Intertextuality in the criminal law process

Komter, Martha

Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands, The

TP150: Organisations and Interviewing: from the interactional to the institutional

Martha Komter

Dept. of Language and Communication

Faculty of Arts

Vrije Universiteit

De Boelelaan 1105 NL

1081 HV Amsterdam

Intertextuality in the criminal law process

Sociolinguistics symposium

micro and macro connections

Amsterdam, 3-5 April 2008

The Dutch criminal law system is based on the drafting, processing, and discussing of written documents. At the same time, much of the legal business in criminal proceedings is conducted in face to face interaction, where the “facts of the matter” are established. Hence, the criminal law process can be seen as a chain of events where encounters of spoken interaction are transformed into written documents, and where the written documents are treated as official basis for decision making, on the assumption that they represent the spoken interaction. There are two moments in the criminal law process where the relations between spoken talk and written documents are particularly pertinent: the police interrogation, where written records are drawn up, and the trial, where these records are discussed as pieces of evidence. This paper is concerned with the relationship between on the one hand the micro activities the construction of and discussions about police records of suspect interrogations, and on the other hand the macro concerns of creating and maintaining the legitimacy of these activities.

For ethnomethodologists and conversation analysts the problem of micro-macro connections boils down to the question to what extent macro-structural concerns are actually being oriented to by members in their dealings with one another (Schegloff, 1987). From this perspective, social phenomena are local accomplishments, that is to say, they are oriented to and created by the participants in talk-in-interaction. And they are only available for analysis when they are demonstrably relevant to the participants in their talk. Moreover, my research materials allow me not only to show how the institutional settings are “talked into being” (cf. Heritage, 1984), but also how they are “fixed” in the course of the interaction as written documents that serve as pieces of evidence in the criminal law process.

In order to understand possible linkages between the micro activities and the macro phenomena, it has been found helpful to identify three dimensions of activities in these institutional settings: interaction, institution and ideology (cf. Komter 1991). That is to say, the interactional organization of the talk is to be understood as embedded in the institutional business to be conducted; and the institutional business that is made visible in the tasks and interests of the participants, is grounded in a set of norms and values that inform and legitimize it (see also: Arminen, 2005).

Arminen, I. (2005). Institutional Interaction. Studies of Talk at Work. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Heritage, J. (1984). Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology. Cambridge; Polity Press.

Komter, M.L. (1991). Conflict and cooperation in job interview: A study of talk, tasks and ideas. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Schegloff, E.A. (1987).Between Macro and Micro: Contexts and other connections. In: J.C. Alexander et al. (eds.), The Mico-Macro Link, pp. 207-234 Berkeley: The University of California Press.

Session: Themed Panel (part 1)
Organisations and Interviewing: From the interactional to the institutional
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 06