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The Compass of Friendship

The Compass of Friendship
Narratives, Identities, and Dialogues

August 2008 | 248 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
2012 Recipient of the Gerald R. Miller Book Award from the Interpersonal Communication Division of the National Communication Association (NCA)

2009 Recipient of the David R. Maines Narrative Research Award from the Ethnography Division of the National Communication Association (NCA)

"The book is a valuable addition to the literature on friendship. Faculty who teach relationship development will find useful material for themselves and their students. Relationship researchers will find dozens of possible studies in these pages. Finally, any thoughtful person interested in relationship quality could profit from reading this interesting treatment of one of life's most valuable attributes—our friends." - Phil Backlund, University of Denver

Exploring how friends use dialogue and storytelling to construct identities, deal with differences, make choices, and build inclusive communities, The Compass of Friendship examines communication dialectically across private, personal friendships as well as public, political friendships. Author William K. Rawlins uses compelling examples and cases from literature, films, dialogue and storytelling between actual friends, student discussions of cross-sex friendships, and interviews with interracial friends. Throughout the book, he invites readers to consider such questions as: What are the possibilities for enduring, close friendships between men and women? How far can friendship's practices extend into public life to facilitate social justice? What are the predicaments and promises of friendships that bridge racial boundaries? How useful and realistic are the ideals and activities of friendship for serving the well-lived lives of individuals, groups, and larger collectives?  

Key Features  
  • Incorporates undergraduate students' debates about cross-sex friendships. Discussions draw on popular culture and lived experiences to re-examine gendered identities, sexual orientations, and narratives of romance and the well-lived life
  • Investigates the possibilities of cross-race friendships between blacks and whites in light of personal, sociocultural, and historical issues. Using short stories, autobiographies, and interviews with a male and a female pair of friends, he book probes the capacities of friendship to address our similarities and differences in enriching ways
  • Develops an original theoretical synthesis of work concerning dialogue and narrative. A chapter featuring an afternoon conversation between two longtime friends illustrates storytelling and dialogue as vitally interwoven communicative activities that shape friends' identities
  • Explores friendship's ethical and political potentials. Classic and contemporary views clarify friendship's ethical guidance in our lives, as Rawlins demonstrates how learning about others in a spirit of equal respect can involve us in political participation
  • Celebrates hopeful private and public communication by friends. The book provides students a useful model they can use in evaluating the ethical qualities of their relationships/friendships and helps them to think differently about their possibilities for participating meaningfully in politics
The Compass of Friendship is appropriate for use in courses in Advanced Interpersonal Communication, Friendship Communication, Communication in Interpersonal Relationships, Relational Communication, Social and Personal Relationships, Dialogue and Communication, Social Identities and Communication Ethics.      

1. Introduction: Living Friendship
2. Making Choices as Communicators: Similarity, Difference, Individuation, and Participation
Perceiving Similarities and Differences

Negotiating Contexts, Making Choices, and Creating Meanings

Constructing Similarities and Differences of Self and Others

Achieving and (Mis)Perceiving Identities Through the Dialectic of Individuation and Participation

Categories and Identity Construction

Modes of the Dialectic of Individuation and Participation

3. Communicating Friendship: A Dialogue of Narratives and a Narrative of Dialogues
Storytelling Between Friends

Practicing Dialogue Between Friends

Narratives, Dialogues, and Friendships

Interweaving Narrative and Dialogue in Discourses of Friendship


4. Making Meanings With Friends: Two Women?s Storytelling and Dialogue
Beginning the Conversation and the Story of Karen and Chris?s Friendship

Narrating Diverging Life Paths

Sharing Stories of Divorces and Traveling Together

Side Two of the Tape ? Conversing About Pets and Policies

Performing a Dialogue of Narratives About Conjunctive Freedoms

Interweaving Narratives and Dialogue in the Talk of Two Friends

5. Talking With College Students About Frontiers and Frustrations of Cross-Sex Friendships
Debating Cross-Sex Friendship

Addressing Students? Positions on Cross-Sex Friendship


6. Pursuing Cross-Race Friendships in Personal, Sociocultural, and Historical Contexts
Constrained Cross-Race Friendship

Blacks and Whites Engaging in Friendships: Asymmetrical Challenges and Edifying Practices

Recognizing Meaningfully Whole Persons and Contingent Identities

Accomplishing Cross-Race Friendship

Making Choices, Learning Lessons, and Serving Social Becoming Through Cross-Race Friendships

7. Embracing Ethical and Political Potentials of Friendships
Ethical Practices of Friendships

Political Practices of Friendships

Friendships and Social Change

Limitations of Political Friendships

8. The Compass of Friendship

"[R]awlins’s book provides a detailed and accessible explanation of friendship.[It] is intended for varying audiences, including students, professionals, social psychologists, and individuals curious about the nature of friendship. It is a good read, a textbook that will be useful to anyone seeking to know how to form friendships."

Sherine Ramzy

"Author William K. Rawlins uses compelling examples and cases from literature, films, dialogue and storytelling between actual friends, student discussions of cross-sex friendships, and interviews with interracial friends."

Family Therapy

"His research is solid, his writing is clear and accessible, and his insights into the human condition-and most specifically that dialogical-narrative and negotiated relationship we call friendship-are keen. His" next word" on friendship has been long awaited and much needed in the field of communication studies."

Dr. Christopher N. Poulos
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Key features
  1. Systematically develops, illustrates, and critiques a stance toward communicating based on both dyadic and civic conceptions of friendship.
  2. Demonstrates how communicating as friends addresses issues of similarities and differences in composing identities.
  3. Probes tensions arising from simultaneous needs for acknowledgement of our individual identities and for belonging to enveloping communities.
  4. Acccomplish these first three points in conjunction with original and provocative syntheses of work concerning dialogue and narrative.
  5. Applies and illustrates its core conceptual advances across chapters devoted to actual conversation between friends, issues of friendship and education, student discussions of cross-sex friendships, stories of interracial friendship, and friendships across public and private boundaries.

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