‘Signs of trouble: embodiment in conflict’ with Dr Rebecca Clift University of Essex

  • Thu 24 May 18

    12:00 - 14:00

  • Colchester Campus


  • Event speaker

    Dr Rebecca Clift, University of Essex

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Language and Linguistics, Department of

  • Contact details

What John Heritage has called the ‘ceaseless tide of micro-altruism…as a taken-for-granted background of human social life’ has been an overwhelming focus of work in Conversation Analysis – and understandably so, for it is this that underpins the possibilities of collaborative action and thus ultimately social cohesion. However, there are moments in interaction when dissent and displays of self-interest break through the normative assumptions of cooperation and collaboration in the production of non-affiliative actions, such as disagreement and disputes. The first indication of this dissent is standardly – and sometimes, exclusively – non-verbal.

In this presentation I shall use videotaped examples from family conversation and broadcast interviews to examine a variety of such non-verbal, embodied phenomena in English interaction, all deployed in environments of interactional conflict. I shall examine two main forms of embodiment which constitute responsive actions: the first, predominantly facial and minimal in character; the second, gestural and more expansive.

The first relates to particular facial expressions which display various forms of negative stance towards what is being said. These involve configurations of the eyes and head (one familiar example being the ‘eye-roll’) to those involving raised eyebrows and pursed lips. The very distinct interactional environments in which these are deployed enables us to differentiate between forms of negative stance being displayed.

The second phenomenon is epitomised by what I call the ‘open palm’ gesture which is characterised by a relative dynamism of movement in the arms and hands up and away from the body, with the palms up- or outwards, and then briefly held static. I look at two interactional environments for this gesture: challenges and pursuits.

By examining a range of contexts in which such embodiments are produced, and comparing across the cases, I consider what impact they have on the progressivity of the talk, and the extent to which they are registered, salient, and consequential to the interaction.

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