Ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches to identity

Authored by: Bethan Benwell , Elizabeth Stokoe

The Routledge Handbook of Language and Identity

Print publication date:  February  2016
Online publication date:  February  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138774728
eBook ISBN: 9781315669816
Adobe ISBN: 9781317365242


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This chapter presents an approach to identity grounded in ethnomethodology (EM) and conversation analysis (CA). In contrast to approaches that start with a heavily theorised concept of identity, or with a predetermined set of identity categories, our chapter describes how people themselves, in everyday social life, orient to and describe, classify or assess each other as particular kinds of people, as members (or not) of identity-relevant categories. A key point is that ethnomethodologists and conversation analysts rarely start out with identity as an analytic concept for exploration. Rather, their focus is on the organisation of social life in and through talk and social interaction, in which matters of who we are to one another are members’ concerns. While EM and CA are often regarded as ‘atheoretical’, they simply propose an alternative theory, of social life as grounded in interaction and of language as constitutive of that social life.

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