Affiliation, Identity and Interaction
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Affiliation, identity and interaction

Social interaction is a basic arena for the construction, challenge and defense of identities. This workshop will investigate how processes of affiliation, that is how interactants invite others to affiliate, and how others accept or decline such invitations, are involved in identity creation and negotiation. The social actions involved can be quite diverse, but obvious ones include evaluations, praise, complaints, challenges, and accusations. The social contexts in which processes of identity construction and affiliation/disaffiliation are studied can be both mundane, everyday interaction and all types of organizational and institutional interaction. We call for papers focusing on such processes in interactional data and encourage potential presenters to include data analyses in their presentations.


Birte Asmuß: "Affiliation and entitlement in the construction of leadership identity in informal group meetings"

Research on meetings at the workplace has shown that there are differences between formal and informal meetings (Boden, 1994). Some of the characteristics differentiating more formal from more informal meetings are a meeting agenda, clear time frame, and the presence of a meeting chair (Asmuß & Svennevig, 2009). Whereas in formal meetings, the meeting chair usually is appointed beforehand (either well ahead of the meeting or right at the beginning), in informal meetings, the participants need to negotiate on a minute to minute basis who is in charge of what. Consequently, questions of meeting procedure (what to pursue when and how), topic progression (what to talk about when) and decision making (what to decide and by whom) are aspects that are open to ongoing negotiations between the meeting participants.

The current study wants to pursue the above by focusing on how leadership is constructed in informal group meetings and how questions of entitlement and affiliation come into play. Here, in specific it will be investigated, how the participants in the course of positioning themselves or others as meeting leader orient to questions of entitlement (Lindström, 2005, Curl and Drew, 2008, Oshima & Asmuß, forthc.) and how the display of entitlement makes the subsequent display of affiliation of disaffilation relevant (Steensig & Drew, 2008).

The study is based on 4 hours of various videotaped group meetings, the method used is Conversation Analysis.


Asmuß, B. & Oshima, S. (2012, forthcoming) Negotiation of entitlement in proposal sequences, Discourse Studies.

Asmuß, B. and Svennevig, J. (2009) ‘Meeting Talk: An Introduction’, Journal of Business Communication 46(1): 3-22.

Boden, D. (1994) The Business of Talk. Organizations in Action. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

Ignazia Bartholini: The troubled identities in the relationship between peers and the role of the viewer

The assumption, at the basis of the report, considers the bullying as a state of oppression caused by the identitary uncertainty of many teenagers.
Today, the violence between peers is characterized as one of the most effective strategies for the construction of atypical identity or troubled identities, in specific relational contexts (frames).
The mutual acceptance and the permanence in the deviant group, allows the creation/attribution of an identity to each member of the group, and it is subject to the so-called "cognitive responsibility" (Gallino 2002), which allows the voluntary perpetuation (replication) of a "dramatic scene" (framework).This last takes the form of a ritual, a drama in which each participants assume the role expected from the character that plays.

The violence between peers, therefore, is both an instrument of regulation of relations and attribution of identity, and an autonomous social force capable of shaping the identity of participants in a special deviant relationship. It, as a force able to structure certain groups, gives a role to participants in the report - those of the victim, the executioner and the viewer - and therefore a "identity of role", which is however subordinate to the possibility/impossibility that the "public" - the set of the viewers who are members of the same group - "likes or not" the performance of co-actors, and then give them a recognition of identity.
From this point of view, the viewer performs the principal function in the same staging of deviant group.
The report, which I'm going to play, will explore:

  1. the dynamics (complementary and/or cross transactions) that lead to acceptance and the consequent possibility/impossibility of the exchange of roles within the same dynamics among peers;
    1. the crucial role played by the viewer to recognize the identity of the other players in the group, and the real possibility of the viewer to turn the complementary transaction in a crossed transaction;
    2. the possibility to exchange the role of spectator with that of "savior", when his approval of the violent scene (OK) turns into disapproval (KO), and thus to discrediting the identity played by the victim and the persecutor.

The report will seek to:

  1. recover some of the concepts of dramaturgy by Ervin Goffman (1959, 1961, 1974);
  2. conduct a reasoned analysis of transactional analysis by Eric Berne (1964, 1972, 1981);
  3. take some examples of empirical research (PRIN 2008 - Projects of Outstanding National Interest), conducted by the team of University of Palermo, in the last year, through 15 focus groups to classmates at the high school, in which there had been repeated episodes of violence, and trough 15 in-depth interviews to some significant witnesses, who are been victims of bullying.

Brian Due: Identity work and the social construction of an idea

Idea development is essential for organizations' overall strategic advantage (Drucker, 1993; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995). A focus on the turn-by-turn local co-construction of new ideas in teams or small groups is of utmost importance because the foundation for change and innovation is based on the concrete communication between employees (Salas, Rosen, Burke, & Goodwin, 2009). And studies indicate that the idea development phase is crucial for further innovation (Scheidel, 1986; Teece, 1986; Flyvbjerg, 1991). Thus, an approach that reveals the little differences when employees develop ideas in authentic situations in the wild (Hutchins, 1995) is both rewarding and necessary.

During idea development meetings participants propose and construct new ideas using different semiotic resources: they communicate through talk, embodied action and by use of artifacts in a materiel environment (Streeck, Goodwin, & LeBaron, 2011). Identity work is being done in the ongoing sequentially unfolded construction of new ideas (Zimmerman, 1998). Some participants are aligning as a team (Kangasharju, 1996) while others is displaying a disaffiliated orientation towards the proposed idea.

Through a multimodal Conversation Analytical single-case analysis I will show how a new idea are co-constructed through participants affiliated response and use of different semiotic resources. It will also bee shown how aligning as a team is due to a process of socially distributed cognition (Clark, 1999) and that this cognition is asymmetrical distributed. Participant’s different membership categories (Hester & Eglin, 1997) are brought into play through the interaction with consequences for the way they affiliate or disaffiliate with the proposed idea.


Clark, A. (1999). Embodied, situated, and distributed cognition. Bechtel, W., & Graham, G. ( Eds.), A companion to cognitive science,. Blackwell Publishers.

Drucker, P. (1993). The rise of the knowledge society. Wilson quarterly., 71.

Flyvbjerg, B. (1991). Rationalitet og magt. [København]: Akademisk Forlag.

Hester, S., & Eglin, P. (1997). Culture in action : studies in membership categorization analysis. Washington  D.C.: International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis & University Press of America.

Hutchins, E. (1995). Cognition in the wild. [Cambridge  Mass.]: CogNet.

Kangasharju, H. (1996). Aligning as a team in multiparty conversation. Journal of Pragmatics, 26(3), 291-319.

Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company : how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Salas, E., Rosen, M. A., Burke, C. S., & Goodwin, G. F. (2009). The Wisdom of Collectives in Organizations: An Update of the Teamwork Competencies. E. Salas, G.F. Goodwin, C.S. Burke (Eds.) Team Effectiveness in Complex Organizations. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives and Approaches. (s. 39-83). Psychology Press.

Scheidel, T. M. (1986). Divergent and Convergent Thinking in Group Decision making. in Hirokawa, R.Y. & Poole, M.S. (eds): Communication and Group Decision making. SAGE Publications.

Streeck, J., Goodwin, C., & LeBaron, C. (2011). Embodied Interaction: Language and Body in the Material World. Cambridge University Press.

Teece, D. (1986). Profiting from technological innovation : implications for integration, collaboration, licensing and public policy. Berkeley  CA: Produced and distributed by Center for Research in Management  University of California  Berkeley Business School.

Zimmerman, D. H. (1998). Identity, Context and Interaction. C. Antaki & S. Widdicombe (eds.) Identities in talk. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications.

Sae Oshima: Affiliation work for managing multiple identities: at the time of revising the service outcome

Participants in interaction may align with their co-participants through responding actions “with respect to the activity in progress” (Stivers, 2008:34), such as by producing a type-conforming response (Raymond, 2003), by producing continuers and supporting the progress of storytelling (Stivers, 2008), and by accepting the role of proposal recipient in response to the proposal teller (Asmuß & Oshima, forthcoming). While movements to align often facilitate the smooth organization of social activities, mere alignment may at times threaten the maintenance of certain identities. This paper explores one such situation in professional-client interaction: requesting for or offering revisions to a newly completed haircut in a cosmetological session.

When the issue of possible revision is launched by the customer (as a request) or by the stylist (as an offer), the next relevant action is to grant/reject the request, or accept/decline the offer. Yet simply yielding to the customer’s opinion can threaten the stylist’s identity as an expert. At the same time, customers are expected to have opinions about their personal appearance as the patron. Microanalysis of the sequence reveals that the participants constantly avoid presenting this process as mere aligning work, but they work on conveying authentically-identical thoughts on the matter of revision. They do so by designing their requesting/offering turns to accommodate room for their co-participants to show their positive emotions toward the content of the request/offer. Accordingly, the recipients may not merely accept the request/offer but make affiliated moves, i.e. “actions which agree with or take the same stance as co-participants” (Steensig & Drew, 2008:9, emphasis in original; also see Stivers 2008) through verbal and embodied actions.

The paper argues that the participants’ affiliation work enables them to transform the request/offer into a collaborative event of revising the service outcome. By doing so, they harmonize their sometimes-conflicting identities as “expert and service-provider” and “novice and patron”. The five examples are drawn from 30 video-recorded service sessions in the U.S. and analyzed with the method of conversation analysis.

Asmuß, B. & Oshima, S. (2012, forthcoming) Negotiation of entitlement in proposal sequences, Discourse Studies.

Raymond, G. (2003) Grammar and social organization: yes/no interrogatives and the structure of responding, American Sociological Review 68: 939-967.

Steensig, J. and Drew, P. (2008) Introduction: questioning and

affiliation/disaffiliation in interaction, Discourse Studies 10(1): 5-15

Stivers, T. (2008) Stance, alignment, and affiliation during storytelling: when

nodding is a token of affiliation, Research on Language & Social Interaction 41(1): 31-57.

Jakob Steensig: Affiliation, identity and interaction – the case of assessments

In my presentation, I suggest a framework for analysing how affiliation and identities are talked into being. I shall look at a number of instances of assessments, i.e., evaluative utterances, produced in everyday interactions in Danish. My perspective on the analytic use of the concept of social affiliation reflects the views of Stivers (2008) and Stivers, Mondada and Steensig (2011). This view entails that social affiliation is a continuous process of relating to stances and perspectives displayed by coparticipants in interaction. I develop this perspective a bit further by suggesting that we can identify systematic “affiliatables”, that is, aspects of behaviour that others can affiliate with or distance themselves from.

The processes of affiliating and disaffiliating are deeply moral (Bergmann 1998). I suggest that the morality that is displayed and negotiated when interactants deal with affiliatables, is also a locus for creating and negotiating social identities. My view on identities reflect that of Antaki & Widdicombe (1998) and others who have analysed identities in a micro-sociological and interactional perspective. The general preference for agreement (Sacks 1987) that can be registered in most everyday interaction seems to be the basis for rather stable and “untroubled” identities, but I shall address how identities get challenges and, thus, “troubled” in subtle ways through the processes of affiliating and disaffiliating with affiliatables in assessment activities.


Antaki, Charles & Widdicombe, Sue (Eds.) (1998). Identities in talk. London: Sage.

Bergmann, Jörg. R. (1998) Introduction: Morality in Discourse, Research on Language and Social Interaction 31/3-4: 279-294.

Stivers, Tanya (2008) Stance, alignment and affiliation during story telling: When nodding is a token of preliminary affiliation, Research on Language in Social Interaction, 41/1: 31-57.

Stivers, Tanya, Mondada, Lorenza & Steensig, Jakob (2011). Knowledge, morality and affiliation in social interaction. In T. Stivers, L. Mondada, & J. Steensig (Eds.), The morality of knowledge in conversation (pp. 3–24). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

A full paper will not be uploaded.

Mie Femø Nielsen: Tabooing and troubled affiliation with ascribed identity

In this paper I will discuss how tabooing incest may be problematic for the incest victim. My theoretical background for studying tabooing is inspired by sociological studies of incest and taboos (Elliott 1994; Konker 1992; Rahm, Renck and Ringsberg 2006); social role theory (Goffman 1959; Mead 1934; Parsons 1951; Stark 2007), as well as micro-­‐sociology: conversation analysis (Antaki & Widdicombe 1998; Sacks 1984; Schegloff 2007) and Membership Categorization Analysis (Sacks 1972a, 1972b; Schegloff 2007).

Social categories may be taken, achieved, tested, assigned, casted, ascribed, forced upon, ratified, confirmed, adapted, modified, recasted, rejected. Roles are not fixed or prescribed, but requires constant negotiation, co-­‐operation and competition (Mead 1934). Identities are established in relation to interlocutors and thus constitute outcomes of interaction rather than prerequisites for it (Goffman 1959). Identity is to be seen as an achievement and a tool, identity is done and used (Antaki & Widdicombe 1998). People do not ‘have’ identities but enact and constitute them in pursuing their practical goals in situated activities (Antaki & Widdicombe 1998). Appearing a certain way, e.g. ’ordinary’, is an achievement (Sacks 1984). Roles may be semi­‐permanent or transitory, and are formed by rights, obligations, expectations, perceptions (Parsons 1951) and recognition (Blommaert 2005).

An incest victim may be embraced with care and understanding, and may yet disaffiliate with such identity. Some categories are problematic to embrace, because they entail socially problematic category bound  activities (Sacks 1972a, 1972b) in an emotional context of guilt and shame. They are situated identities made  into transportable identities (Zimmerman 1998), casting a person into a problematic, semi­‐permanent role.


Antaki, Charles and Sue Widdicombe 1998. Identity as an Achievement and as a Tool

Identities in Talk, edited by Charles Antaki and Sue Widdicombe. London: SAGE.

Blommaert, Jan 2005. Discourse: A critical introduction. Cambridge University Press. Elliott, Michele 1994. Female sexual abuse of children: 'the ultimate taboo.' Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 87:691­‐694.

Goffman, Erving 1959. Presentation of Self in Everyday Life. Carden City, New York: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Konker, Claudia 1992. Rethinking Child Sexual Abuse: An Anthropological Perspective. American Journal of Orthopsychiai 62(1):147­‐153.

Mead, George Herbert 1934. Mind, Self, and Society. Ed. by Charles W. Morris. University of Chicago

Press. Parsons, Talcott 1951. The Social System. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Rahm, G. B., B. Renck and K. C. Ringsberg 2006. ‘Disgust, disgust beyond description’ – shame cues to detect shame in disguise, in interviews with women who were sexually abused during childhood. Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing, 13:100–109.

Sacks, Harvey 1972a. On the Analyzability of Stories by Children. Directions in sociolinguistics: the ethnography of communication, edited by J.J. Gumperz and D. Hymes. New York: Rinehart & Winston, pp. 325­‐45.

Sacks, Harvey 1972b. An Initial Investigation of the Usability of Conversational Data for Doing Sociology.  Studies in Social Interaction, edited by D. Sudnow. New York: Free Press, pp. 31-­74.

Sacks, Harvey 1984. On Doing “Being Ordinary. Structures of Social Action, edited by Maxwell Atkinson and John Heritage. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, pp. 413‐429.

Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2007. A Tutorial on Membership Categorization. Journal of Pragmatics, 39(3):462­‐482. Special Issue: Diversity and Continuity in Conversation Analysis, edited by Mie Femø Nielsen and Johannes Wagner.

Stark, Rodney 2007. Sociology. Tenth Edition. Baylor University. Thomson Wadsworth, California.

Zimmerman, Don H. 1998. Identity, Context and Interaction. Identities in Talk, edited by Charles Antaki and Sue Widdicombe. London: SAGE.


Jakob Steensig, Associate Professor, Department of Aesthetics and Communication - Linguistics, Aarhus University.

Birte Asmuß, Associate Professor, Department of Corporate Communication, Aarhus University.

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Panel 1

Nielsen, Mie Femø: Tabooing and troubled affiliation with ascribed identity

Bartholini, Ignazia: The troubled identities in the relationship between peers and the role of the viewer

Steensig, Jakob: Affiliation, identity and interaction – the case of assessments

Chair: Birte Asmuß

Panel 2:

Due, Brian: Identity work and the social construction of an idea

Oshima,Sae: Affiliation work for managing multiple identities: at the time of revising the service outcome

Asmuß, Birte : Affiliation and entitlement in the construction of leadership identity in informal group meetings

Chair: Jakob Steensig

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Revised 2012.01.15