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When is a smile not a smile?

By WILLIAM_DAVIES  

Despite my underlying fear that much anthropology is simply bad poetry (“And then this happened; and then this happened; and then someone did this; and then I wondered whether…”) I occasionally find myself wishing I could draw on its analytical tools and insight better. Yesterday I was struck by one of our society’s most bizarre forms of micro-social exchange. I can’t say whether it is distinctly British or middle class (although it feels both), only that it needs unravelling.

I was sitting at a table in the British Library cafe reading a book (one of the nice alcove tables that…

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