Transnational adoption as a material-discursive phenomenon

Pirkko Raudaskoski

University of Aalborg, Denmark

WS149: CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges

I compare Charles Goodwin’s CA-based contextual configuration (Goodwin 2000) with nexus analysis, an ethnographically oriented framework for doing mediated discourse analysis. Contextual configuration refers to the changing use of different meaningful resources in interaction. It offers an excellent way of analysing Goffman’s situated activity systems (Goffman 1961). The focus in contextual configuration is on emerging social action. Action is also the centre of attention in mediated discourse analysis (Scollon and Scollon 2004) and especially the mediated nature of action. According to mediated discourse analysis, actions are carried out with mediational means, cultural-historical tools varying from the language used to the material setup of the place. In nexus analysis, the aim is to identify the crucial mediated actions that realise a recognizable nexus of practice, constituted by three semiotic cycles: interaction order, historical body and discourses in place. These can be compared with Goodwin’s central interests: 1) participants carrying out courses of action in concert with each other (cp. interaction order), 2) participants’ use of their bodies as an interactional resource (cp. historical body), and 3) the social, cultural, material and sequential structure of the environment (cp. discourses in place). Contextual configuration aims at capturing and understanding the situated nature of interaction. In nexus analysis those unique moments in history are called sites of engagement. Contextual configuration is composed of different semiotic fields (cp. mediational means) that are employed to constitute an action within a larger activity (cp. nexus of practice). Context is also defined as the (changing) contextual configuration, whereas in nexus analysis, context could be regarded as the historical, cultural and political formations that enable the site of engagement to occur. Thus, these two approaches understand social action similarly, whereas ‘context’ is conceptualised in compatible ways.

In the workshop, a snippet of social interaction is presented to show how these two methodologies, with some help from related fields, can be fruitfully combined. The data comes from a Danish television documentary on transnational adoption and in the snippet a couple receives a phone call about their prospective adoptive child. The official delivers pieces of information about the baby, based on documents she has received about him. With a CA-oriented analysis of institutional talk, it is possible to show how the documents are made relevant in situ. Answering the questions that nexus analysis requires about how these participants and these documents came together in this specific situation makes it possible not only to see the phone call as a crucial instance in the complex network of practices, people and materialities of transnational adoption but also to analyse how the work has already begun to manage the appropriation of the baby (who still is in Korea) as a Dane.

Goffman, Erving (1961) Encounters: Two Studies In the Sociology of Interaction. Indianapolis, IN: Bobbs-Merrill.

Goodwin, Charles (2000) Action and embodiment within situated human interaction. Journal of Pragmatics 32: 1489—1522.

Scollon, Ron and Suzie Wong Scollon (2004) Nexus Analysis. Discourse and the Emerging Internet. New York: Routledge.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 05