Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Communication

First Advisor

Robert Craig

Second Advisor

Karen Tracy

Third Advisor

Bryan Taylor

Abstract

Interracial friendship between African Americans and whites in metro Detroit requires bridge-building across a socially constructed divide. This ethnographically-inflected, interview-based case study of the narratives of three friendships between black and white women in metro Detroit analyzes the communicative co-construction of their relationships. Friendship narratives, which arose in three-person interaction (between the friendship dyad and researcher), serve as the primary data. Applications of the methods of analysis of William Labov et al. (1972, 1981; Labov & Fanshel, 1977; Labov & Waletzky, 1967) provide the primary analytic lenses. Conclusions demonstrate how interpersonal relationships may be performed in the setting of a specific social landscape. The narratives of the friends in this case study illustrate co-constructed practices of communication, such as perspective-taking, metadiscourse, successful conflict management, and humor-practices which may be conducive to the maintenance of friendship across socially constructed difference. The narratives also illustrate how participants and researcher may interactively co-construct identities (including racial identity and a friends-as-family identity) that seem to be especially salient to the success of interracial relationships. Finally, conclusions identify ways in which the narratives of the friends both conform to and resist the metanarrative of metro Detroit, which this study demonstrates is a story deeply embedded with racial hostility and a will to fight. In sum, this narrative inquiry explores the range of communication practices and rhetorical strategies that dyads of African American and European American friends may employ as they exert their agency to resist and transcend the dominant themes of the metanarrative of metro Detroit.

Included in

Communication Commons

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