Justice talks: an ethnomethodological approach to courtroom interaction
Wise, Teresa Ellen
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Institutions of all types, such as those that provide medical, legal and educational services, throughout the United States face the challenge of dealing with an increasingly diverse population. This study, informed by an ethnomethodological approach, examines and analyzes portions of transcripts from two medical malpractice cases tried in Kentucky in 2001 and 2002. It addresses questions concerning how institutional roles are instantiated and how social order is constructed and practiced. In each case the defendant physician was born and educated in India and came to live in the United States shortly after completing medical school. The study analyzes the endogenous social organization of courtroom practices with these specific defendants. The study extends and broadens current work in conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis by examining both a unique institutional setting, the courtroom, and a largely ignored population of interlocutors within it, non-native English speakers. The application of conversation analysis and membership categorization analysis to the data in these cases shows that social roles and activities are deployed on a moment-to-moment basis and are not rigidly fixed by the institution. The main findings concern: a) Reconstituting institutional space: The institutional space is a constantly reconstituting one based on the talk-in-interaction that occurs within it; b) Portraying the participants: Attorneys use multiple and intricate interactional techniques to portray themselves and their clients and to establish their mutual roles within the interaction; and c) Problematizing the non-native speaker category: The category of non-native English speaker is one that can function in a variety of ways and that deserves more problematizing within institutional settings.