Conversation and culture in the Puerto Rican Cultural Center: An ethnographic exploration of communicating personhood

1998 1998

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Abstract (summary)

This study examined how communicative practices create a cultural "voice": who has it, how is it affirmed or disconfirmed and reified or not. Towards this end, notions of personhood as communicated within a "Cultural Center" were explored. Ethnography of communication (Carbaugh, Hymes, Philipsen) formed the basic theoretical and methodological foundation for this study. Data were collected at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center in Springfield, Massachusetts through participant-observation. This study is based on two cultural scenes, monthly board meetings and the 1994 Annual Dinner.

The central questions addressed in this study were: how is personhood symbolized and lived at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center? What are the culture-specific meanings given to these symbols? What is the relationship between communication and personhood? The main analytic framework consisted of these terms: key symbols, person reference, norms, voice, communication event and cultural code.

The principal findings from this study were that Puerto Ricans speak with the valued symbol, "community." The symbol "community" orients their world view such that talk makes sense within a symbol system that privileges voices of the community over individual voices. Communicative enactments of this perspective are many and varied. For example, person referring devices are used to locate persons in relation to others in the community by designating particular roles that people play. In addition, the way that some conversations are constructed highlight the cultural importance of community as when individual persons weave their personal threads of talk into a social fabric of collaboratively produced utterances.

Persons are valorized by their participation in these cultural sequences of talk by using the significant symbols of "community" in the "proper" ways. This demonstrates how valorized members speak from the voice of the communal, rather than through an autonomous, individual voice.

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology;
Minority & ethnic groups;
0459: Communication
0326: Cultural anthropology
0631: Minority & ethnic groups
0631: Sociology
Identifier / keyword
Communication and the arts; Social sciences; Communicating; Conversation; Culture; Massachusetts; Personhood; Puerto Rican Cultural Center
Conversation and culture in the Puerto Rican Cultural Center: An ethnographic exploration of communicating personhood
Milburn, Trudy Anne
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 59/07, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780591960532, 0591960532
Carbaugh, Donal
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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