A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working-Class Bar

A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working-Class Bar

A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working-Class Bar

A Place to Stand: Politics and Persuasion in a Working-Class Bar

Synopsis

Linguists have become increasingly interested in examining how class culture is socially constructed and maintained through spoken language. Julie Lindquist's examination of the linguistic ethnography of a working-class bar in Chicago is an important and original contribution to the field. She examines how regular patrons argue about political issues in order to create a group identity centered around political ideology. She also shows how their political arguments are actually a rhetorical genre, one which creates a delicate balance between group solidarity and individual identity, as well as a tenuous and ambivalent sense of class identity.

Excerpt

“You don't know shit from Shinola!” concludes Walter about me, setting his JBand-soda down hard on the bar. He has made this observation before, and it is beginning to acquire the status of a ritual. We are arguing, as usual, about the presidential campaign. I'd never admit it to him, but it occurs to me that maybe he's right—maybe I do have something to learn from him, something about politics even.

This work, an attempt to learn Walter's (and others') ways of separating the shit from the Shinola, is the product of that revelation. In the years I have spent acquiring this education, the bar at the Smokehouse Inn has been my classroom.

The first time I saw the inside of a bar, I was fifteen. Like many workingclass teens, I was eager for the heady possibilities for sociability that came with adulthood; to wait until I was of legal drinking age to go to the bar would have been to give in to the indignities of childhood. Even then, I knew that the way to adult pleasures, and adult wisdoms, was through the dark heavy door of a tavern. The name of that first bar was, provocatively, Hazy Daze; it, like so many of its kind, was a repository of neighborhood lore. I immediately took my place as engaged spectator. The smoke cleared to reveal a world of garrulous animation, of longing for an imagined past and hope for the future. I thought, though I could not then articulate it, that here was a place where people drop out of life for a while in order to live a little, where they defy the authority of social codes in order to enforce the rules with a vengeance. Here was a pocket of life-out-of-life where moments ticked by with suspended anxieties and fatalistic optimisms, where leisure was pursued with aggressive abandon. It was obvious to me even then that there was much to be learned about . . .

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