Stilisierungen, Identitäten, mediale Ressourcen
Language Practices for Constituting the Local Social Order in Peer Groups
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An Ethological Approach to Girls’ Social Organization: Practices for Constructing Inequality
Marjorie Harness Goodwin
Children, in concert with one another, build the phenomenal and social worlds they inhabit as the situated product of interactive practices: evaluating their playmates, ascribing categorizations to one’s interlocutors, and creating differentiation. Answering Erving Goffman’s call for “an ethology of human behavior in the wild” (1971:x, xvi) this study presents an ethological approach to children’s social organization and embodied language practices. To examine the practices through which the local order of children’s peer groups comes into being, and how social statuses are achieved and how hierarchies are built, I analyze face-to-face interaction. Children’s negotiations of how they stand vis-à-vis one are made relevant in the midst of their naturally occurring conduct with one another. Forms of negative commentary, rude behavior, ridicule, degradation, and social class- and/or race-based exclusion can develop in line with a social group’s desire for differentiation between in-group and out-group members. These are conveyed not only through language, but through ← 261 | 262 → gesture, touch, and uses of space as well. Forms of ritual profanation occurring in girls’ groups can cast one’s interlocutor as a ‘nonperson’ (Goffman 1967:67). By examining forms of talk among girls I problematize some common notions about girls’ groups. Opposition moves in girls’ talk are built in ways that clearly contrast with actions designed to display deference and challenge notions that females are inherently cooperative.
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