies on language alone. We explore the lines of power operating firstly between ourselves as researchers and the discussion participants, and secondly between the participants themselves, and consider the particular complexities involved in both creating and researching an online environment where simply to take part is to be at risk, and where the intervention or participation of the researchers may act both as a silencing mechanism and as a source of danger.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sunderland, UK

Publication date: March 1, 2008

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