Studies in Symbolic Interaction: Volume 39

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Table of contents

(15 chapters)
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List of Contributors

Pages vii-viii
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Purpose – The negotiated order branch of symbolic interaction used to examine the process by which welfare regulations were dramatically changed in which the forty-year old AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) was abandoned, and a new W-2 (Welfare Works) welfare reform effort was developed and socially negotiated with the Federal government and in the State of Wisconsin. We probe interactions within the mesodomain of four levels of actors: the Federal government; State-level government in both the executive and legislative branches; county-level government; and public and private welfare service delivery agencies.

Method – Qualitative, naturalistic, ten-year field study entailing interviews and archival analyses.

Findings – The reform effort involved the mutual constitution of the W-2 social structure and the social interactions that surrounded it through such strategies as negotiation, conflict, manipulation, coercion, exchange, bargaining, collusion, power brokering, and rhetoric, which were all circumscribed by and interpenetrated with the predecessor AFDC rule system. In turn, the welfare budget was reduced from $652m to $257m. We observed that the macro structure of welfare shaped the micro social actions of a variety of actors, and that micro social action by institutional entrepreneurs reconstituted structure of welfare policy in what proved to be a moving matrix.

Research implications – Implications were directed at extending and refining the negotiated order perspective.

Social implications – Given that the number of welfare recipients was reduced from 300,000 to 10,000, their fate in a weak economy was explored.

Originality – Chapter extends symbolic interaction concepts to examine a contested social domain.

My title comes from Blanche Geer's (1964) famous paper ‘First days in the field’. When she was about to do the preliminary fieldwork for the project that became Becker, Geer, and Hughes (1968) on liberal arts undergraduates, she reflected on her own student ‘self’. That young woman had a taste for ‘milkshakes and convertibles’ (p. 379), which to Geer as an adult woman seemed incomprehensible and foreign. Being British, my life has never included any enthusiasm for milkshakes or convertibles which do not figure in UK culture, but the phrase has always enchanted me, and I have always wanted to use it as a title. This autobiographical reflection is in two main parts. The first half is a reflexive examination of my current life and scholarly work. In some ways that will seem to be the self-portrait of a somewhat uni-dimensional workaholic with an uneasy relationship with the symbolic interactionist intellectual tradition. The second part of the piece is an account of my family history, childhood and adolescence spent with my eccentric mother, and the reader is invited to understand the choices made in adulthood as largely contrastive: designed to ensure my life was as unlike my mother's as possible. Just as Geer looked back to her college years and found her youthful self strange, I look back to my childhood and see a very different person.

Purpose – Role-taking refusal was a foundational problem in Mead's work but was ignored by subsequent interactionists who focused on the benefits of role-taking – empathy and solidarity – but failed to examine how they are destroyed or crippled from emerging as inclusionary aspects of social consciousness. Role-taking refusal constitutes both the microfoundation of dehumanization in the case of the oppressor and, in the case of the oppressed, the microfoundation of resistance. Role-taking refusal is linked to Giddens's notion of the reflective project of the self, Omi and Winant's racial formation theory, Feagin's theory of systemic racism, and the perspective of Critical Race Theory.

Methodology – I shall portray role-taking refusal by using historical, theoretical, and empirical works, especially ethnographic studies.

Social implications – The oppressed know the image their oppressors have of them. Refusing to internalize this image is the first step – the microfoundation – of resistance. Role-taking refusal in the oppressed fosters critical consciousness, which, if solidarity with others is formed, can lead to collective action and, possibly, permanent institutional change.

Originality – “The superiority delusion” is the paradigmatic ideology of all oppressors, deployed to justify their power, privilege, and prestige. This delusion is maintained by the microfoundation of dehumanization, which is a systematic refusal to role-take from those over whom oppressors oppress. All other ideologies that justify oppression are derived from some form of “the superiority delusion,” identifying for the first time role-taking refusal as paradoxically both the original sin of social relations and the foundation of social resistance.

Purpose – The chapter seeks to broaden the literature on narrative identity by focusing on the processes by which collective, or group, identity narratives develop over time.

Methodology/approach – The chapter combines a “netnography” approach (i.e., ethnography using the Internet) with traditional ethnographic procedures in order to develop an in-depth case study of the collective identity narratives of a selected community that is undergoing rapid economic change.

Findings – Over the course of approximately one century, there have been six distinguishable identity narratives in the selected community. We show that three of these, covering most of the period under investigation, have historical value, while three others are currently competing to become a new narrative identity adapted to the community's altered situation.

Research limitations/implications – The online survey used in the research elicited responses from a broad range of persons nationwide, including both current and former residents. The total number of responses, however, was relatively limited, and we cannot be certain to what degree they represent the views of all current members of the community.

Practical implications – The findings of the chapter may prove useful to local citizens, as well as elected officials and business leaders, as they seek to develop strategic plans for the community's future.

Social implications – The research reveals significant differences in attitudes among older and younger residents, as well as between those who had some association with the community's steel mill and those who did not.

Originality/value of paper – The chapter seeks to make theoretical, methodological, and empirical contributions. On the conceptual level, the discussion raises the seldom explored issue of collective narratives. Methodologically, the analysis adds to the literature on “netnography,” which has thus far been largely dominated by scholars in management. Empirically, the chapter identifies specific stories emerging in a deindustrializing community.

Purpose – Research on punk culture often falls prey to three main dilemmas. First, an ageist bias exists in most popular music research, resulting in the continued equating of music and youth. Second, punk culture research often uses a Marxist economic lens that implies fieldwork reveals already known conceptions of class and culture. Third, research on punk culture lacks ethnographic and narrative examinations. This ethnographic project explores my reentry into punk culture as an adult, exploring it from a new researcher perspective. It provides an insider's view of emerging cultural themes at the site that disrupts these traditional research approaches.

Methodology/approach – This ethnography examines punk culture at an inner city nonprofit arts establishment. Through grounded theory and using a fictional literary account, this research probes how rituals and cultural narratives pervade and maintain the scene.

Findings – Concepts such as carnival, jamming as an organizing process – and as an aesthetic moment – emerged through the research process. This ethnography found narratives constituted personal and communal identity.

Research limitations/implications – As a personal ethnography, this research contains experiences in one local arts center, and therefore is not necessarily generalizable to other sites or experiences.

Originality/value of paper – Using ethnography, I explored punk as one of my primary identities in tandem with younger members of the scene. It critiques Marxist and youth approaches that have stunted music scene research for decades.

Purpose – I extend the discourse regarding The Days of Wine and Roses (TDoWaR) as an Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) film in particular and analyses of A.A. films in general and provide a symbolic interactionist reading of TDoWaR as involving compliance dramas.

Design/methodology/approach – Borrowing from Norman Denzin's notion of a subversive reading of films, in which the author attends to the literal content of a text from a predefined perspective, I deal with the characters as if they create and maintain aligned and congruent actions that authors can analyze as conversational and interactional content. My main interest, drawing upon symbolic interactionist conceptualization and previous reviews of TDoWaR, involves the decisions made by characters to imbibe against their better judgment.

Findings – I detected four dramas (foreshadowed, evocative, profane, and complementary) that differed in interactional intensity and consequences. Each involves mutual decision making associated with self-definition and definition of the relationships. I also locate the dramas in the context of moral themes of an A. A. Film, specifically an epiphany, a categorical commitment to sobriety, an ongoing life cycle of recovery, and synchronicity.

Originality/value – Compliance dramas involve decisions to engage in ordinary activity (in this case, drinking) that becomes nonordinary, owing to semiotic, situational, historical, and interactional dynamics. The chapter can encourage thinking about alcoholism and alcoholic films as involving a moral career of a recovering alcoholic that sometimes must involve sacrifice of other prestigious moral careers (e.g., of a romantic relationship) in order to maintain the authenticity of the identity.

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Purpose – People do not just interact, with each other; rather, they engage with each other using the visual and verbal instrumentations of communication at their disposal, constructing meaningful and intelligible conversations with differing degrees of precision of intention and clarity of expression. In doing this, they employ the “fundamental features of language,” described in various semiotic and structuralist theories.

Methodology – Here, we synthesize and integrate the key aspects of these language theories in an attempt to apply them to everyday conversations. The language features in question are routinely put into play by human agents to convey attitudes, emotions, opinions, and information and to achieve an engagement with the other.

Findings – Human relations, expansive in their range and intricate in their forms, demand complex instrumentations with which to conduct them. These instrumentations are essential features of the linguistic socialization of human agents, integral to both memory and habits of speech.

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Purpose – With an acknowledgement to Benedict Anderson's seminal writings on “imagined communities,” this paper examines several meanings and uses of the concept of imagination: theoretical, methodological, and substantive.

Methodology/approach – Application of these meanings are illustrated from eight qualitative researches, combining direct observations, interviews, participant observation, and document analysis.

Findings – Data are drawn from diverse settings, such as undocumented migrant communities, terrorism, Native American communities, collaborative divorce, nationalism, mass killers, players of video games, and genocide, to illustrate the potential uses and meanings of imagination.

Originality – These diverse researches illustrate the potential empirical and research contributions of these ideas.

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Purpose – To analyse the patterns of deception that take place at five different levels of intimacy: fleeting encounters between strangers, performance teams and their audiences, competitive game play between teammates, intimate partners, and individual selfhood.

Approach – Symbolic interactionist and dramaturgical theories are applied alongside Simmel's dialectical model of social relations.

Findings – Symbolic interactionist theories posit that deception can be socially good, regardless of whether it is morally right or wrong, because of its facilitative effects on interaction order. While applicable to the tactful ‘polite fictions’ that characterise some routine encounters in everyday life, this model of pragmatic rationality becomes complicated when we analyse its deployment in more intimate forms of social relationship. Drawing on Simmel's dialectic of fascination and fear, I suggest that the relative influence of these factors shifts as intimacy increases: cautious reserve gives way to trust, excitement and risk taking, experienced through both collusive deception and honesty. This culminates in the Goffmanesque ‘transceiver’, an agent who can take the view of both fraudster and victim simultaneously, viewing the social drama from both perspectives; fear, suspicion and cynicism then paradoxically re-emerge. The consequences of transceivership are explored in relation to self-deception, through the example of academic impostordom.

Originality and value – The paper critically explores the limitations of SI and dramaturgy for understanding more intimate forms of deception, while arguing that Simmelian ideas can be usefully applied to augment the theories and compensate for these effects.

About the Authors

Pages 281-284
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Francisco J. Alatorre earned his law degree in Mexico, where he also practiced law before emigrating to the United States in 1991. He completed his Ph.D. degree in Justice Studies in 2011, and he is now Assistant Professor of Criminology at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. His dissertation research involved a study of undocumented immigrants in Arizona.

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Studies in Symbolic Interaction
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