Publication details [#58373]

Saft, Scott. 2014. Rethinking Western individualism from the perspective of social interaction and from the concept of ba. Journal of Pragmatics 69 : 108–120.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher


Informed by the rising view of emancipatory pragmatics, this study revises the hypothesis of a Western “individualistic” self and questions the “individualism–collectivism” polarity. Using the ideas of conversation analysts like Charles Goodwin and Gene Lerner, it is argued that American English speakers frequently address interaction in a manner that seems to be more “collective”. The analysis also explores pronoun use in a cooperating story-building task to underline both the collective aspect of American interaction and the dynamic relationship of pronouns to the self in interaction. Finally, the study presents the Japanese concept of ba (chiefly translated into English as “field”) as an alternative to the individualism–collectivism polarity. It is stated that ba provides a possibility to grasp the positioning of the self when people start off interaction without automatically attaching polarized categories to groups of people on the basis of discerned interactional styles.