Morgan – “No Woman No Cry: Claiming African American Women’s Place

Morgan, Marcyliena. “No Woman No Cry: Claiming African American Women’s Place.” Reinventing Identities: The Gendered Self in Discourse. Eds. Mary Bucholtz, A. C. Lang, and Laurel A. Sutton. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 27-45. Print.

In this chapter Marcyliena Morgan analyzes thress different cites of African American female discourse use: 1) children’s play, 2) adolescent girls’ verbal activities, and 3) adult interaction. She contests the notion that Black vernacular is male constructed and dominated, and that is only in reaction to racial oppression.

Through a cross-generational analysis of Black female discourse practices Morgan concludes that her illustrations of how African American girls, young women, and women grow and function as core social actors shows that they are a part of the vernacular culture, not at the periphery. She also theorizes that their identity is tied to the construction of what she calls a cool social face (41).

Cool Social Face

Social face is an impression formed of a person based on her or his self-presentation (Goffman 1967). The African American cultural concept that both critiques and symbolizes social face is the notion of being cool – “current and trendsetting, calm, detached, yet in control (cf. Major 1994; Smitherman 1994) (31). Morgan defines a “cool face” as “the ability to enact subtle symbolic cultural practices with eloquence, skill, wit, patience, and precise timing” (31).

Morgan asserts that Black women and girls protect and maintain this face though language games such as he-said-she-said games, instigating, and conversational signifying (41). Morgan urges scholars and analysts to reanalyze the research that has defined sociolinguistics and conduct new research that includes women as social actors.

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Foster – “Are You With Me?”: Power and Solidarity in the Discourse of African American Women

Foster, Michéle. “”Are You with Me?”: Power and Solidarity in the Discourse of African American Women.” Gender Articulated: Language and the Socially Constructed Self. Eds. Kira Hall and Mary Bucholtz. New York: Routeledge, 1995. 329-350. Print.

In this chapter Michéle Foster attempts to expand the conversation on African American English and discourse beyond the study of Black, male discourse patterns to include those of middle-class African American women. She contests the notion that middle-class African American speech patterns align more closely with Standard English than those of working-class African Americans (Labov 1969).

Her data comes from observations of and interviews with African American female teachers. By using the framework of performance theory and discourse analysis, Foster concludes that the African American women in her study intentionally and systematically used features of African American discourse style, such as codeswitching in order to express their identity. Such expressions are also influenced by the social relationships between the participants – mainly familiarity.

… this chapter makes clear not only that African American women of the middle class and in the teaching profession retain their ability to communicate in the African American vernacular but that through their use of African American discourse they index a social identity and communicate a particular stance or point of view that cannot be expressed in Standard English. African American English enables these women to communicate cognitive, affective content not available in the standard form of the language, to create and maintain social relationships and express solidarity with listeners (347).