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15. Conversation Analysis as Social Theory

John Heritage


Subject Sociology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405169004.2009.00016.x


Extract

Conversation analysis (CA) emerged as a recognizably distinct approach to the analysis of social life in the privately circulated lectures of Harvey Sacks (1992 [1964–72] ). Its earliest publications, initially placed in non-sociological journals such as American Anthropologist ( Schegloff 1968 ), Semiotica ( Schegloff and Sacks 1973 ), and Language ( Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson 1974 ), became visible to sociologists as an outgrowth of Harold Garfinkel's ethnomethodology ( Douglas 1970 ; Sudnow 1972 ; Turner 1974 ). In 1975, Harvey Sacks was killed in an automobile accident, and the hiring freeze in American universities consequent on the oil shock and “stagflation” of the 1970s ( Wiley 1985 ) forced almost all the first generation of CA graduate students into other walks of life. Dominant sociological figures of the 1970s lined up to dismiss CA as dustbowl empiricism ( Coser 1975 ), or “do it yourself linguistics” ( Goldthorpe 1973 ), or a “re-enchantment industry” fit only for the counter-cultural hippies of southern California ( Gellner 1975 ). Under these circumstances CA was all but extinguished as a field of sociological analysis. The early 1980s witnessed a resurgence of the field. The resistance of sociological journals to publish CA research resulted in the creation of several significant anthologies. Regenerated during the subsequent years of the decade, the ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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