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A listener’s stance-taking in mediation

A listener’s stance-taking in mediation

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Matthew Bruce Ingram, University of Texas at Austin
Madeline M. Maxwell

Keywords: eyebrow flashing, embodied stance-taking, conflict resolution, body language, acrimonious communication

Abstract: This article analyses a highly acrimonious conflict mediation session between a previous romantic couple in order to illustrate how one listening disputant’s embodied stances influence the trajectory of another disputant’s unfolding narrative. For example, even without speaking, the listener’s facial expression and postures serve to refuse the other speaker’s participant framework. In order to unpack the complexity of this interaction, we drew on both conversation analytic and dialogic notions of stance. We found that to analyse embodied stances in our data requires an understanding of both the local sequential analysis of the unfolding orientations of the participants as embodied stances are being deployed, as well as the larger interactional patterns that occur across the entire mediation session. This case study illustrates the challenge, to mediators and researchers alike, posed by unequal access to the disputant’s shared background knowledge.

Author Biography: 

Matthew Bruce Ingram is a PhD student in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Texas at Austin with a focus on rhetoric and language studies. His research draws from sociocultural and rhetorical understandings of embodiment to study how human actors use their embodied resources to represent themselves and others as well as make sense of their social worlds.

Dr. Madeline M. Maxwell (Ph.D., University of Arizona, 1980) is the department's Minority Liaison Officer. In this capacity, she gives minority students someone to turn to with their concerns. She teaches and conducts research in the ethnography of communication, the study of the interaction of language and culture. Her current projects involve adaptations to communication technology and talk in conflict mediation. She has established The University Conflict Resolution Center to train students to provide conflict intervention services and to study communication in conflict resolution. She is a member of the Steering Committee for the Graduate Portfolio in Dispute Resolution, and interdisciplinary certification program. She teaches undergraduate courses in the role of language in communication and in conflict mediation, and graduate courses in the ethnography of communication, communication and conflict, and minority language communities. Dr. Maxwell has edited two books, and published over seventy articles, reports, and chapters in books and journals such as Language in Society, Text, Deaf Studies and Education, and Discourse Processes.

Publication Date:  15 December 2017

Ingram, M. B., & Maxwell, M. M. (2017). A listener’s stance-taking in mediation. Mediation Theory and Practice2(2), 93–130.

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