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Communication of Respect in Interethnic Service Encounters Author(s): Benjamin Bailey Source: Language in Society, Vol. 26, No. 3 (Sep., 1997), pp. 327-356 Published by: Cambridge University Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 19/01/2014 15:42 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . . JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected] . Cambridge University Press is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Language in Society. LanguageinSociety26, 327-356. Printedin theUnitedStatesca Communication of respect in interethnic service encounters BENJAMIN BAILEY DepartmentofAnthropology Universityof California LosAngeles, CA90095-1553 [email protected] ABSTRACT Divergent practices for displaying respectin face-to-face interactionare an ongoing cause of tensionin the US between immigrantKoreanretail- ers and their African American customers. Communicative practices in serviceencountersinvolving Korean customers contrastsharplywiththose involving AfricanAmericancustomersin 25 liquor store encountersthat were videotapedandtranscribed foranalysis.The relativerestraintof im- migrant Korean storekeepersin these encounters is perceived by many African Americans as a sign of racism, while the relatively personable involvement of AfricanAmericans is perceived by many storekeepersas disrespectfulimposition. These contrasting interactionalpractices reflect differing conceptsf the relationshipbetween customerand stQrekeeper, anddifferentideas aboutthe speech activities thareappropriate in ser- vice encounters. (Interculturalcommunication, respect, service encoun- ters,AfricanAmericans,Koreans)* Conflict inface-to-face interactionbetweenimmigrant Koreanretail merchants and theirAfricanAmericancustomershas been widely documentedsince the early 1980s. Newspapers in New York,Washington, DC, Chicago, andLos An- geles havecarried storiesnthis friction;nd the 1989 movie Do the rightthing confrontationsof this the time thatthe events of April depictedangry type. By 1992- referredtovariously astheLos Angeles "riots,"uprising,""civildistur- bance" or,by manyimmigrantKoreans,sa-i-gu 'April29' - cast media spot- lighton suchrelations,herehadalreadybeennumerousAfricanAmerican boycotts of immigrant Korean businessesin New YorkandLos Angeles; politiciansad publicly addressedthe issue;andacademics (e.g.Ella Stewart 1989 and Chang 1990)had begun to writeaboutthistype of friction. Therearemultiple, intertwined reasonsfortheseinterethnictensionsin small businesses.An underlying source isthehistoryofsocial,racial,ndeconomicin- equality inAmerican society.nthis broader context,visitso any storecan be- comea charged eventforAfricanAmericans. Thus, accordingtoAustin (1995:32), Any kind ofordinary face-to-faceetailtransactioncanturn intoahassle fora blackperson. For example, therecan hardlybe ablack inurbanAmericawho C 1997CambridgeUniversityess0047-4045/977.50+ .10 327 BENJAMIN BAILEY has not been eitherdeniedentry to astore,closely watched,snubbed, ques- tionedabout heror hisabilitytopay for an item,or stoppedand detained for shoplifting. Specific featuresof smallconvenience/liquor stores,such as the ones studied here,exacerbatethepotentialforconflict. Pricesin such stores arehigh, many customershave low incomes, andthe storekeepersareseen bymany asthe latest in along line of economic exploitersfromoutside theAfricanAmerican com- munity(Drake&Cayton1945, Sturdevant 1969,Chang1990, 1993).Shoplifting is notuncommon,and thelatehours and cash basis ofthe stores make them appealingtargetsforrobbery.Nearly alltheretailersinterviewedhadbeen robbed at gunpoint; thishad led some to do businessfrom behind bulletproofglass, makingverbalinteractionwithcustomers difficult. Inthissocially,racially,aneconomicallychargedcontext, subtledifferences in theways thatrespect iscommunicated in face-to-faceinteractionreof con- siderablesignificance,affectingrelationshipsetween groups.Thisarticledoc- uments how differences in theways thatimmigrant Korean storekeepersand AfricanAmericancustomerscommunicate respectin service encountershave contributedto mutual,distinctively intensefeelingsof disrespectbetween the two groups, andserve asan ongoing sourceof tension.These contrastingprac- tices forthedisplayof politenessand respectareempirically evidentin thetalk and behavior that occur instores,and the negative perceptions thatresultare salientin interviewsofretailersandcustomers alike. RES PECT The issue of "respect"in face-to-face encountershasbeen stressedboth in the media and in academicaccountsof relationsbetween AfricanAmericansand immigrant Koreanretailers.Ella Stewart (1991:20) concludesthat"respect" is important forboth groups inserviceencounters: Both groupsdeclaredrudenessasasalient inappropriatebehavior.The under- linedthemesforbothgroupsappeartobe respectandcourtesyshowntoward each other.Eachgroupfelt thatmore respectshould be accordedwhen com- municatingwitheachother,andthatcourtesyshouldbe shownthroughverbal andnonverbal interactionby being more congenial, polite, considerate,and tactfultowardeachother. Such analysissuggests thatgood intentionsareall thatis requiredto ameliorate relationships:eachgroupsimplyhasto showmore"respectandcourtesy"tothe other.However, thedatapresented inthis articlesuggest that,even when such good intentionsseemtobe present,respectis noteffectively communicatedand understood.The problemis that,in a given situation,therearefundamentally differentways ofshowingrespectindifferentcultures.Becauseof differentcon- ventions forthe displayof respect,groupsmay feel respectforeach other,and 328 LanguageinSociety26:3 (1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT maycontinuously workatdisplaying theiresteem yet each groupcanfeel that theyarebeingdisrespected. Thistype of situation,inwhichparticipantscommu- nicateatcross-purposes, hasbeen analyzed mostnotably by Gumperz1982a,b, 1992 regarding interculturalcommunication, though not regarding respect specifically. The communication of respectis aundamentaldimension of everyday,face- to-faceinteraction.s Goffmansays (1967:46), "theperson inoururbansecular worldis allottedkindof sacrednessthat isdisplayedand confirmedbysymbolic acts."These symbolic acts areachieved,often unconsciously,throughthe ma- nipulationof aarietyof communicative channelsincluding prosody,choice of wordsandtopic, proxemicdistance, andtimingof utterances. Gumperz1982a, 1992 has shown how culturaldifferences in the use ofsuch contextualization cues - atlevelsrangingfromtheperception andcategorizationof soundsto the globalframingof activities canleadtomisunderstandings ininterculturalcom- munication.The focus of thisarticle theways inwhich constellationsof inter- actionalfeaturescancommunicate(dis)respect in servicencounters. The interculturalmis)communication of respectbetween AfricanAmerican customersand immigrantKorean retailersis particularlygnificant for inter- ethnic relationsecause behavior thatis perceived to belacking in respectis typicallyinterpretedsactivelythreatening.hus,according toBrown&Levinson (1987:33), "non-communication of thepoliteattitudeill be readnotmerely as theabsenceof that attitude,butastheinverse,theholding of anaggressiveatti- tude."Whenconventions forpaying respectinserviceencountersdifferbetween cultures,as theydo between immigrant Koreans andAfricanAmericans, indi- vidualsmay readeachother'sbehaviorasnot simply strangeorlacking insocial grace,but as aggressivelyantagonistic. Brown&Levinsonposit classification system forpolitenesspracticesthatis useful forconceptualizing thecontrastinginteractionalpracticesof immigrant Koreanretailersand AfricanAmerican customers. Following Durkheim 1915 andGoffman1971,theysuggest two basicdimensions of individuals'desirefor respect:NEGATIVEFACE wantsand POSITIVE FACE wants.Negative face want is "thewantof every 'competent adultmember' thathisactionsbe unimpeded by others,"while positivefacewantis "the wantof every memberthathis wants be desirableto atleast someothers" (Brown & Levinson, 62).Statedmore simply, people do not want to be imposed on (negative facewant); but they do want expressions ofapproval, understanding,and solidarity(positiveace want).Be- cause the labels"positive"and "negative" have misleadingconnotations, I use andRESTRAINT theword involvement toreferto positivepolitenessphenomena, toreferto negativepolitenessphenomena. Thesetermsdenote the phenomena to which theyrefermore mnemonically than the termsPOSITIVE and NEGATIVE. Strategiesforpayingrespect includeactsof"involvement politeness"andacts of "restrainpoliteness."nvolvement politenessincludesthosebehaviors which expressapproval oftheselfor "personality"oftheother.Itncludesactswhichex- Language iSociety6:3(1997) 329 BENJAMIN BAILEY presssolidarityetweeninteractors- e.g.compliments,friendlyjokes,agreement, demonstrations ofpersonalinterest,offers,ndtheuse of in-groupidentityark- ers.Datafromstoreinteractionsshow thattheseacts arerelativelyore frequent inthe serviceencountertalkofAfricanAmericansthanof immigrantKoreans. Restraintpoliteness includesactionswhich markthe interactor'sunwilling- ness to imposeon others,orwhich lessen potentialimposition.hese strategies can includehedgingstatements,makingrequestsindirect,being apologetic, or simply NOT demanding theother'sattention tobegin with.Restraintface wants are basicallyconcerned with the desire to be free ofimpositionfrom others, whereeventhedistraction one's attentioncanbe seenas imposition.Behaviors thatminimizethe communicativedemands on another - e.g.NOT askingques- tions,NOT tellingjokesthatwould callforaresponse, and NOT introducingper- sonaltopicsofconversation canbe expressionsofrestrainpolitenessorrespect. Suchacts ofrestraintre typicalf theparticipation immigrant Koreanstore- owners in serviceencounters. METHODS Fieldwork for thistudy took placeinLos Angeles between July1994and April 1995.Data collectionmethodsincluded ethnographicobservationand interview- ing inimmigrant Korean stores,interviewswithAfricanAmericans outsideof storecontexts,and videotaping of serviceencountersinstores. Imaderepeated visitsto six storesthe CulverCityarea, fivein SouthCen- tral,ndtwo inKoreatown.Visitsto stores typicallyastedfromone-halfhourto two hours; with repeatedvisits, spentover 10 hours ateach of threestoresin Culver Cityand onein South Central,andoverfivehours one Koreatownstore. in two Korean one in Service encounters immigrant stores, Culver City and one inKoreatown, were videotaped foratotalof fourhours ineachstore.Video cameraswere setup inplainview, but drew virtuallyno attention,perhapsbe- cause therewere alreadymultiple surveillancecameras in each store.Thetapes fromtheKoreatownstore are used forthecurrentstudy becausetheCulver City storehad no Koreancustomers andalower proportion of AfricaAmericancus- tomers. During the fourhours oftaping inthis Koreatown store,therewere 12 AfricanAmericancustomersand13 immigrant Koreancustomers. Theencounterswith AfricanAmericancustomersweretranscribedusingthe conventions ofconversationanalysis (Atkinson & Heritage1984),1resulting in over 30 pages of transcripts.he encounters in Koreanwere transcribedby a KoreanAmerican bilingualassistanaccording toMcCune-Reischauerconven- tions,andthen translatednto English.Transcriptionand translationof Korean encounters were accompaniedbyinterpretation and explanation- someof which wasaudio-recorded -by thebilingualassistantwhilewatchingthevideotapes.In addition,the storekeeperwho appearsthroughout the four hoursof videotape watched segments ofthetapes and gavebackground informationon some ofthe 330 LanguagenSociety6:3(1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT customersappearinginthetapes,e.g. howregularlytheycametothestore.Tran- scriptsof encountersin Koreancompriseover25 pages. SERVICE ENCOUNTER INTERACTION Inthefollowing sections,Ifirstconsiderthegeneralstructureof serviceencoun- tersas an activity,delineatingtwo types:SOCIALLYMINIMAL VS.SOCIALLYEX- PANDED serviceencounters.Second,Iconsiderthecharacteristicsofconvenience storeserviceencountersbetweenimmigrantKoreans,presentingexamplesfrom transcriptsthatshowsociallyminimalserviceencounterstobethecommonform. Third, consider the characteristicsof service encountersbetween immigrant KoreanstorekeepersandAfricanAmericancustomers,using transcriptsof two such encountersto demonstratethecontrastingformsof participationn them. Merritt(1976:321) defines a serviceencounteras: aninstanceofface-to-faceinteractionbetweenaserverwhois"officiallyposted" in some service areaanda customerwho is presentin thatservice area,that interactionbeingorientedtothesatisfactionofthecustomer'spresumeddesire for some serviceand theserver'sobligationto provide thatservice.A typical serviceencounteris one inwhicha customerbuys somethingata store ... Service encounters instoresfall underthebroader category of institutiontalk, the defining characteristicof which is itgoal-orientation(Drew & Heritage 1992a).Levinson(1992:71)sees theorganization,orstructure,of suchactivities as flowing directlyfrom their goals:"wherever possibleI would like to view these structuralelements as and to the or rationally functionallyadapted point goal of theactivityinquestion,thatis thefunctionorfunctionsthat members of the societysee theactivityashaving." The structuraldifferences between Korean-Koreanservice encountersand thosewithAfricanAmericancustomersthatwill bedescribedbelow suggest that the two groups have differentperceptions of the functionsofsuch encounters. Even when goals are seen tooverlap, participantsin interculturalencounters frequentlyutilizcontrastingmeans of achievingthosegoals (Gumperz1992:246). Although AfricanAmerican customersand immigrant Korean shopkeepersmight agree thatthey areinvolved inaservice encounter,theyhavedifferentnotionsof the typesofactivitiesthatconstitute servicencounterandthe appropriate means for achieving those activities. Theserviceencounters involving immigrant Koreans andAfricanAmericans thataretranscribedinthisarticletook place inaKoreatown liquor storebetween 3 p.m. and7 p.m. ona Thursday April 1995. Thestoredoesnotuse bulletproof glass,andfromthecash registeronehasanunobstructed lineofsightthroughout the store. The cashier is a31-year-oldmale employee with an undergraduate degree from Korea; he attendedgraduate school briefly,inboth Koreaandthe US, in microbiology.Hehasbeen intheUS forfouryears andworked inthisstore foraboutthreeanda halfyears. LanguageinSociety6:3(1997) 331 BENJAMIN BAILEY Serviceencounters this corpusvary widely bothin lengthand the typesof talk theycontain. Theyrange fromencountersthatinvolve only a few words, and lastjustseconds,tointeractionsthatlastas long assevenminutesandcoversuch wide-rangingtopics as customers'visits to Chicago, knee operations, and race relations.Morecommonthanthesetwo extremes, however, areencounterslike the following,inwhichan immigrant Koreanwoman of about40 buyscigarettes: Cash: Anny6nghaseyo. 'Hello/Howareyou?'((Customerasjustenterestore.)) Cust: Anny6nghaseyo. 'Hello/How areyou?' Cust: Tambae! 'Cigarettes!' Cash: Tambaetilry6yo? 'Youwouldlike cigarette((Cashiereachesfocigarettesundcounter.)) Cash: Yogiissdmnida. 'Hereyou are.((Cashierakes customermoney and handshercigarettes;stomer turnso leave.)) Cash: Anny6nghikaseyo. 'Good-bye.' Cust: Nye. 'Okay.' Thebasiccommunicativeactivitiesof thisencounterare:(a) greetings or open- ings, (b) negotiationof thebusiness exchange, and (c)closing of theencounter. Greetings, as"accessrituals" (Goffman 1971:79), markatransition toa period ofheightened interpersonalaccess.In thesestores,greetingstypicallyoccurasthe customerpasses through the doorway, unless thestorekeeperisalreadybusyserv- ing anothercustomer.Greetingsinthesecircumstancesinclude Hi,Hello, How's itgoing, How areyou? or, in Korean, Annyonghaseyo 'Hello/How are you?' Thesecondbasicactivityis thenegotiationof thebusinesstransaction, which includes such elements as namingthe priceof the merchandisebroughtto the counter by the customer, or out it counting change as ishandedbacktothecus- tomer.While explicit verbalgreetings and closings do not occur in every re- corded encounter,each contains a verbal negotiation of the transaction.The negotiationof the business exchange can be long and full of adjacencypairs - (Schegloff & Sacks 1973) involving, e.g., requestsfora product from behind the counter,questions about aprice,repairs (Schegloff etal.1977), andrequests oroffersof abag.Merrittcalls theseadjacencypairs"couplets,"andshegives a detailedstructurafllowchart (1976:345) thatshows the lengthand potentialcom- plexity of thisphaseof a service encounter. The thirdandfinal activity of these encounters,the closing, often includes formulaic exchanges:Seeyou later, Takecare,Havea good day,orAnnyo'nghi kaseyo 'Goodbye'.Frequently, however,thewordsusedtoclose thenegotiation of thebusinessexchangealso servetoclose theentire encounter: Cash: Onetwo threefourfive tentwen((Countingbackchange.)) Cash: (Thankyou/okay) Cust: Alright 332 Language inSociet26:3(1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT This typeof encounter - limitedto no morethangreetings/openings, negoti- ationof theexchange,and closings Icall a SOCIALLYMINIMAL serviceencoun- ter.Thetalkinitrefersalmost entirelytoaspectsof the businesstransaction,the exchange of goods for money; it does not includediscussion of moresociable, interpersonaltopics, e.g. experiencesutsidethe storeor thecustomer'sunique personalrelationshipwith the storekeeper. However,manyservice encountersdo NOT matchthis socially minimalpat- tern.SOCIALLY EXPANDED service encounterstypically include the basic ele- mentsdescribedabove,but alsoincludeactivitiesthathighlighttheinterpersonal relationshipbetween customers andstorekeepers.These socially expandeden- countersarecharacterized by practicesthatincreaseinterpersonal involvement, i.e. involvementpolitenessstrategiessuchasmakingjokes orsmall-talk,discuss- ing personalexperiences fromoutsidethe store,andexplicitly referringto the personalrelationship betweencustomerandstorekeeper. The initiationof a socialexpansionof a service encounter is evident in the followingexcerpt. TheAfrican American customer hasexchangedgreetingswith theKorean owner andcashierof the store;thecashierhasretrievedthecustom- er's habitualpurchase, andbegins to ring it up. The customer, however, then reframestheactivityinwhich theyareengaged,initiating (markedinboldface)a new activity a personable discussion ofhis recentsojourn inChicago - which lastsforseveralminutes. Cash: That'sit? Cust: Tha:t's((Cashieringsuppurchases.))((1.5)) Cust: Ihaven'tseenyoufor a while Cash: heheWhereyou been Cust: Chicago.((Cashiergspurchase.)) Cash: Ohreally? Thecustomer'scomment Ihaven 'tseen youfor a whileinstantiatesandinitiates a new type ofactivityandtalk. Thediscussionof thecustomer's timein Chicago is a fundamentally differenttype of talkfrom thatof sociallyminimal service encounters. Specifically,tischaracterized by talkthatis notdirectlytiedto the execution of thebusinesstransaction at hand,butratherfocuses on the ongoing between the customer and storekeeper.Discussing the customer's relationship tripto Chicago both indexes this personalrelationship and, at the same time, contributes toitsmaintenance. Such sharingof information helps constitutesocialcategories andco-mem- bership. To quote Sacks (1975:72), Information variesastowhom imay begiven to.Some mattersmay betoldtoa neighbor,others not;some toabest friend,others,while theymay be toldto a bestfriend,mayonly be toldto abest friendafteranotherhasbeen told,e.g., a spouse. In introducingtalk ofhistripto Chicago, thecustomer assertssolidaritywith the cashier:they areco-members ofa group who cannot onlyexchangegreetings and Language in Society:3 (1997) 333 BENJAMIN BAILEY makebusiness exchanges, butwho canalso talkabout personalexperiencesfar removedfromthestore. This type of talk,which indexes andreinforcesinterpersonalrelationships, distinguishessocially expandedserviceencountersfromminimalones. My data contain wide rangeof suchtalkwhichenhances personal involvement.Specific practicesinclude,amongmanyothers,talkabouttheweatherandcurrent events (Somebig hotel down in Hollywood, all the windowsblew out), jokes (I need whiskey,no soda, onlybuywhiskey), referencestocommonly knownthird par- ties(Mr.Choigoing tohave some ice?),commentson interlocutors'demeanor (What's thematter withyoutoday?), anddirectassertionsof desiredintimacy(I wantyoutoknow me.).Through theirtalk,ustomers and retailercreate,main- tain,oravoid intimacyandinvolvement witheachother. Theseindividualservice encounters -aneveryday formof contactbetween many AfricanAmericans and immigrantKoreans - arefundamental,discretesocial activitiethatshape the natureandtenor ofinterethnicrelationson abroaderscale. SERVICE ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN IMMIGRANT KOREANS Beforeexamining immigrant Koreaninteractionwith AfricanAmericans, I con- siderservice encountersin which thecustomersas well asthe storekeepersare immigrantKoreans.TheseKorean-Koreaninteractionsprovideabasis forcom- parison with AfricanAmericanencounterswith Koreans. If,for example, the taciturnityndrestraintof retailersintheirinteractionwithAfricanAmericans were due solely toracism, one would expect to flnd retailechattingand jok- ing with their Korean customers and engaging in relatively long, intimate conversations. Infact, theretailersnKorean-Koreanencounters displaythe same taciturn, impersonalpatterns talkandbehaviorthattheydisplaywithAfricanAmerican customers, even in theabsence oflinguisticandculturalbarriers.The Korean- Korean interactionsareevenshorter andshowless intimacythanthe correspond- inginteractionswithAfricanAmericancustomers.Tenofthe 13serviceencounters with immigrant Koreancustomers weresocially minimal,while only 3 of the12 encounterswithAfrican Americans were socially minimal.UnliketheirAfrican Americancounterparts,immigrantKoreancustomers generallydonot engage in practicesthrough which they could display and develop a more personalrela- tionshipduring theserviceencounter,e.g. makingsmalltalk or introducingper- sonal topics.The example of a Koreanwoman buying cigarettes,transcribed above, istypicalofencountersbetweenKoreanmerchantsandcustomers.Rac- ism or disrespectarenot necessarilyreasonsfor whatAfricanAmericansper- ceive asdistant,aconic behaviorin serviceencounters.3 Ihave no recordeddataof service encountersinvolving AfricanAmerican store-ownerswith which to comparethese encounterswith immigrantKorean ones. did,however,observemanyinteractionsbetweenAfricanAmericancus- 334 LanguageinSociety26:3 (1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT tomersand AfricanAmerican cashierswho were employed in storesowned by immigrant Koreans.Interactionsbetweencustomers andsuch AfricanAmerican cashierswere consistentlylonger,andincluded moresocial expansionsand af- fectiveinvolvement,than thecorresponding encounterswithimmigrant Korean cashiersinthe samestores. Of thethreesocially expandedserviceencountersamong immigrantKoreans, twoinvolvepersonalfriends ofthecashierfromcontextsoutside thestore,andthe thirdis withachildof about 10yearswho is aregularcustomer atthestore.Ac- cording to Scollon &Scollon(1994:137), thecommunicative behaviorthatEast Asians displaytowardthose whomthey know andwithwhom theyhave an on- goingpersonal relationship("insiders")iffersdrasticallyomthebehaviordis- played towardthosein relativelyanonymous serviceencounters("outsiders"): Onesees quite different pattern[from"inside"encounters] inAsiawhen one observes "outside"orservice relationships.hese arethe situationsin which the participantsreandremain strangersto each other,uchas intaxis, train ticketsales, andbanks.In "outside"(or nonrelationalencounters)one seesa patternwhich ifanything is moredirectlyinformationalthanwhatone sees in theWest.Infact,Westernersoftenarestruck withthecontrasttheyseebetween the highlypolite and deferentialians they meet in theirbusiness, educa- tional,nd governmental contactsandthe rude,pushy, andaggressiveAsians [byWesternstandardsforsubway-riding behavior]they meeton thesubways of Asia'major cities. Inmy data,serviceencountercommunicative behavioramongKoreanadults could be predictedby thepresence orabsence of personalfriendshipfrom con- texts outsidethe store. Socially expandedncounters with immigrant Korean friendsof adultsoccurred onlywhen thoseadultswere personal the cashier,ith whom he had contactoutsidethe store.he cashier did nothave a relationship with the childcustomeroutsidethe store;ut criteriafoexpanding encounters with children,andthenature ofthe expansions,may be differentthanforadults. Inthis case,the social expansionncludedalecture to thechild onthenecessity of long hours,and the childformally asked to be releasedfrom the working interactionbeforeturning to go. Even insocially expanded serviceencounters among adultKorean friends, interlocutorsmayattimes display arelativelyhigh degreeof restraint.orex- ample,inthefollowingsegment, thecashierencountersa formerroommate whom hehas not seenin severalyears,who has by chanceenteredthe storeas a cus- tomer.Thecashierand thiscustomerhadshared an apartmentfortwo months in LosAngeles, more than threeyearspriortothisencounter,andthecustomerhad latermoved away from Los Angeles. When thecustomer entersthe store,e displaysnovisiblesurpriseoremotion atthischanceencounter withhisformerroommate. He initiallygiveso replyto thecashier'srepeatedqueries,"Wheredo you live?",and gazesaway from the Languagein Society3 (1997) 335 BENJAMIN BAILEY cashieras if nothing had been said.After being askedfive timeswhere he lives, he gives a relativelyuninformative answer, "Whereelse but home?" Cash: 0:! 'He:y!((Recognizingustomerwho has enteredstorCashierreachesout andtakes customer'shand.Customerpullsawayand openscooledoor.)((3.0)) Cash: Odisard. 'Whereareyou living?' Cash: 0? 'Huh?'((7.0)) Cash: Odisaro. 'Whereareyou living((.5)) Cash: Odisard. 'Whereareyou living?'((Cashierdcustomerstandat thcounteracross fromeach Cash: 0?other.))((2.5)) 'Huh?'((CustomegazesatdisplayawayfromcashierCashier at Cash: Odisaro:: gazes customer.)) 'C'mon,whereareyou living((1.0)) Cust: ( ) Cash: 0? 'Huh?'((Cashiermaintaigaze towardcustomer;customercontinuesogaze atdis- play.)) ((7.0)) Cash: Odisanyanikka? 'So,hereare you living?'((3.0)) Cust: Odisalgin,hibesalji. 'Whereelse,uthome?'((1.0)) Cash: 0? 'huh?' Cash: Chibiddinyago? 'So whereisyourhouse?' Inthisopeningsegmentof transcript,he cashierhasaskedthe customersixtimes wherehe lives- 10timesif the follow-up Huh? are included.Thecustomer does not revealto his formerroommatewherehe lives,even as he standsthree feet away from him, directlyacross the counter. The customer'sinitialunresponsivenessinthisencounteris strikingbyWest- ern standards of conversationalcooperation(Grice 1975).The cashier,however, doesnotseemtotreatthe customer's behavior asexcessively uncooperative,e.g. by becoming angry or demanding an explanation for his interlocutor'slack of engagement. A KoreanAmerican consultant suggested thatthe customer's re- straintwas a sign notof but disrespect, of embarrassment (perhaps regarding his lackof career progress),whichcouldexplainthecashier'srelativepatiencewith uninformativeresponses. Thisapparentresistancetoengagement, however, precisely thetypeof be- haviorcited byAfricanAmericansasinsulting,andasevidenceof racismonthe part of immigrantKorean storekeepers: When Iwent in theywouldn'tacknowledge me.LikeifI'matyourcounterand I'mlookingatyourmerchandise,wheresomeonewouldsay"Hi, how areyou today, there anything I-" theycompletelyignoredme.Itwasliketheydidn't careone way or the other. 336 LanguageinSociety26:3(1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT Theywouldn'tlookatyou atall.Theywouldn'tacknowledge youinanyway. Nothing.Youwerenobody ... They'dlook overyou or aroundyou. (46-year- oldAfricanAmericanwoman) ...tome,many,notall, manyof themperceiveBlacks asanon-entity.Weare treatedas if we do not exist. (50-year-oldAfricanAmerican male gift shop owner) Thecustomer'sreluctance to acknowledgethecashierverbally orto respondto his questions andthecashier's lack of angeratthis - indicatethat,at least in some situations,relativelyispassionateand impassive behavior is not inter- pretedby Koreansas insulting ordisrespectful. The taciturnityof thecustomer in this interaction,andf immigrantKorean storekeepersand customers moregenerally,is consistentwithdescriptionsof the importanceofnunch'iamong Koreans roughly 'perceptiveness',studyingone's face',or 'sensitivityitheyes' (M. Park1979,Yum1987). Itis a Koreaninter- actionalideal tobe able to understandan interlocutorwith minimaltalk,to be abletoreadtheother'sfaceandthesituation withoutverbal reference.Speaking, and forcingthe interlocutorto react,can be seen as animposition:"to provide someone with something before being asked isregarded as true service since once having asked, the requesterhas put the otherperson in a predicamentof answering'yes' or 'no"'(Yum 1987:80). Thisideal,ofcommunicating andunderstanding withouttalk,is present the twomostimportantreligio-philosophical traditionsfKorea - Confucianism and Buddhism.Confucianeducation stressesreadingandwriting,rather than speak- ing. Talkcannotbe entirelytrustedand is heldin relativelyow regard: Toreadwas theprofession of scholars,tospeak thatof menials.People were warned that "A crooked gem can be straightenedeven by rubbing; but a singlemistake inyour speech cannotbe corrected.Thereis no one who can chain yourtongue. As one is liable toake a mistakein speech,fasten your tongue at all times.his istruly aprofound and urgent lesson ..." (Yum 1987:79) In Buddhism, communicationthrough wordsis generallydevalued: "there isa general distrust communication, writtenor spoken, sinceitisincomplete,lim- ited,and ill-equippedtobringouttrue meaning"(Yum 1987:83).Enlightenment and understanding inKoreanBuddhism is achieved internally,nmediated by explicitutterances:"The questfor wordless truth- this has been the spiritf Korean Buddhism, andit stillemains itsraisond'etre"(Keel 1993:19). The data from service encounters presented here suggest that this cultural ideal,of understanding without recourse to words, exists notonly inreligio- philosophicaltraditions,ut may extend incertainsituationsoideals ofbehavior in everyday face-to-faceinteraction. Language inSociety6:3(1997) 337 BENJAMIN BAILEY SERVICE ENCOUNTERS BETWEEN IMMIGRANT KOREANS AND AFRICAN AMERICANS As noted above, the service encounterswith AfricanAmerican customersare characterizedby more personal,sociableinvolvementandtalkthanthe Korean- Koreanencounters.While social expansions with Korean adult customersoc- curred onlywith personalfriendsof thecashier from contextsoutsidethe store, onlyone of thenineAfricanAmericancustomers insociallyexpanded encounters was friendswiththecashier outsidethe storecontext. Althoughtheencounters withAfricanAmericansare longer andin manyways moreintimatethanthe correspondingones with Korean customers,-closeexam- inationrevealsconsistentlycontrastingforms ofparticipationintheserviceen- counters.Overwhelmingly, itis theAfricanAmerican customers who makethe conversationalmoves thatmake the encountersmorethan terseencountersfo- cusingsolely onthebusinesstransaction.Repeatedly,AfricanAmericancustom- ers,unliketheimmigrant Korean storekeepersand customers,treattheinteraction not justas a businessexchange, but as a sociable, interpersonalactivity by introducingtopics forsmall-talk,makingjokes, displayingaffectin making as- sessments,and explicitlyreferringotheinterpersonarlelationshipetweencash- ierandcustomer. ImmigrantKoreanretailers in these encountersare interactionallyreactive, ratherthanproactive, in co-constructingconversation.Videotaped recordsre- veal, forexample,repeated instanceswhere AfricanAmerican customersfinish turnswhen discussing issues not relatedto the businestransaction,and then re-initiatetalkenno reply forthcoming fromthe storekeepers.AfricanAmer- ican customers carrythe burden of creatingand maintaining the interpersonal involvement. When immigrant Koreanstore keepers do respond to talk, manyresponses display an understanding of referentialcontent of utterances but no align- ment with theemotional stance,of thecustomer's talk, e.g.humoror indig- nation. Consider the reactionto ASSESSMENTS, i.e.evaluative statementsthat show one's personalalignment towarda phenomenon(Goodwin & Goodwin 1992). These are not met by storekeepers with second-assessmentsof agree- ment.When they do respond to assessmentswith affect, e.g. smilingtacus- tomer's joke and subsequent laughter, theirdisplayed levels of affect and interpersonalinvolvement are typicallynot commensuratewith those of the customers. The relativerestraintf storekeepers ininteractionwith AfricanAmerican customersis not onlya functionof culturalpreferenceforsocially minimalser- vice encountersand situated,interactionarestraint;t also refleclimitedEn- glishproficiency.tis moredifficulto make small-talk, joke, ortogettoknow thedetailsof acustomer's life communication difficult.Restraintpoliteness canbe expressedby NOT usingtheverbal channel,i.e. silence;butinvolvement 338 LanguageinSociety6:3 (1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT politenessrequiresmorecomplex verbalactivities e.g. usingin-groupidentity markers, showing interestin theother'sinterests,djoking. Thephonological, morphological, andsyntacticdifferencesbetween Korean, anAltaiclanguage, andEnglish,an Indo-European one,make itdifficultoachieve fluency,and store-ownershave limitedopportunitiesorstudy.Even among those whohavebeen inAmericafor 20 years,many cannot understand Englishspoken atnative speed,and many express embarrassment about speaking it becauseof limitedproficiency.4 Videotaped records ofinteractiondo NOT reveal constanthostilityand con- frontationsbetween immigrant Korean retailersnd African American custom- ers;this findingis consistent with manyhours of observationin stores.Some relationships,particularlyhose between retailersnd regular customers, are overtly friendly:customersand storekeepers greeteach other,engage in some small talk,andpart amicably.Observation andvideotape do not revealthe ste- reotype of the inscrutablyilent,on-greeting,gaze-avoiding, and non-smiling Koreanstorekeepers whichwerecited by African Americans in media accounts and in interviewswith me. However, videotaped records do reveal subtlebut consistentdifferencesbetween AfricanAmericans and immigrant Koreans inthe formsof talkandbehavior in serviceencounters.Thesedifferences,when inter- preted throughculture-specificframeworks, cancontribute to andreinforcepe- jorativestereotypesof store-ownersasunfriendlyandracist,andof customers as selfishand poorly bred. Inthe following sectionIdetailthese differencesininteractionalatternsin transcriptsof two sociallyxpanded serviceencounters.The firstinteractions with a middle-aged African Americanman who isa regularat the store.he cashierwas ableto identifyhim immediately on videotapein a follow-upinter- view; he saidthatthecustomer hadbeencoming tothestore two orthree timesa week foratleastthree andahalf years.Thisencounter shows notablygood and comfortablerelations,typical of encounterswith regularcustomers, but at the same timeitdisplays theasymmetrical patternof involvement describedabove. The secondinteractionis amuchlonger one thatoccurswith a 54-year-oldcus- areaandthe and who be undertheinfluence tomerwho is new to the store, may of alcoholathetime. Contrastingformsof participationareparticularlyvident in this secondnteraction. Encounter I Inthisinteraction,neatly dressedAfricanAmerican man inhis 40s,carryinga cellularphone,comesinto thestoretobuy asodaand some liquor.e is aregular at the store,t at the timeof videotapinghe had been away inChicago fora month. The cashieris behindthe counter,andthe store-owner isstanding amid displaysinthemiddle of thestore.he store-owner,about40, hasbeen inAmer- ica for 20 years.e received hisundergraduate degree from the Universityof Los he studiedmathand computer science,e told me,be- California, Angeles; LanguageinSociety6:3(1997) 339 BENJAMIN BAILEY cause his English was not good enough forother subjects. He is more outgoing andtalkativewithcustomersthan most of the storekeepers of his age, or older, who wereobserved. Following greetings, the customerbegins to treatthe activity not just as a business transaction, but as an opportunity to be sociable, e.g. by introducing personal narratives about hislong absencefromLos Angeles and hisexperiences in Chicago: ((Customerentersstoreandgoes tosoda cooler.)) Cust: [Hi I Own: [Howar]eyou? ((Customertakessodatowardcash registerndmotionstoward displays.)) ((7.5)) Cust: Wow you guysmoveda lotofthingsaround Cash: Hello:, ((Cashierandsupfromwherehe was hiddenbehindthe counter.)) Cash: Heh heh Cash: How areyou? ((Cashierretrievescustomer'liquorandmoves toward register)) Cust: What'sgoing on man? ((Cashiergets cuporcustomer'sliquor.))((.8)) Cust: How've you been? Cash: Sleeping Cust: eh heh heh((1.8)) Cash: That'sit? Cust: Tha:t'sit ((Cashierringsuppurchases.))((1.5)) Cust: I haven'tseenyou forawhile Cash: heheWhere you been Cust: Chicago.((Cashierbagspurchase.)) Cash: Oh really? Cust: [yeah] Cash: [How]long? Cust: Forabout month((1.2)) Cash: How's there. Cust: Co:l'! Cash: [Co:ld?] Cust: [heh ]hehhehheh Own: Is Chicagocold? Cust: u::h! ((lateralheadshakes))((1.4))I gotofftheplaneandwalkedoutthe airport said "Oh shit." Cust: hehheh heh Own: I thoughtit'gonnabe nice springseasonoverthere Cust: Well notnow thisisabout month- Ibeen there-Iwas thereforaboutamonth butyou know (.) damn((lateralheadshakes)) ((Customermoves away fromcash registeroward owner.))((1.4)) Cust: Tooco:l' Cust: I meanthiswas reallycold Own: (Theyhave snowy) seasonthere Cust: I've knownitto snow on EasterSunday ((.)) Cust: AlrightthisSunday it'll Easter((.)) Cust: I'veseen itsnow EasterSunday ((15-seconddiscussion,ot clearly audible,which the owner asks if thereare mountainsin Chicago,andthe customerexplainsthattherearenot.)) Cust: See th- thisCaliforniaweatheralmostneverchanges. Cust: ((Spoken slowlyandclearlys fornon-nativespeaker.))backthereit'saseasonalchange, you got fall, winter,spring Own: mmhm Cust: Youknow Cust: But back theretheweathersshhh((lateralheadshake)) 340 Language in Society 26:3 (1997) COMMUNICATION OF RESPECT Cust: It'scoldpuntilune Cust: Imean thesguyslike they- theyringlon:gohn:sfromSeptemberntilune Own: (It's hot season,) Cust: He- hereit's hot,thereittowardxit.))hake)) Own:: Kay [seeou(later]merves Cust: [seeou later] Cust: Nice talkingyou has come intothe storeto buy a soda and liquor,he Although thiscustomer also displaysinterestin chatting,articularlyabout his sojourn in Chicago and the climate there.After the initialreetings, he comments on how much the storedisplays have changed: Wowyou guys moved a lot ofhings around. This commentis consistentwiththe fact thathe'sbeen away; itprovides anopening for areply such as We moved those a long time ago, or anothersuch comment thatwould display acknowledgment thatthe customer hasn't been in the store for some time. But neither cashiernor owner responds to hiscomment. The customer's use of the present perfecttense (How've you been?) - as opposed - attentionto thefact to presenttense (How areyou? orHowya doing?) draws thathe hasn'thad contactwith these storekeepers for a periodof time begin- ning in the past and ending as he speaks; again thisinvites discussion of the fact thathe hasn't been to the storefor an unusually long time. The cashier answersthe question How'veyou been? with Sleeping, treatingit as referring to thepresent. The English present perfecttense isexpressed with a past tense form in Korean, and may have led the cashier to interprethe question as a formof present tense. The cashier places the customer'shabitually preferredliquor on the counter talk, without thecustomer's requesting theitem. Indoing so,thecashier,without shows thathe knows thecustomer, atleast his businessexchange habits.As the cashier ringsup thepurchase, thecustomeragain uses thepresent perfecttense, indexing his relativelylongabsence fromthe store,commenting: I haven'tseen for a while.This comment not onlyindexes his longabsence from thestore, you but draws the cashierinto conversation.The comment istypicallymade by a person who has remained in one place while anotherhasleft and come back. In this case thereis no indication thatthe cashier has been away. Infact, asan immigrant Koreanworking inaliquor store,e probably spends 80 ormore hours aweek in thestore,up to 52weeks each year. Thecustomer's seeming reversalof roles - speaking asif the cashier,ather thanhe, had been away - hasthe function, however, of drawing thecashier into conversation. Thecustomer does not simply introduce thetopic he wants todis- cuss; he compels the cashier to askhim about the topic.If the customer had simply stated,I've been inChicago for a month and it was cold, hisaudience could simply have nodded and acknowledged it. Insteadhespeaker chooses an interactionaltrategythat compels a question from his interlocutors,ncreasing interpersonalinvolvement. LanguageinSociety6:3(1997) 341 BENJAMIN BAILEY Thecustomer'sdeliverydisplaysarelativelyhighlevel of affectivepersonal involvement:heusesprofanity(Ohshit), falsettovoice, hyperbole(theywearing long johnsfrom SeptemberuntilJune), elements of AfricanAmericanEnglish syntax(theywearing)andphonology(col'), andrelativelyhigh-volumelaughter. The cashierandowner,however,do not display such a high level of affective personalinvolvement in the interaction,even throughchannelswhich arenot dependenton linguisticproficiency.Theydo notlaughduring the encounter,for example, and the owneris looking down unsmiling whenthecustomerrecounts hisreaction(Ohshit) when gettingoff theplane inChicago. Thisdisparityinlevels ofpersonalinvolvementisparticularlyapparentasthe customer makes repeated assessments thatdisplay his alignment toward the weather in Chicago.According to Goodwin& Goodwin(1992:166), thisalignment can be ofsome momentin revealing suchsignificantattributes of theactorashisorhertasteandtheway inwhich he orsheevaluatesthephe- nomena he orsheperceives.Itis thereforenotsurprising thatdisplayingcon- gruentunderstandingcanbe anissue of someimportancetotheparticipants. Assessmentsprovidealocus forinterlocutorsto show commonunderstanding an
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