Seldom Ask, Never Tell: Labor and Discourse in Appalachia

By Anita Puckett | Go to book overview

8
"DOIN FOR SOMEBODY": ORDERS AND IMPERATIVES

"You should a done this and you should a done that."

Shortly after I moved to Ash Creek ( June 1985), I was riding in a car with two other women, one local and one a staff member at the Environmental Center. The local woman was discussing her marriage and how good her husband was as a spouse. She said several times, "He loves me, he does for me." I subsequently heard this trope many times, usually, but not always, from women. Men would of course change the pronoun to "She loves me, she does for me." [notes 6/85]

At an Environmental Center community event in the summer of 1986, I overheard two local men talking. One was talking about being married and his wife's merits. He said to the other, "She cooks the bacon, and I follow the bacon." [notes 7/86]

"ORDERS," OR UTTERANCES THAT SPEAKERS RECOGNIZE as verbal directives from one individual to control the behavior of another, are the most powerful speech acts in the Ash Creek repertoire in their effect on potential socioeconomic cohesion or disruption. When contextualized in ways residents interpret as appropriate, "orders" provide an unambiguous semiotic system for conjoining labor or work among individuals who belong to different gendered domains of political-economic control. Appropriate use of "orders" thereby reproduces or creates socioeconomic relations among those perceived as cultural unequals. When spoken appropriately within the "doin for somebody" contexts of Ash Creek socioeconomic activity, such normative imperative uses represent critical, core indexes of inclusion, affection, or "love," as defined by Ash Creek usage. 1

"Orders," however, are not the only requesting discourse used in constructing "doin-for" communicative practices. All forms in the requesting discourse repertoire can enter into the ongoing daily "doin for" patterns as well. Spoken primarily

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