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Using Silence to “Pass”: Embodiment and Interactional Categorization in a Diasporic Context

  • Lauren Wagner ORCID logo EMAIL logo
From the journal Multilingua


This article posits that “passing” is a manipulation of ambiguously embodied characteristics, linguistic practice, and ratification by other speakers. I explore discourses and practices of “passing” by post-migrant generation, diasporically-resident Moroccans who seek to be unmarked by migration when bargaining in Moroccan markets. Their attempts have many possibilities for failure, including any way that their diasporic provenance might be made relevant in interaction through their embodied and linguistic practices. This connection between embodiment and linguistic practices becomes more evident in a unique case of bargaining “success”, which depends on using silence. Framed by all the possible ways to fail, the main interactional example is exceptional because of its success-by-not-failing: the diasporically-resident participant was not conversationally, explicitly marked as “diasporic”.

Transcription conventions

Transcription conventions (following Conversation Analysis methods; see Schegloff 2007)




Intense rising intonation


Slight rising intonation


Intense falling intonation


Slight falling intonation


Elongated vowel or geminated consonant






Brief pause, pause timed in seconds




Explanatory or descriptive remark


Uncertain transcription






Usage error


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Received: 2014-4-7
Accepted: 2014-11-11
Published Online: 2014-12-6
Published in Print: 2015-9-1

©2015 by De Gruyter Mouton

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