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Author ORCID Identifier


Campus-Only Access for Five (5) Years

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gonen Dori-Hacohen

Second Advisor

Benjamin Bailey

Third Advisor

Moon-Kie Jung

Subject Categories

Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Ethnicity in Communication | International and Intercultural Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication


In this dissertation, I analyze the interpersonal interactions that occurred in a beauty supply store to demonstrate how a Korean immigrant storeowner’s family and their African American neighbors negotiate their identities through business communication. This research is based on four months of participant observation, interviews with ten customers, and the recordings of 75 interactions in Mr. Kim’s store. Firstly, I look into the interactions as a speech genre (Bakhtin & Ghāsemipour, 2011) of “hair-talk,” which allows the participants to build a speech community (Hymes, 1974) in the store using communication competence about the specific speech genre. Participating in a speech genre implies knowing how to use it, which allowed me to discuss “otherness” (Bakhtin, 1986) through different epistemic stances in relation to the hair-talk. Second, I discuss the notion of “voices” (Bakhtin, 1981) via the investigation of language crossing, footing change, and the religious metaphors applied as discursive strategies. In the store, I found that various voices were used to establish the in-group and out-group boundaries among the participants in ways that served the particular interest of the speakers. Central to these voices is the voice of Christianity and the multilingual abilities to switch from English, either to Korean to create an in-group for the storeowner’s family, or to African American Vernacular English (AAVE) to create solidarity with the customers. Lastly, I investigate the main features of dangol business – a Korean business practice that treats regular and returning customers specially, while aiming to achieve long-term business relations, as is the case in my research setting. The residents of the low-income Black neighborhood understand the dangol service as a sign of respect and caring. Yet, throughout the chapters, I have shown that communication between the storeowner’s family and their regular customers represents the different socio-economic status of the two parties. In this dissertation, I analyze the interactions that took place in the store and how the elements play a pivotal role in negotiating the identities of the two parties – the Korean storeowner and residents of the Black neighborhood – by reflecting on and constructing their perception of “we” and “other.” I also elaborate here on a point that ran throughout the dissertation: the asymmetric power relation between the two groups. These relationships represent the prevalent racial disparity within the beauty supply industry, which may in turn, be reinforcing discrimination against Black people in US society. This study expands the boundaries of interracial interaction studies by presenting (a) a set of data collected from a Korean-owned store that provides updated information about Korean-Black relations; (b) new perspectives to understand Korean-Black business interactions closely connected to the potential of conflict within the beauty supply industry; (c) the economic and political discourses surrounding “hair” as a research agenda for interracial communication studies; and (d) a case of minority-minority (non-White) interactions where a distinctive power dynamic and racial discrimination is found.