'Smelling' diasporic: bargaining interactions and the problem of politeness

L. Wagner*

*Corresponding author for this work

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While post-migrant generation Moroccans from Europe often are able to converse competently enough in Moroccan languages to bargain in shops during visits to Morocco, many report that they are not given the 'local', 'right' prices because they are 'smelled' as outsiders. During fieldwork following these diasporic visitors in Morocco, several participants strategically shopped for goods with a 'local' friend or family member who might negotiate on their behalf for the 'right' price. This strategy was seen as a way to circumvent or ameliorate the ways the diasporic client might be negatively categorized as an outsider, especially in terms of his or her language use. Yet, examining these events in recorded detail indicates that diasporic clients are often bargaining for themselves as competent speakers, but are sometimes not able to skillfully bargain politely. In these moments, proxy bargainers intervene when debate and tension increases during bargaining and diasporic visitors do not adequately perform politeness - specifically by deploying religious speech - to soften and minimize tension. Analysis of these interactions indicates how diasporic branching of linguistic practice contrasts communicative skills of mobile populations with subtle, place-based competences, and how the mismatch between these can negatively mark diasporic visitors.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalApplied Linguistics Review
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Oct 2021


  • diasporic bilingualism
  • languageculture
  • mobility
  • politeness
  • talk-in-interaction

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