Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Sociology

Content Description

1 online resource (iii, 272 pages) : illustrations

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Steven Seidman

Committee Members

Christine Bose, Lisa Jean Moore


Gender, Geography, Sexuality, Gender expression, Gender identity, Feminist theory, Sex (Psychology), Coffeehouses, Space and time

Subject Categories

Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Sociology


In this dissertation, I explore the notion of situational gender in four coffee houses. Drawing on recent theoretical contributions by Barrie Thorne (1993) and Jacob Hale (1997) I determine the ways in which gender changes salience, as well as how gender shifts for individuals in these specific social settings. The crux of my research question focuses on determining the fluidity of gender in everyday life by highlighting the importance of situation while still maintaining a deep understanding of how gender operates as a major social structure. I draw on recent theoretical notions in gender performance, queer theory, and postmodern theory to examine gender at the structural, interactional, and individual level in four coffeehouses in two different cities. I engage in two qualitative techniques, participant observation and in-depth interviews in these four sites, and analyze the interactions, as well as the thoughts, experiences, and behaviors of individuals who use these spaces regularly, in order to determine how gender and sexual norms differ from place to place. I find that social settings, even ones that are very similar to each other, differ in terms of their rigidity of how they structure gender. While the structural dimension is important in terms of the rigidity of gender, interactions also have an impact on shaping how people behave. Both structure and interactions create specific dynamics that have an impact on who might feel comfortable within a particular place as well as how they might behave. The personal dimensions of gender, including identity, presentation, and behavior, are the final factor examined here, and these are structured in part by socialization, and also the ways in which particular spaces allow for, or limit, how people can present their gender. Those spaces that have highly rigid expectations around gender are more likely to police alternative codes of gender, while those that have less rigid expectations allow for a greater diversity of presentation. While gender is an important aspect, sexuality plays a key role, in helping to construct both how and why people do gender the way that they do.