International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

Politeness as Avoidance of Face and Self-Face Threatening Acts: A Man Walks into a Motorcycle Club Bar
J. Logan Clark

In this observational study, an exchange of dialogue between a newcomer and a regular at a 1%er outlaw club bar is examined for some of the elements of Brown and Levinson’s model of politeness as established in their book Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage (1987). First, an outline and quick overview of B&L’s assumptions will be established. Second, some aspects of “outlaw” motorcycle club subculture will be explained. Third, the significance of the motorcycle club bar as an interface between the club and the general public will be explained. Fourth, a communicative exchange at the bar between a new-comer and a regular of a 1%er biker club bar in the Inland Empire of Southern California to see how B&L’s model might apply to a particular communicative exchange at the bar with analysis and implications drawn. As Dulaney (2006) has noted, there is a significant lack of scholarly research addressing outlaw motorcycle clubs, and this lack remains in 2022 at the writing of this small study. Many new to motorcycle culture and the subcultures of motorcycle clubs, especially outlaw motorcycle clubs, don’t understand some basic assumptions and skills of pragmatics, proxemics, and politeness necessary to safely negotiate these subcultures. A newcomer to the joy and freedom motorcycle riding entails often feels an instant kinship to/with other riders which can lead to unintended face and face-threatening acts. Safe negotiation of the sociocultural contexts and avoidance of self and self-face threatening acts inherent in the motorcycle world require skills well beyond the mechanics of proficient operation and maintenance of a motorcycle. Hence, the need for more studies such as this one. The observations of this study were made at a motorcycle club bar in the Inland Empire of California in the summer of 2014. The club is worldwide and one of the “big three” 1%er outlaw clubs (Hayes, 2005; Dulaney, 2006). None of the names of patrons, participants, or club shall be named as this study was not sanctioned by the club itself. The bar has since closed pre-Covid 19 lockdown; therefore, the name of the bar is now irrelevant. The events and the dialogue are accurate representations of what actually took place.

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