Lending a helping hand: Analysis of transactions at the farmer's market
The farmer's market is a public space where individuals of different social, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds can come together and build a sense of a local community (Watson & Studdert 2006). As such, it provides a rich natural laboratory for students of social interaction. The propensity for interdependence and sociality at the market inheres partly in what Geertz' (1978) described as the "bazaar economy." This entails (among other things) a reciprocal relationship between the seller and the buyer where "the butcher or wool seller is tied to his regular customer in the same terms as he to them" (Geertz 1978: 30). Previous ethnographic and conversation analytic research of the farmer's market has explored broad themes such as consumption as cultural engagement and identity construction (Pradelle 2006) as well as specific interactional practices such as the organization of offers and requests for the price of sales items (vom Lehm 2014). The present conversation analytic (CA) study is based on video recordings of the early morning hours at a weekly farmer's market in a medium sized Swedish town. Over a period of a few consecutive weeks, we filmed a stall where a farmer and his adult daughter sold fresh produce and flowers. The farmer has been trading at the market during the last thirty years and his seniority was evident in that his stall was set up at the privileged outer corner of the market square. The recordings capture the farmer's interactions with a stable clientele of regular customers who show up around the same time each week as well as a range of individuals who frequent the stall more intermittently or for the very first time. I will present a collection of instances where the customer gives the farmer a helping hand either through manipulation of artefacts (by for example silently grabbing a paper bag and holding it open so that the farmer may more easily fill it it with potatoes) or through the combination of verbal language and nonverbal action (by for example providing a verbal offer "to help" before assisting). In my presentation I discuss how these assisting moments emerge and develop. Preliminary analysis suggests that even though these transactions take place within the hustle and bustle of the market setting they involve intense mutual attention and coordination between the one who sells and the one who buys. Drawing on previous research of video recordings of interactions between older persons and care givers in domestic care settings (Lindström 2005; Lindström and Heinemann 2009), I am also interested in exploring how orientations to individual agency and interdependence are made relevant in these embodied micromoments of everyday interaction. The investigation is part of Uppsala University's research initative on Language and ageing. Within this research program, one of our aims is to expose the interactional infrastructure that underpins det goda åldrandet (healthy ageing).
Geertz, Clifford (1978). The bazaar economy: Information and search in peasant marketing. American Economic Review, 68 (2), 28–32.
Lindström, Anna (2005). Language as social action: A study of how senior citizens request assistance with practical tasks in the Swedish home help service. Auli Hakulinen & Margret Selting (Eds.), Syntax and lexis in conversation: Studies on the use of linguistic resources in talk-in-interaction( pp. 209–230). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Lindström, Anna & Heinemann, Trine (2009). Good enough. Low-grade assessments in care giving situations. Research on Language and Social Interaction, 42 (4), 309–328.
Pradelle, Michele de la (2006). Market day in Provence. Chicago, Il.: University of Chicago Press.
vom Lehn, Dirk (2014). Timing is money: managing the floor in sales interaction at street-market stalls. Journal of Marketing Management. doi 10.1080/0267257x.2014.941378
Watson, S. & Studdert, D. (2006). Markets as sites for social interaction spaces of diversity. Bristol: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.