Brekhus, Wayne H.
Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Missouri at Columbia
My research interests include culture and identity, theory, sexuality, qualitative methods and cognitive sociology. My research program focuses on social identity and social control with a specific interest in the ways individuals negotiate marked and unmarked identity attributions. My recent monographs include Peacocks, Chameleons, Centaurs: Gay Suburbia and the Grammar of Social Identity (2003, University of Chicago Press) and Laud Humphreys: Prophet of Homosexuality and Sociology [co-authored with John F. Galliher and David P. Keys] (2004, University of Wisconsin Press). I analyze the interplay between marked (socially "specialized") and unmarked (socially "generic") identities. I began developing a theory of identity as a Ph.D. student at Rutgers, publishing articles on the multifaceted character of sexual identities in Sociological Forum (1996), and on the methodological advantages of studying the unmarked in Sociological Theory (1998). This latter article was reprinted in the French journal Reseaux in 2005. These articles provided the intellectual roots for my first book project on the spatial and temporal dimensions of identity construction. In this book, I developed a general theory on "the grammar and micro-ecology of identity" from a qualitative case study of gay suburbanites. Analyzing data from intensive interviews ranging from one to five hours with 30 gay suburban men and informal interviews with 100 additional men, I developed three ideal-typical "identity management profiles." These three identity types I refer to as 1) lifestylers, 2) commuters, and 3) integrators. Lifestylers treat their "gayness" as a noun, foregrounding it as their core ingredient of self at all times and in all places (they represent themselves metaphorically as 100% gay, 100% of the time). Commuters treat their "gayness" as a verb, foregrounding their "gay self" in a few places and times but submerging it and foregrounding "other selves" at other times and in other places (they represent themselves metaphorically as 100% gay part of the time but "off duty" as gay the rest of the time). Integrators treat their "gayness" as an adjective, essentially presenting themselves as only "mildly gay" (e.g. 20%, 100% of the time. I use empirical examples approximating each of these heuristic types to explore the competing values of identity singularity, identity mobility, and identity moderation that these respective "identity grammars" battle over. In doing so, I focus on the ways in which individuals weight their competing cultural resources of stigma and privilege to actively shape, manage, and transform their social identities across time and space. More recent projects have included an intellectual biography of sexuality researcher and activist Laud Humphreys co-authored with John F. Galliher and David P. Keys) and articles reassessing the contributions of Laud Humphreys’ research in both The International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy (2004) and Qualitative Inquiry (2005).