On Humorous Exchanges

Menair, Marion Suzanne, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Danziger, Eve Danziger, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Felski, Rita, Department of English, University of Virginia
Contini-Morava, Ellen, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
McKinnon, Susan, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Handler, Richard, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia

In this dissertation I examine the patterns and uses of transgressive humor and sexual talk that male traders from Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) indulge in when at their leisure from trading. I investigate how cultural conceptualizations or ideologies are brought into the present moment through discursive interaction and how the cultural signs that are mobilized in interaction both presuppose and entail language users' relational positions in and conceptual knowledge of specific forms of human sociality. I argue that the seemingly trivial events of language use that take place on trading floors-interactions that include men's homophobic/erotic joking, grotesqueries such as eating contests and dares to simulate sexual acts, as well as an abundance of heterosexual puns, allusions and comments-mediate the historically contingent form of capitalism as it is practiced on American financial exchanges. Thus, I conclude that traders' joking and sexual talk is transgressive but not subversive. The naturalization of capitalism, the celebration of individualism and the renewal of the gendered spheres ideology are enacted and realized anew via out-of-awareness linguistic processes that are integral to traders' discursive interactions. So, although traders perceive both the nature of men and markets to be wild, out-of-control and in opposition to the hierarchy of other domains in society, from my analysis we can see traders' interactions not only as comparatively restrained but as a form of talk that invokes and anchors mainstream American cultural ideologies in experience.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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