Colloquium (Co-sponsored by Paul Merage School of Business and COR)
Monday, February 9
SB1 5400 (5th floor Colloquium Terrace)
Prof. Gabriel Rossman
Department of Sociology, UCLA
“Obfuscatory Relational Work and Disreputable Exchange”
This article develops a model of how the structure of exchange can manage such disreputable exchanges as the commensuration of sacred for profane. Whereas existing research discusses the rhetorical reframing of exchange, I highlight structures that obfuscate whether an exchange is occurring and thereby mitigate exchange taboos. I identify three such exchange structures: bundling, brokerage, and gift exchange. Bundling uses cross-subsidization across multiple innocuous exchanges to synthesize a taboo exchange. Brokerage finds a third party to accept responsibility for exchange. Gift exchange delays reciprocity and reframes exchanges as expressions of friendship. All three strategies have alternative meanings and so provide plausible deniability to taboo commensuration. The article concludes by arguing that these sorts of exchange structures represent a synthesis of “nothing but” reductionism and “hostile worlds” moralism, rather than an alternative to them as Viviana Zelizer suggests.