Advertisement

Theory and Society

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 487–509 | Cite as

Gift exchange or quid pro quo? Temporality, ambiguity, and stigma in interactions between pedestrians and service-providing panhandlers

  • Mary Patrick
Article
  • 159 Downloads

Abstract

Based on ethnographic fieldwork with panhandlers who provide services while asking for money, informal interviews with pedestrians who have interacted with them, and formal interviews with twenty people who regularly interact with panhandlers, this article unpacks the relationship between temporality and ambiguity of meaning in exchange. In line with previous research, I find that providing a service while asking for money allows panhandlers to manage stigma by recasting their relationship with pedestrians who give as a market exchange. More surprisingly, I find that this kind of recasting makes giving less compelling for the pedestrians in fleeting encounters with panhandlers: they resist service provision in fleeting encounters with panhandlers on the grounds that the exchange is experienced as a coldly rational quid pro quo. In contrast, pedestrians who have long-term relationships with panhandlers experience the interaction as a gift exchange and the service as an expression of gratitude and subservience. The development of an open-ended temporal horizon and of a cycle of exchange, I argue, allows the service and the money given to operate as boundary objects, enabling panhandlers and pedestrians to attach different meanings to the exchange of money for services. This emergent ambiguity allows them to carry out interaction and exchange successfully. Contrary to models of interaction and everyday economic transactions that frame shared definitions of the situation as necessary for successful and repeated interactions, I find that ambiguity and polysemy may be productive and sustaining in interactions between participants from distinct social worlds.

Keywords

Ambiguity Boundary objects Exchange Panhandling Stigma Temporality 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Eliza Brown, Colin Jerolmack, Denise Milstein, Adam Reich, Teresa Sharpe, Iddo Tavory, participants of the New York University Ethnography Workshop, and participants of the NYLON working group for useful feedback and ideas that shaped and contributed to this article. The views expressed and errors made here are solely those of the author.

References

  1. Anderson, L., Snow, D. A., & Cress, D. (1994). Negotiating the public realm: Stigma management and collective action among the homeless. Research in Community Sociology, 1(1), 121–143.Google Scholar
  2. Bandelj, N. (2012). Relational work and economic sociology. Politics and Society, 40(2), 175–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Blau, P. (1964). Exchange and power in social life. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Blumer, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1997). Marginalia—Some additional notes on the gift. The logic of the gift: Toward an ethic of generosity (pp. 231–241). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  7. Callon, M., & Muniesa, F. (2005). Peripheral vision economic markets as calculative collective devices. Organization Studies, 26(8), 1229–1250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Douglas, M. (1990). Forward: No free gifts. In M. Mauss (Ed.), The Gift : The Form and Reason for Exchange in Archaic Societies (pp. vii–xviii). London: W.W. Norton.Google Scholar
  9. Dromi, S. M. (2012). Penny for your thoughts: Beggars and the exercise of morality in daily life. Sociological Forum, 27(4), 847–871.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Duneier, M. (2000). Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.Google Scholar
  11. Duneier, M., & Molotch, H. (1999). Talking city trouble: Interactional vandalism, social inequality, and the “urban interaction problem.”. American Journal of Sociology, 104(5), 1263–1295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fine, G. A. (1979). Small groups and culture creation: The idioculture of little league baseball teams. American Sociological Review, 44(5), 733.Google Scholar
  13. Gaetz, S., Tarasuk, V., Dachner, N., & Kirkpatrick, S. (2006). ‘Managing’ homeless youth in Toronto: Mismanaging food access and nutritional well-being. Canadian Review of Social Policy, 58, 43–61.Google Scholar
  14. Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  15. Goffman, E. (1974). Frame analysis: An essay on the organization of experience. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Goldstein, B. J. (1993). Panhandlers at Yale: A case study in the limits of law. Ind. L. Rev., 27, 295.Google Scholar
  17. Gonos, G. (1977). “Situation” versus “frame”: The “interactionist” and the “structuralist” analyses of everyday life. American Sociological Review, 42(6), 854.Google Scholar
  18. Gowan, T. (2010). Hobos, hustlers and backsliders. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hagan, J., & McCarthy, B. (1998). Mean streets: Youth crime and homelessness. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Hermer, J. (2001). Gift encounters: Conceptualizing the elements of begging conduct. University of Miami Law Review, 56, 77.Google Scholar
  21. Herrmann, G. M. (1997). Gift or commodity: What changes hands in the US garage sale? American Ethnologist, 24, 910–930.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. de La Pradelle, M. (2006). Market day in Provence. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  23. Lainer-Vos, D. (2012). Manufacturing national attachments: Gift-giving, market exchange and the construction of Irish and Zionist diaspora bonds. Theory and Society, 41(1), 73–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Lainer-Vos, D. (2013a). Boundary objects, zones of indeterminacy, and the formation of Irish and Jewish transnational socio-financial networks. Organization Studies, 34(4), 515–532.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Lainer-Vos, D. (2013b). The practical organization of moral transactions: Gift giving, market exchange, credit, and the making of diaspora bonds. Sociological Theory, 31(2), 145–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lankenau, S. E. (1999a). Stronger than dirt: Public humiliation and status enhancement among panhandlers. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 23(3), 288–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lankenau, S. E. (1999b). Panhandling repertoires and routines for overcoming the nonperson treatment. Deviant Behavior, 20(2), 183–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Levine, D. N. (1988). The flight from ambiguity: Essays in social and cultural theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  29. Link, B. G., & Phelan, J. C. (2001). Conceptualizing stigma. Annual Review of Sociology, 27, 363–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Llewellyn, N. (2011a). The delicacy of the gift: Passing donations and leaving change. Discourse & Society, 22, 155–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Llewellyn, N. (2011b). The gift in interaction: a study of ‘picking-up the bill.’. British Journal of Sociology, 62, 718–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Malinowski, B. (1922). Argonauts of the Western Pacific. London: Routledge & Sons.Google Scholar
  33. Mauss, M. (1990). The gift: The form and reason for exchange in archaic societies. London: Routledge [1923].Google Scholar
  34. Mears, A. (2015). Working for free in the VIP: Relational work and the production of consent. American Sociological Review, 80, 1099–1122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. O'Flaherty, B. (1996). Making room: The economics of homelessness. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Parry, J. (1986). The gift, the Indian gift and the 'Indian gift'. Man, 21(3), 453.Google Scholar
  37. Roschelle, A. R., & Kaufman, P. (2004). Fitting in and fighting back: Stigma management strategies among homeless kids. Symbolic Interaction, 27(1), 23–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Rossman, G. (2014). Obfuscatory relational work and disreputable exchange. Sociological Theory, 32(1), 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Swedberg, R. (2018). Folk economics and its role in Trump’s presidential campaign: An exploratory study. Theory and Society, 47(1), 1–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Tavory, I. (2009). The structure of flirtation: On the construction of interactional ambiguity. Studies in Symbolic Interaction, 33, 69–74.Google Scholar
  41. Tavory, I., & Timmermans, S. (2014). Abductive analysis: Theorizing qualitative research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sahlins, M. (1972). Social stratification in Polynesia. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  43. Snow, D. A., & Anderson, L. (1987). Identity work among the homeless: The verbal construction and avowal of personal identities. American Journal of Sociology, 92(6), 1336–1371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Star, S. L. & Griesemer, J. R. (2016). Institutional ecology, ‘translations’ and boundary objects: Amateurs and professionals in Berkeley’s museum of vertebrate zoology, 1907-39. Social Studies of Science, 19(3), 387–420.Google Scholar
  45. Stark, L. R. (1992). From lemons to lemonade: An ethnographic sketch of late twentieth-century panhandling. New England Journal of Public Policy, 8, 29.Google Scholar
  46. Schegloff, E. A. (1992). Repair after next turn: The last structurally provided defense of intersubjectivity in conversation. American Journal of Sociology, 97(5), 1295–1345.Google Scholar
  47. Vinck, D. (2011). Taking intermediary objects and equipping work into account in the study of engineering practices. Engineering Studies, 3(1), 25–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Zelizer, V. A. (2005). The purchase of intimacy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Zelizer, V. A. (2012). How I became a relational economic sociologist and what does that mean? Politics and Society, 40, 45–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zerubavel, E. (2003). Time maps: Collective memory and the social shape of the past. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations