My empirical research on linguistic practice in India has been foundational to a series of articles coauthored with Mary Bucholtz that interrogate the relationship between language and identity. Our earliest publications in this area were motivated by our desire to bring together insights on identity from diverse academic fields focused on language as a social practice. To this end, we developed a framework for understanding identity as a social and cultural rather than primarily internal psychological phenomenon. For us, identity is the product rather than the source of linguistic practice—that is, identity is emergent in interaction.
Our framework of identity takes insight from linguistics that the analysis of language practice must consider not just macro-levels of discourse, such as language alternation, topic choice, or the evaluative work associated with stance-taking, but also micro-levels of linguistic structure, including phonology, morphology, lexis, and grammar. We encourage an interdisciplinary approach that recognizes the subfields that specialize in the analysis of these different levels, including conversation analysis, critical discourse analysis, linguistic anthropology, sociophonetics, and variationist sociolinguistics. We call this interdisciplinary approach sociocultural linguistics, a label that has gained increasing traction among scholars attempting to extend the traditional contours of these subfields.
Our early publications in this area include a 2004 article Theorizing Identity in Language and Sexuality Research in the journal Language in Society, a 2004 article Language and Identity directed to linguistic anthropologists in Duranti’s Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, and a 2005 article Identity and Interaction: A Sociocultural Linguistic Approach in the journal Discourse Studies that focuses on identity as emergent in interaction. More recent coauthored publications include a 2008 reflection Finding Identity for the journal Multilingua and a 2013 commentary for Journal of Politeness Research titled Facing Identity. I provide a critique of queer theory’s understanding of identity in a 2013 commentary "It's a Hijra": Queer Linguistics Revisted published in the journal Discourse & Society.
In other recent work, I am specifically interested in the ways that globalization affects the relationship between language and identity. Publications addressing this intersection include my 2014 article Hypersubjectivity in the Journal of Asian Pacific Communication on the anxiety experienced by transnational subjects as they navigate the semiotics of a global economy, and my 2015 article Code-switching, Identity, and Globalization with Chad Nilep, published in Tannen et al’s Handbook of Discourse Analysis, which reviews the ways that theoretical understandings of identity have informed the history of research on code switching.