Shaming, group face, and identity construction in a Russian virtual community for women

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Impoliteness, often described as non-cooperative and norm-disrupting verbal behavior (Keinpointner 2008; Culpeper et al. 2003; Beebe 1995), can also serve important sociability functions. When tension is present between individual and group face wants, impoliteness can be used to establish, reinforce, or (re)negotiate values salient to the group (Culpeper 2011; Lea at al. 1992; Graham 2007). The intersection of impoliteness with group face concerns is especially important in polylogous online contexts (Blitvich 2010; Lorenzo-Dus at al. 2011; Perelmutter 2013). This study examines the intersection between individual and group face concerns by examining impoliteness in an online Russian-language forum dedicated to discussions of marital infidelity. This forum is frequented by both mistresses and cheated-upon wives. Mistresses post confessions, expecting and sometimes even soliciting shaming responses from other forum members; wives engage in troubles-telling and are mocked by mistresses; mistresses and wives insult and shame each other. Since the overarching societal norms and expectations of family mores and gendered behavior in the post-Soviet society are often unclear, these shaming practices help Russian-speaking women construct and negotiate their identities within a group of peers. These negotiations integrate individual, group, and societal face concerns.


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