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Talking Culture

Talking Culture: Ethnography and Conversation Analysis

Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 212
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  • Book Info
    Talking Culture
    Book Description:

    Argues that anyone-anthropologist, psychologist, or policeman-who uses what people say to find out what people think had better know how speech itself is organized.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0035-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 Conversation Analysis Among the Disciplines
    (pp. 1-18)

    The existence and survival, and hence the character, of Homo sapiens is profoundly social. For other species, “social organization” principally means the ways in which individuals regulate their co-presence. Man deserves no pre-Darwinian exemption, with face-to-face interaction accorded some minor, secluded status. While there are certainly other legitimate concerns for social science, face-to-face interaction is the constitutive substrate of social phenomena. Every thing that matters socially—meanings, class, roles, emotions, guilt, aggression, and so forth and so on—is socially constructed. Theories about how such things are learned and experienced, and about how to study them, which are not built...

  5. 2 Finding Life in Dry Dust
    (pp. 19-30)

    This chapter examines some contexted instances of a fleeting, humdrum, imperfect and in some sense purely formal conversational object: overlap—the simultaneous talk of more than one speaker.² In presenting these specimens of overlap, I confess to a matchmaker’s motives. I want you to admire their interactive liveliness, close choreography, strategic precision, and cultural depth. Not that there is anything special about these homely “mistakes” in turn-taking. Under close examination, any real conversational event reveals some of its intricate beauty. The specks of talk visible through the lens of conversation analysis swarm with life, are packed with meanings, and are...

  6. 3 Nature and Culture
    (pp. 31-47)

    This chapter is the first and most technical of three that focus on a single conversational ‘structure’¹ as a means for exploring connections between conversation analysis and ethnography. The structure is the sequential organization of (initial) references to (non-present) persons, as described in a paper written in 1973 by Harvey Sacks and Emanuel Schegloff (Sacks and Schegloff 1979).² I will summarize their 1979 description of references to persons in American conversation, briefly discuss the procedures used for comparing such references in Thai, and show that Thai and American conversation have the same sequential organization. I will then point to some...

  7. 4 Motives in Action
    (pp. 48-67)

    This chapter makes use of the sequential organization of conversation in order to investigate how social actions relate to the planning actor and how fleeting moments relate to perduring institutions. The actions it examines will, perforce, be quite small. But they all actually occurred as part of natural social scenes. Unlike the objects studied by “impression management” or “transactional analysis,” these actions are neither literary creations nor synthesized scenarios. Unlike the episodes described by “extended case” or “situational” analysis (van Velsen 1967), or alluded to in ethnographic anecdotes, these small actions were not chosen or edited for their intrinsic or...

  8. 5 Society in a Grain of Rice: An Exercise in Micro-Ethnography
    (pp. 68-100)

    This chapter is a teaching exercise in culturally contexted conversation analysis. I will show you my methods, and what they discover along the way. Then I will compare them to symbolic and “interpretive” anthropology. Our data are some three minutes of talk recorded in the Thai-Lue village of Ban Ping. For studying conversation per se, dull materials are best. It is hard to concentrate on such technical objects as “re-cycled turn beginnings” or “transition-space repairs” when distracted by interesting talk. But to meld conversation analysis with ethnography, vapidity is not necessary. The segment (XXXIII) we will examine is substantively interesting....

  9. 6 Talking About the world
    (pp. 101-120)

    This chapter examines some actual talk about the “real world.” The reader already knows what I mean by “actual talk”: transcripts of recorded naturally occurring interactions. To those data, this chapter adds some introspection and recollection. But it is necessary to specify what I mean by the “real world,” the world “out there,” and why I use quotation marks.

    Not all talk is referential in the sense that it is about something. And not all referential talk is about a world external to itself, for there can be talk about talk. Nor need the world outside of talk be one...

  10. Appendix A Transcripts and Transcript Notation
    (pp. 121-179)
  11. Appendix B On “Understanding” in the Analysis of Natural Conversation
    (pp. 180-186)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 187-196)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 197-206)
  14. Subject Index
    (pp. 207-211)
  15. Transcript Index
    (pp. 212-212)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)