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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Negotiating Price in an African American Beauty Salon

  • Author(s): Jacobs-Huey, Lanita
  • et al.

For many African American women, the beauty salon is a site of communal bonding, as well as a public space where professional and personal identities are coconstructed by and for women. Client-hairdresser negotiations about hair are integral to women's interactions at the salon. Negotiations must mediate between clients' personal preferences and potential economic investment and the hairdresser' s professional expertise, creative agency, and advertising potential (i.e., a clients' hairstyle advertises the hairdresser' s craft). Clients employ a range of prosodic, proxemic, and paralinguistic stances to communicate their hair preferences. A t times, the discursive stances employed by clients during negotiations serve to challenge their social identities as service recipients and hair care novices (cf. Jacoby & Gonzales, 1991). Similarly, a hairdresser' s social identity as a service provider and hair care expert can be renegotiated through stances which invite collaboration from the client. This paper discusses a client- initiated negotiation in which, on the surface, a client seeks to ascertain the hairdresser's prescribed hair treatment. However, the client's use of questions, prosody, and various paralinguistic cues suggests that this negotiation concerns the hairdresser's intended fee more so than it does her intended hair treatment. Furthermore, the client's series of questions during this negotiation seem to violate her role-expectations of hair novice and challenge the hairdresser's social identity as hair expert. As such, the client's subsequent attempt to trivialize the emphatic weight of her own questions is met with failure as the hairdresser exposes, via humor, the marked nature of those questions.

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