Seldom Ask, Never Tell: Labor and Discourse in Appalachia

By Anita Puckett | Go to book overview

9 CONCLUSION

"The way we do things is different."

When a female family member suffered a personal crisis, women in her "belongin" network who were also church members got together with her to pray. Afterwards, in talking about the positive outcome from this "prayin," Susie said, "Yeah, buddy, we got a lot of power." [notes 8/88]

One day in 1997 a local woman and I were talking about changes in the community. The acquisition of a volunteer fire department in 1994 was one topic. The local woman related a narrative about a "takin care of" problem between the Ash Creek volunteer fire department personnel and a county politician. She ended by saying, with frustration, "Everythin's political." [notes 8/97]

THIS BOOK BEGAN WITH ANECDOTES about contestative labor interactions in Ash Creek. I suggested that these highly negative responses from laborers were located not in the pathology of the person but in the meanings of the communication constructing the socioeconomic interaction. I can now claim that a significant cause of the conflict lay in the ways in which the imperatives contextualized the various communicative events for the different participants. Ash Creek residents understood the imperatives as "orders" and responded to them in a manner consistent with the Ash Creek patterns of responding to "orders." The effects of the misunderstandings were personal, deeply personal. But the source of the problem was in the different ways the interlocutors interpreted what they heard, not because of abnormal personalities. These processes of interpretation are constructed in the daily interactions of residents in relation to the material world. As a result of this social construction of meanings, they are complex, socially constituted signs and therefore within the cultural realm.

-206-

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