Faculty Publications

Bowing Incorrectly: Aesthetic Labor and Expert Knowledge in Japanese Business Etiquette Training

Document Type

Book Chapter

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Japanese at Work: Politeness, Power, and Personae in Japanese Workplace Discourse

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Drawing on participant-observation of five different training courses, this chapter analyzes the ideology and pedagogy of business etiquette training for new employees in Japanese companies. Business etiquette training functions as a multimodal phenomenon in which language, voice, appearance, and movement are standardized through an emphasis on the details of correct form. Such training emphasizes primarily deference politeness (negative politeness) over involvement (positive politeness) with little attention to style shifting. The multi-modal politeness register inculcated through this training communicates both deference to customers and the employee’s own demeanor as a refined person. Politeness behaviors thus become a form of aesthetic labor in which employees’ bodies are appropriated to communicate a desired corporate image.


Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

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DOI of published version