Accusation, Mitigation and Resisting Guilt in Talk

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Fitzgerald, Richard
Emerald, Elke
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2008
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Abstract: The notion of 'guilt' has been subject of examination through the methods of Membership Categorisation Analysis as a part of the work of formal institutions such as courts, police, and schools where the consequences of decisions made may have direct effects on the person being judged. However whilst this research has provided access to the process of 'negotiating' guilt in these highly ritualized and formal contexts the ascription, negotiation and resistance of guilt is not restricted to these institutions. Rather deciding someone's 'guilt' or resisting such a categorisation can be seen as part of the routine everyday work of social life. In this paper we use the method of Membership Categorisation Analysis to examine two instances where "guilt" is a matter of local negotiation between parties and where the consequences are purely a matter for the participants at hand: a narrative therapy counseling session and a conversation between friends. In the first site the negotiation is around a participant 'feeling guilty' whilst in the second, guilt is attributed to absent third party. Through our analysis we highlight that the interactional work of ascribing and resisting 'guilt' is both a routine feature of social interaction and that this routine feature is organised through members' methodical use of descriptions and accounts embedded in a common sense relationship between individual and categorial actions.

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The Open Communication Journal

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2

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© The Author(s) 2008. For information about this journal please refer to the publisher's website or contact the author[s]. Articles are licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution non-commercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/) which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, providing that the work is properly cited.

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Sociology not elsewhere classified

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