Making use of videotaped interactions of lunchtime conversations among multi-ethnic preadolescent peers (based on three years of fieldwork in LA) this ethnographically based study investigates the embodied language practices through which girls construct friendship alliances as well as relationships of power and exclusion. Girls display “best friend” relations not only through roles they select in dramatic play, such as twins married to twins in “house,” but also through embraces and celebratory handclaps that affirm alliances. Older (sixth grade) girls assert their power with respect to younger fourth grade girls through intrusive activities such as grabbing food from lunchboxes, insults, and instigating gossip; younger girls boldly resist such actions through fully embodied stances. Relations of exclusion are visible not only in seating arrangements of a marginalized “tagalong” girl with respect to the friendship clique, but also highlighted in the ways she is differentially treated when an implicit social norm is violated.
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