The Relationship People

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Under neoliberal regimes, solutions to large social-structural problems are pushed into the private sector and very often considered individual problems, for individuals to solve. These solutions typically demand that individuals engage in phatic labor—linguistic work focused on making and maintaining connections between people. Thus job seekers are advised to network, and marriage or relationship seekers are advised to go out and meet more people. This book looks at the language of the Japanese marriage industry, the demographic panics and personal aspirations that support the industry, and the phatic labor done by those participating in it. It focuses on ethnographic data gathered from working together with matchmakers, and interviewing love and marriage hunters using a variety of online and offline techniques to find partners. By looking at the language of the Japanese marriage industry across a number of different contexts, this book argues that the most important linguistic component of putting together an “attractive” self is grammatical politeness and conversational equity: sharing the work of talking and showing respect to profile readers and prospective partners. On the one hand, this emphasis on politeness, connection, and conversational equity has the potential to create a heterosexuality where gender difference is minimized and that can potentially encourage greater gender equality. However, it also explores the limits of phatic labor: to what extent can encouraging communication and connection help single Japanese to pair up under economic circumstances that discourage it?
Original languageEnglish
PublisherLexington Books
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Sep 7 2018


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