Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This study focused on sociability in a rural cafe. Guided by the situational framework advocated by James P. Spradley, the elements of place, actors, and activity were investigated in reference to sociability. Qualitative research strategies including participant observation, interviewing, and the utilization of key informants were the primary tools of this investigation. The symbolic interactionist perspective advocated _by Herbert Blumer was employed in the analysis of sociability as a joint action which encouraged diverse meanings for café actors. And finally, adhering to Blumer's concern for the use of sensitizing concepts, this study designated the definitional characteristics of sociability outlined by Roebuck and Frese's (1976) and Roebuck's (1986) research as its sensitizing concepts. The findings indicated that while cafe actors participated in café sociability they negotiated different styles of sociability. Differences in sociability styles were demonstrated by the key categories of cafe actors, i.e., the outsiders and the locals. Locals initiated and terminated interactions with other locals and occasionally with the outsiders. The outsiders, on the other hand, restricted their sociable interactions to their fellow outsiders. Because the permissible behaviors of café sociability were defined in the minds of the locals, at times outsiders unknowingly disregarded the locals' unwritten rules. Although locals expressed a high degree of equality amongst themselves, they did not automatically extend this consideration to the outsiders. Outsiders had to earn this privilege by formulating lines of action that the locals interpreted to be acceptable. Outsiders demonstrated that while they considered each other to be equal, the cafe employees did not retain this status. Novelty, the anticipation that something unusual would occur was common among the locals and not a part of the outsider's sociability. In reference to play, the locals considered play to be a part of the here-and-now while the outsiders placed greater emphasis on planning their future play. While locals exhibited sociable interactions that appeared rather chaotic, their well-established career of sociability supplied each local with guidance to successfully participate in café sociability. Because a majority of the outsiders were defining sociability in this particular cafe for the first time their understanding of appropriate actions could only be obtained through an examination of similar past encounters. The career of sociability experienced by the locals assured them that their play group would endure over time. The outsiders had no expectation of this kind of permanency as they realized that they would not be making routine visits to the cafe. And finally, the outsiders often interpreted the locals' cafe sociability as secretive. These outsiders suggested that they felt and realized that they did not belong to the locals' group and often pondered the activities exhibited by the locals.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Restaurants -- Social aspects Rural population -- Social life and customs Social interaction



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University