Would anyone be interested in reading this wonderful book together? Perhaps by posting parts of it to the community and discussing it in the comments?

Kate Fox is an anthropologist who devoted her life to the research of various aspects of English life. She started out mostly focusing on violent behaviour and studying of unusual groups of people, such as horse-racers, but this book, Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, is mostly about hidden, everyday stuff that people tend to overlook, ignore or not wonder about.

Introduction – Anthropology at Home
The Weather
Humour Rules
Linguistic Class Codes
Emerging Talk-rules: The Mobile Phone

Home Rules
Rules of the Road
Work to Rule
Rules of Play
Dress Codes
Food Rules
Rules of Sex
Rites of Passage

Conclusion: Defining Englishness

I'am sitting in a pub near Paddington station, clutching a small brandy. It’s only about half past eleven in the morning – a bit early for drinking, but the alcohol is part reward, part Dutch courage. Reward because I have just spent an exhausting morning accidentally-on-purpose bumping into people and counting the number who said ‘Sorry’; Dutch courage because I am now about to return to the train station and spend a few hours committing a deadly sin: queue jumping.
I really, really do not want to do this. I want to adopt my usual method of getting an unsuspecting research assistant to break sacred social rules while I watch the result from a safe distance. But this time, I have bravely decided that I must be my own guinea pig. I don’t feel brave. I feel scared. My arms are all bruised from the bumping experiments. I want to abandon the whole stupid Englishness project here and now, go home, have a cup of tea and lead a normal life. Above all, I do not want to go and jump queues all afternoon.
Why am I doing this? What exactly is the point of all this ludicrous bumping and jumping (not to mention all the equally daft things I’ll be doing tomorrow)? Good question. Perhaps I’d better explain.

We are constantly being told that the English have lost their national identity – that there is no such thing as ‘Englishness’. There has been a spate of books bemoaning this alleged identity crisis, with titles ranging from the plaintive Anyone for England? to the inconsolable England: An Elegy. Having spent much of the past twelve years doing research on various aspects of English culture and social behaviour – in pubs, at racecourses, in shops, in night-clubs, on trains, on street corners – I am convinced that there is such a thing as ‘Englishness’, and that reports of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. In the research for this book, I set out to discover the hidden, unspoken rules of English behaviour, and what these rules tell us about our national identity.
The object was to identify the commonalities in rules governing English behaviour – the unofficial codes of conduct that cut across class, age, sex, region, sub-cultures and other social boundaries. For example, Women’s Institute members and leather-clad bikers may seem, on the surface, to have very little in common, but by looking beyond the ‘ethnographic dazzle’1 of superficial differences, I found that Women’s Institute members and bikers, and other groups, all behave in accordance with the same unwritten rules – rules that define our national identity and character. I would also maintain, with George Orwell, that this identity ‘is continuous, it stretches into the future and the past, there is something in it that persists, as in a living creature’.

My aim, if you like, was to provide a ‘grammar’ of English behaviour. Native speakers can rarely explain the grammatical rules of their own language. In the same way, those who are most ‘fluent’ in the rituals, customs and traditions of a particular culture generally lack the detachment necessary to explain the ‘grammar’ of these practices in an intelligible manner. This is why we have anthropologists.
Most people obey the unwritten rules of their society instinctively, without being conscious of doing so. For example, you automatically get dressed in the morning without consciously reminding yourself that there is an unspoken rule of etiquette that prohibits going to work in one’s pyjamas. But if you had an anthropologist staying with you and studying you, she would be asking: ‘Why are you changing your clothes?’ ‘What would happen if you went to work in pyjamas?’ ‘What else can’t you wear to work?’ ‘Why is it different on Fridays?’ ‘Does everyone in your company do that?’ ‘Why don’t the senior managers follow the Dress-down Friday custom?’ And on, and on, until you were heartily sick of her. Then she would go and watch and interrogate other people – from different groups within your society – and, hundreds of nosy questions and observations later, she would eventually decipher the ‘grammar’ of clothing and dress in your culture (see Dress Codes, page 267).

I highly recommend this book even if no one is interested in public reading. It's very entertaining and smart, and will make you laugh more often than not.

@темы: suggestion