Perspectives on the Grateful Dead: Critical Writings

By Robert G. Weiner | Go to book overview
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Understanding ‘‘Show’’ as a Deadhead Speech Situation

Natalie Dollar

When considering the concept of culture, scholars tend to emphasize commonality at the expense of one of the most interesting aspects of culture: its diversity. Studies have generally focused on understanding cohesion and coherence within and across members’ ways of living, being, and speaking. Such consideration ignores the differences, divisions, and boundaries that exist within cultures, such as organized differences and organized diversity within culture. It is with such an orientation, understanding diverse ways of communicating like a United States speaker, that I became interested in studying Deadheads’ ways of speaking. I have always been interested in intracultural relations, specifically problematic relations (e.g., between members of differing U.S. social, political, and class communities). By systematically investigating this type of interaction, I hope to contribute to an understanding of both communication and intercommunity relations (for example, see Dollar 1998, and ‘‘Language’’).

According to Hymes (1966), to understand language we must begin with a consideration of the context, more specifically the community, in which it is used. Some speech communities are situated within cultures, their members sharing both a language (vocabulary, grammar, and syntax) and a common code that guides their use and interpretation of speech in social situations—in short, communication (Hymes 1962, 1972). Are all interactions embedded in polite remarks? What are appropriate displays of ‘‘self’’? What contextual factors influence the meaning of a verbal message? Taken together, questions of this type address the issue of code. Some of the organized diversity within a culture is expressed in or by the culture’s codes, one of which is a speech code. As communication is not a perfect

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