Category Archives: Guest Blogs

Guest Blog: EM/CA for Racial Justice

There is an intriguing and welcome movement in EM/CA circles recommending that more be done by scholars to engage with social issues. Prime among these issues is racism, and I’m delighted that three early-career academics, Eleonora Sciubba, Natasha Shrikant and Francesca Williamson have agreed to report on their and their colleagues’ efforts to apply EM/CA perspectives on the issue.

The authors of this post [1] are members of a working group entitled, EMCA4RJ—or EMCA for Racial Justice—that was started in June 2020 [2] The purpose of this group is to foreground race and racism as central issues in the EMCA community. 

EMCA approaches are well-suited for addressing racial justice aims through deconstructing how race and racism are constituted in everyday interaction. Some scholars, for example, have analyzed ways that broader phenomena such as racism, whiteness, or anti-racism occur through specific interactional moves like categorization (Shrikant, 2020; Whitehead, 2020) or extreme case re-formulations (Robles, 2015). More generally, however, race, racism, and racial justice have been understudied in the EMCA community. This post provides examples of ways that can change.

Research Practices: Four suggestions

Since Sacks (1984), “unmotivated looking” has been the watchword of EM/CA. However, as philosophers (e.g., Chalmers, 2013) have argued, the practice of observation in scientific and social inquiry is tied to and shaped by researchers’ experiences, cultures, expectations, and academic training. In other words, who we (analysts) are and our experiences shape what we notice; what we can observe in social interaction. 

We suggest a motivated looking approach that leverages tools within (categorization) and outside (race/racism) of EMCA. This approach involves taking racism, a social fact, as a starting point for inquiry. We can begin with searching for instances when social actors do race, examine how racial categories are implicated in social actions, and consider the interactional and social consequences of these categorization practices. 

  1. To do this, we must first build racially and ethnically diverse EMCA research teams that focus on race and racism-in-interaction studies. Analysts who experience racism in their everyday lives may meet the unique adequacy requirement (Garfinkel, 2002) and can thereby improve our ability to notice and describe racialization and racism.
  2. Second, we should build collections focused on race and racism, as has been done with gender (e.g., Kitzinger & Frith, 1999; Speer & Stokoe, 2011), to examine instances when racialization is achieved in interaction. As Rawls and Duck (2020) suggested: “[r]acism does not usually take an obvious form that we can see and prevent; rather it masquerades as the most ordinary of daily actions: as unnoticed and ever-present as the air we breathe.” (p. 1). Thus, racialization and racism are likely designedly ambiguous or elusive. They need further interrogation.
  3. Third, we argue for more use of Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA). Though some scholars have done so (e.g., Robles, 2015; Shrikant, 2020; Whitehead, 2020), more work is needed. For example, scholars can explore how category-bound activities or predicates are tied to racial categories, search for instances when race categories are positioned categories, or how particular membership categorization devices (MCDs) are produced in ways that may be marginalizing yet remain open to the ways that categorizations are produced and negotiated in interaction.
  4. Finally, we should pursue new topics of inquiry through respecification projects as has been pursued for studies of social life in ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1991) and psychological constructs in discursive psychology (Potter, 2012), for example. In what settings have scholars documented racial inequities? What interactional materials might be available for EMCA studies in these settings?

Pedagogical practices

Conversation Analysis has a history of drawing teaching resources from audio and video data that are mostly anglophone, recorded either in the US or the UK, and feature White people, simply because they are already available and widely known within the discipline.

The problem with using “traditional EMCA data” for teaching is that it perpetuates a White, Anglocentric worldview that could make non-White students feel disconnected or excluded from the field. Moreover, it is difficult to draw connections between EMCA tools (e.g., adjacency pairs, categorization) and racism in these traditional data, as neither is readily visible as relevant, and the data are not taught or interrogated as examples of ‘Whiteness’

We propose teaching EMCA through using data:

  • a) from linguistically and ethnically diverse people and
  • b) where issues of race, racism, and intersecting inequalities appear as relevant.

Teachers can draw from data collected by scholars who work with diverse participants such as Rawls and Duck (2020) (African American), Shrikant (2018) (Asian American), or Whitehead (2020) (makes Whiteness visible in South African contexts). Teachers can also draw data from current events where race and racism appear relevant (we provide an example below). Equally, we encourage CA teachers to draw on and value the expertise of their diverse students. In line with practices of inclusive pedagogy, teachers should treat the differences among learners as a strength for analyzing data. Asking students to reflect on ways they arrived at a particular interpretation of data aligns with ethnomethodological approaches to research (Garfinkel, 1967). To this end, EMCA4RJ is developing practical resources—a syllabus, a data set including audio/video clips and transcriptions, and suggested lesson plans—and will share these resources to help put inclusive pedagogy into practice for EMCA teaching.

Community Building Practices: The EMCA Data Session

Data sessions bring EMCA together as a community of practice, or a community defined and maintained through participation in shared practices with shared goals (Eckert & McConnell-Ginet, 1992). Although data sessions are collaborative, they are not constituted by egalitarian relationships. Participants do boundary work about the kinds of contributions to a data session that are considered reasonable, appropriate, or within the bounds of EMCA analysis (e.g., Antaki et al, 2008). In some ways, clear boundaries and guidelines are useful, yet in other ways they are limiting. 

Traditional conversation analysis data sessions do not address questions about race and racism. Many of us in EMCA4RJ have had the experience of attempting to make claims about racism in a data session only to be told that racism has ‘not been made relevant’ by the participants. Ignoring race, denying its relevance, or simply the inability to see race and racism in interaction are indicative of a White worldview (Bonilla-Silva, 2006). In EMCA4RJ, we challenge this worldview through conducting data sessions that leverage the tools from CA to deconstruct the ways that race and racism are made relevant in everyday interaction. During our data sessions, we help scholars support their noticings of race and racism through using EMCA tools instead of dismissing these noticings as outside of EMCA frameworks. As part of EMCA4RJ, we are developing a document of guidelines for inclusive data sessions to share widely in hopes of encouraging other data session groups to operate in a more inclusive fashion. Below is an example of an EMCA4RJ data session from February 5, 2021 where we analyzed racist discourse in an interview between Gayle King and Miya Ponsetto [3].

The clip can be accessed here.

Overall, we argue that the suggested research, teaching, and community-building practices will help transform the EMCA community to include more diverse scholars and more research on topics like race, racism, and Whiteness. It is in these ways that we can highlight ways that EMCA approaches can serve racial justice aims.  

References

Antaki, C., Biazzi, M., Nissen, A. & Wagner, J. (2008). Accounting for moral judgments in academic talk: The case of a conversation analysis data session. Text & Talk, 28(1), 1–30. doi: 10.1515/TEXT.2008.001

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2006). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

Chalmers, A. F. (2013). What is this thing called science (4th ed.). Hackett Publishing Company

Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Peller, G., & Thomas, K. (Eds.) (1995). Critical race theory: The key writings that formed the movement. New York: The New Press.

Eckert, P., & McConnell-Ginet, S. (1992). Think practically and look locally: Language and gender as community-based practice. Annual review of anthropology, 21(1), 461-488.

Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Garfinkel, H. (1991). Respecifcation: Evidence for locally produced, naturally accountable phenomena of order*, logic, reason, meaning, method, etc. in and as of the essential haecceity of immortal ordinary society, (I) – an announcement of studies. In G. Button (Ed.) Ethnomethodology and the human sciences (pp. 10-19). Cambridge University Press. 

Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s program: Working out Durkheim’s aphorism. Rowman & Littlefield. 

Kitzinger, C., & Frith, H. (1999). Just say no? The use of conversation analysis in developing a feminist perspective on sexual refusal. Discourse & Society, 10(3), 293-316. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/42888261

Potter, J. (2012). Discourse analysis and discursive psychology. In Cooper, H. (Ed.), APA handbook of research methods in psychology: Vol. 2. Quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological (pp. 111-130).Washington, DC: American Psychological Association Press

Rawls, A. W., & Duck, W. (2020). Tacit racism. The University of Chicago Press.

Robles, J. S. (2015). Extreme case (re) formulation as a practice for making hearably racist talk repairable. Journal of Language and Social Psychology34(4), 390-409.

Sacks, H. (1984). Notes on methodology. In J. M. Atkinson & J. Heritage (Eds.) Structures of social action: Studies in conversation analysis (pp. 21-27). Cambridge University Press.

Shrikant, N. (2018). “There’s no such thing as Asian”: A membership categorization analysis of cross-cultural adaptation in an Asian American business community. Journal of International and Intercultural Communication, 11(4), 286-303. doi: 10.1080/17513057.2018.1478986

Shrikant, N. (2020). Membership Categorization Analysis of Racism in an Online Discussion among Neighbors. Language in Society. doi: 10.1017/S0047404520000846

Speer, S. A., & Stokoe, E. (2011). Conversation and gender. Cambridge University Press.

Whitehead, K. A. (2020). The problem of context in the analysis of social action: The case of implicit whiteness in post-apartheid South Africa. Social Psychology Quarterly, 83(3), 294-313.


[1] This piece was a collaborative product, where all authors made equally significant contributions. We also would like to thank Jessica Robles for her thoughtful feedback on an earlier draft. Last, we drew many ideas from our participation in EMCA4RJ and from the following thread https://twitter.com/Nat_Shri/status/1298640326488395777?s=20.   

[2]  http://emca4rj.conversationanalysis.org/; contact Natasha Shrikant (natasha.shrikant@colorado.edu) if interested in joining or learning more.

[3] See Video Clips, Transcript, and Excerpt of Data Session here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/145rI1ZI3lQF43DOxKTNJ-5cDK1f631OS?usp=sharing

Guest Blog: What it’s like to take up a new job in Finland

CA is in demand in many University departments, but scattered far and wide. Here’s the account of one early career researcher, Fabio Ferraz de Almeida, who has made the huge move from Brazil to Finland. Fabio had done his PhD in the UK with Loughborough’s DARG, so it wasn’t a completely unfamiliar move; but Jyväskylä is not the same as the East Midlands…

Fabio Ferraz de Almeida

What would you do if you noticed the pedestrian traffic lights turning red just before you started crossing a street? In Brazil and the UK, and in many other parts of the world, I assume, people would cross the street as long as they saw none vehicle coming. In Finland, however, this is not the case. I would say that one of the best ways for ‘doing being Finnish’ is to wait patiently for the red lights to turn green before crossing a street, regardless of whether any vehicles were in sight.

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Guest Blog: A new book on “Recruitment” across cultures


Over the last few years, Conversation Analysis researchers have moved well beyond the American English origins data that the founders used; in ROLSI, for example, it’s quite normal that English be only one of three or four different languages studied in any one issue. But what is really exciting is when a research team takes on a big, cross-cultural project, and I’m very happy to have Giovanni Rossi, N. J. Enfield and Mark Dingemanse tell us about their admirable new collection – and it’s open-access, too.

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Studying Video Consultations: How do we record data ethically during COVID-19?

Lockdown in many countries has affected the way in which healthcare workers interact with their patients. In the UK, for example, a number of medical consultations have gone online, with doctors trying to deal with their patients over Zoom or Skype – and it has not been easy. Lucas Seuren has been working in Oxford in a team actively exploring the costs and benefits of online medical consultation, and I’m delighted that he has agreed to send in a report from the front line.

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Lucas Seuren, Oxford University

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed the organisation of healthcare services. Social distancing protocols mean that face-to-face contact between patients and health care professionals has to be limited as much as possible. Consultations are now mostly conducted by telephone or video. This provides a unique opportunity for EMCA research on healthcare interaction, but also a significant challenge. Little is still known about how communication works in these remote service models, and as experts on social interaction, we are in a prime position to develop evidence-based guidance. The problem is: how do we get data when we cannot go to places where the interaction take place? Continue reading

Guest blog: Why are Zoom meetings so exhausting and frustrating?

Lockdown has made us all very familiar with remote working – and that has meant a great deal of time on various kinds of online meeting platforms: Skype, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and many more. Lifeline or burden? Andrea Bruun and Ditte Zachariassen report.

Andrea Bruun, University College London
Ditte Zachariassen, Aarhus University

When the pandemic hit, it forced us to stay home and limit social contact. We were told to work remotely and use online platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Skype for our meetings – for all kinds of meetings, even social gatherings such as family dinners, happy hour and pub quizzes happened online..

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Guest Blog: A research visit to Helsinki during the pandemic

Sometimes a much-anticipated research visit to a centre of excellence coincides with an unforeseen set of circumstances. That’s what happened to Rachael Drewery, who turned up in Helsinki only to be caught up in the Finnish lockdown. She tells her tale…

Rachael Drewery

Rachael Drewery, Nottingham University

On 18th February, when reports about COVID were found in the middle of UK newspapers, I commenced a three month research visit with the Emotions in Interaction team at the University of Helsinki.  Little did I know that four weeks later I would be conducting a research visit, via online platforms, during a global pandemic. Continue reading

Guest blog: The death of George Floyd – should we analyse the tape?

Magnus Hamann is a CA researcher with long experience of analysing the kind of police/citizen encounters that are available on YouTube,  especially those that end in violence. In this guest blog, he wrestles with the many dilemmas facing the academic researcher when something is incendiary, and very much in the public eye: How may an interactional researcher approach a case like the police killing of George Floyd? Should they abstain? Take sides?

MagnusHamann

Magnus Hamann, Loughborough University

Right now (early June 2020), the story of African-American George Floyd’s death at the hands of a US police force circulates the world. The graphic images in those recordings have caused a collective sadness and anger. Emotions that have led to disturbances, to put it mildly, in many US cities. One recording, especially, has gone viral[1]. Continue reading

Guest blog: A philosopher looks at Conversation Analysis

Coming across an interview with Susan Notess on the excellent Generous Questions philosophy podcast, I was intrigued by her perspective, as an ethicist, on the dangers of language – and delighted that she used the work of conversation analysts Liz Stokoe and Nick Enfield, among others, to illustrate her argument. She very kindly agreed to write a guest blog,  introducing us to a wider horizon of scholarship about the human conversational contract.

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Susan Notess, Durham University

There’s something about language which resembles conductivity. Through it we connect with each other and transmit not just stories, but also fears; not just kindness, but also power. To be able to speak and say what one means is a kind of power, and to be robbed of this power is a kind of injustice. Continue reading

Guest blog: Walking in the time of COVID-19

Lockdown has been socially, professionally and personally challenging for lots if us; but it has also stimulated a great deal of new work in response to the very different landscape we currently live in. I’m delighted to host a guest blog by four wonderful analysts, Eric Laurier, Magnus Hamann, Saul Albert & Liz Stokoe, who’ve used some of their time for a fascinating analysis of just what  “social distancing” means in public spaces. It’s a longer than usual blog, but there’s a lot to pack in… Continue reading

Guest blog: Why didn’t people follow the government’s advice on COVID-19?  

March 25th, 2020: governments around the world require citizens to take increasingly stringent measures to combat COVID-19. In a rapid response to  how Governments are communicating with us about how to limit the spread of the virus, Saul Albert and Charlotte Albury have compiled a report, based on a systematic review by a team led Albury, by on what CA can tell us about how medical advice is given and received.  Continue reading