Studies in Symbolic Interaction: Volume 29

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The First International Congress of Qualitative Inquiry took place at the campus of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), in May 2005. At the invitation of the conference organizer, Norman Denzin, a special panel was formed to recognize the recent publication of A Methodology of the Heart: Evoking Academic and Daily Life, by Ronald J. Pelias (Pelias, 2004). The distinguished panelists were four of Pelias’ colleagues: Carolyn Ellis, Denise Menchaca, Lesa Lockford, and Norman Denzin. A day earlier, many members of the audience had also attended one of the congress’ featured panels entitled “Performing Autoethnography.” This session, chaired by Pelias, had standing room only, and showcased performances by three of his current doctoral students at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC). That these performance studies scholars had reached the hearts and minds of those present was evidenced in the passionate responses to each presentation, and the audience calls to Pelias and his students to share this methodology widely and make it a more visible presence and practice within qualitative research circles.

You wonder: What does it mean to live with an emotional spirit, a spirit that cares about what others are feeling, that feels with and for them, a spirit that is “helplessly attached to being human” (Pelias, 2004, p. 141). To discover the heart of such questions, you follow Ron Pelias's lead and track your day.

Today, I told them…1…that having left Southern Illinois University, Carbondale (SIUC) in June of 2002, I now have moments of sincere longing for the people and the place that gave me permission to grow into my own, for allowing freedom and giving encouragement to be independent and strong, a scholar with voice. It was a place that reveled in its students’ successes and craved their growth, generally speaking. I left in 2002 ready to face the academic world and all of its challenges. But, there is very little that can prepare one for the adult playground of academe for it is a yard that can be fraught with cattiness, passive aggression, and manipulation that is sycophantic at best and soul compromising at worst.Today, I told them……that in Ronald J. Pelias’ essay, “Making Lists: Life at the University,” he enumerates some of the lessons and observations he has made over his multiple years in higher education. He imparts his sage wisdom to new graduate students and, in turn, teaches them about academic culture. I remember taking that introduction to graduate studies course the first semester of my doctoral program. Ron taught it. I remember sitting in class shocked by the beautiful and beastly practices that constituted the life of a scholar in academe. I wondered: “Do I belong here?” Of course, who doesn’t wonder that in the wake of faculty “doing their job,” reminding graduate students how little they truly know? I had those moments of doubt, too, but the doubt that pressed at the time was whether or not I wanted to romp in an academic park where the see-saw wanted to buck you and the merry-go round caused severe vertigo to one's sense of self. It was a park carpeted with river rock and “red crusher,” not refreshing, cool Bluegrass; it was xeriscaped, needing no attention because little could grow without willfulness to spite the climate. My impressions of academia were altered that day in graduate seminar. I had to consider what I wanted and what obtaining a PhD would mean in terms of the politics of everyday life in a place where “resource management” often brought out the base in people. Those weren’t make-believe tales Ron acquainted us with, they were cautionary ones designed to deconstruct any notions naiveté might hold about higher education and its practices. Racism, sexism, and, most definitely, classism were all doing fine and well in the academy, tucked neatly away in the creases and folds of ambiguous tenure requirements, unfair divisions of labor, and competitive self serving. Of course, the academy is also plump with potential, full as a tick, for exploration of and excitement over ideas and culture. It is a place distended with possibility, glutinous with hope. After all, there were alternatives. There had to be.Today, I told them……that I sat in The Kleineau Theatre for the final professional seminar of the school year. It was the last Friday of the spring 2001 semester and I was glad to be finished with the press of all that had to be done in too short a time. I don’t remember many details about that afternoon – who I sat next to or what questions were asked of the speaker – but I do remember the quiet that settled over the place: all sat mesmerized by a methodology of the heart, a different way to do scholarship, one requiring vulnerability and insisting the human body be present. The heart was declared that day, the heart of Ronald J. Pelias.Today, I told them...…that at the time, I had been a member of SIUC's Department of Speech Communication, as a student (both undergraduate and graduate), since fall of 1993. I transferred from a large, urban junior college in San Antonio, Texas to the unknown solace and earthiness of southern Illinois and completed my undergraduate and graduate education at a university I had never known of until my ex-spouse declared its virtues. I unknowingly started down a road that, in time, would cross the path of my doctoral mentor. Oddly enough, a working class, Mexican–American girl from south Texas, would meet a white, middle class, man teaching in the Midwest and who unknowingly would change her life.Today, I told them……that the etched surface of a life can be amazing, a gorgeous patina of age and experience. But, what bleeds through to the surface from underneath or in front of from behind can be just as mesmerizing, just as charming as a heartfelt embrace between old friends.

Prelude: “A piece or movement that serves as an introduction to another section or composition and establishes the key, such as one that precedes a fugue” (, 2005d).


I want to start by citing myself, not because what I said previously was particularly profound or clever, not because the wise and gentle souls who have offered their essays have misread my work and I want to make corrective, and not because the paper titles that carry my name justifies such an act of hubris. In fact, to cite myself before I get to the citation I’ve been discussing, I’ve argued in A Methodology of the Heart that you should, “Quote yourself only to point out the error of your earlier thinking” (p. 144) and, quite honestly, I have no intention of doing that here. Nevertheless, I still want to start with an ostentatious and embarrassing self-citation. I once wrote, “Be grateful when, correctly or not, you are quoted” (p. 144) and as I write at the end of this public act of citation, I am indeed grateful and humbled.

In 1862, a Confederate officer, Jo Shelby, and his men were deep in enemy territory, waiting to cross a river. While they were waiting for transportation, a member of their party, one Jake Connor, passed the time by softly singing a song. Years later, well after the war, they all remembered that moment and the words to that song. The song was called the Fallen Dragoon. Dragoon was a seventeenth century term from the English civil war for a cavalryman. The song also used another outdated English military term, vidette. A vidette was a mounted outpost who rode in advance of an army. Because the lyrics of the Fallen Dragoon are fairly significant, both for the men who were there, and for my analysis, I’d like to begin by quoting a few stanzas of this ballad:Rifleman, shoot me a fancy shotStraight at the heart of yon prowling vidette;Ring me a ball on the glittering spotThat shines on his breast like an amulet.Ah, Captain, here goes for a fine-drawn bead;There's music around when my barrel's in tune.Crack went the rifle, the messenger sped,And dead from his horse fell the ranging dragoon.Now, rifleman, steal through the bushes and snatchFrom your victim some trinket to handsel first blood –A button, a loop, or that luminous patchThat gleams in the moon like a diamond stud.Oh, Captain, I staggered and sunk on my trackAs I gazed in the face of the fallen vidette,For he looked so like you, as he lay on his back,That my heart rose upon me, and masters me yet.Yet I snatched off this trinket, this locket of gold;An inch from its center my lead broke its way,Scarce grazing the picture, so fair to behold,Of a beautiful lady in bridal array.Ha, rifleman, fling me the locket! Tis she,My brother's young bride, and the fallen dragoonWas her husband.Hush, soldier, was heaven's decree;We must bury him here by the light of the moon. Edwards, 1993

This paper contributes to the symbolic interactionist literature on authenticity and the self by drawing from ethnographic research conducted with 46 faculty members at an American public research university. I offer an analysis of the changing meanings of professors’ sense of self across careers, ranks, and hiring cohorts and I suggest the following: (a) professors’ experiences of authenticity and inauthenticity remain similarly frequent throughout their careers; (b) professors’ concept of true self changes considerably from the time they are hired to the time they retire; (c) younger professors need to face different demands and challenges than older professors, as they need to adapt to a different academic social world marked by new practices and conventions surrounding tenure, research, teaching, and service.

In this paper I analyze Sex and the City as performances of contemporary post-modern culture of femininity and engage in a multi-modal, semiotic reading of their socio-cultural significance. In particular, I argue that the same discursive formation underlies the ideology of the show: a discourse largely coinciding with the Standard North American Family Code (Smith, 1999) and therefore a discourse that stigmatizes single women and reinforces the value of marriage as both symbolic and material capital. Drawing in part from Goffman, I argue that an oppositional reading of the show also yields another interesting connotation: the show offers its viewers techniques and scripts of stigma resistance.

The processual ordering branch of symbolic interaction has long recognized the importance of rhetoric and power to the social constitution of reality. However, little systematic effort has been devoted to probing their intertwined effects in the public policy arena.

The purpose of this paper is to employ the processual ordering perspective to examine the dramaturgical styles used in shaping public policy – expressed in terms of the “public administration” and “realpolitik” forms of rhetoric – among contending political factions as they negotiate mental health public policy. A latent content analysis of the minutes of key U.S. congressional debates, augmented with secondary archival material from the press is employed. It is concluded that both forms of rhetoric play a role in shaping public mental health policy and that both factions modify their rhetorical form as the debate progresses. Those modifications strengthen the position of one faction while weakening that of the other. Theoretical implications are discussed.

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