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Samia Hesni (Boston University), "How to Disrupt a Social Script"
Forthcoming, Journal of the American Philosophical Association
By Samia Hesni
Social scripts pervade and shape natural language discourse and social interactions.
To take an everyday example: A pays B a compliment, then B usually says ‘thank you’ and perhaps reciprocates.
Social scripts are both ever-present and seldom noticed. They guide our everyday interactions: “Hello, how are you?” They help us know to get coffee from the coffee shop, oil changes at the mechanic, and not vice versa, even when both places ask “how can I help you?” They guide our relationships, set parameters for social interaction, and are really hard to escape. Sometimes, though, we might want to. It’s very hard to explicitly change or exit a script. The CDC tried, in March 2020, when they put posters up in crowded places suggesting people ‘elbow bump’ instead of shake hands to greet. Just as there are scripts for everyday interactions like greetings, compliments, job interviews, and standing around in elevators, there are also scripts for bullying, harassment, abuse, and assault.
This paper came out of thinking through how hard it is to extricate oneself from the receiving end of a catcall or street harassment exchange. In the paper, I posit that certain kinds of scripts create double-binds, and I offer disruption as a strategy to exit the double-bind imposed by these scripts. Many examples of these disruptions in life and literature involve humor or surprise, and are often visual as well as verbal.
Here are a a few links to disruptions in art and literature that inspired my thinking in this paper:
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