The Flayed and Exquisite Self of Travelers: Managing Face and Emotions in Strange Places

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Travelers who cross cultural and linguistic borders encounter recurrent failures of social competence. People routinely violate the linguistic and nonlinguistic normative order, and have few means at their disposal for repair work. These episodes lead to the experience of a flayed self: a temporary, painful identity born of one's inability to display competence, combined with heightened, exquisite self-consciousness. Using interactionist scaffolding and travelers' accounts, I examine this self, its commitments, and resources. I examine four techniques used to avoid flayed and exquisite selfhood: denying negative experience, externalizing the causes of that experience, engaging in the mind cure, and doing time work.