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Ethnographic micro-analysis of conversational interactions: Study of a corpus of social work interviews

Abstract : Socio-cultural life is decomposable in conversational interaction settings which constitute relevant units of analysis at the microscopic scale, susceptible to an empirical study inscribed within the disciplinary borders of an anthropology of contemporary societies, based on the variation and articulation of micro-, meso- and macro-social scales of analysis. The convergences between ethnographers and conversation analysts, which were at the source of micro-ethnography, have taken place first within the American context and have only recently reached European anthropology. Through a re-reading of the works of Marcel Maus and Bronislaw Malinowski, this thesis establishes the existing affiliations between this enterprise and the European research traditions that, to this day, have been subject to a lengthy work of Europeanization. This will be done through a critical examination of the debate that has taken place around Harold Garfinkel and ethnomethodology, the main theoretical framework of conversation analysis. The theoretical framework of this research will be completed by a discussion of auxiliary theories in conversation analysis. The methodological choices undertaken in this work in what concerns the empirical research are then presented and discussed, followed by the description of its two main stages. The first stage consisted of an exploration of this approach, resorting to the multi-situated floating observation; the second stage, for methodological reasons detailed in this section, was dedicated to establishing a corpus of recordings of conversational interactions, in order to consolidate the analysis and apply it to a well defined institutional and professional setting. This corpus of over 50 hours of taped interactions provides the empirical basis for the study of a class of interactional events, defined during its analysis: service encounters in Social Services. The recordings of the interviews took place in the county of Sintra and used a co-participative methodology. The methodological section presents and discusses the relevant aspects of the research: the challenges encountered in the opening of institutional terrains; the triangulation of methodologies and data (field research supported by photography, interviews, recordings and primary documentation) in order to carry out an approach to the research object that is both ethnographic and micro-ethnographic; the corpus as a long term work space, the inductive methodology and the itineraries of corpus analysis. Approached as micro-observatories of social policies and large scale social phenomena, service encounters are interactional events with an institutional ecology described in this thesis by means of visual ethnography. The sequential organization of service encounters and the wide range of micro-actions occurring within this context are subject to detailed descriptions, supported by transcriptions, and contribute to reveal and highlight the systematic procedures and devices applied by social workers and clients in the co-steering of their conversational interaction in the context of social service encounters.
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Contributor : Michel G. J. Binet <>
Submitted on : Thursday, April 18, 2013 - 2:34:17 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, June 4, 2020 - 6:26:02 PM
Long-term archiving on: : Monday, April 3, 2017 - 6:57:00 AM


  • HAL Id : tel-00815276, version 1



Michel Binet. Ethnographic micro-analysis of conversational interactions: Study of a corpus of social work interviews. Social Anthropology and ethnology. Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa (FCSH-UNL), 2013. Portuguese. ⟨tel-00815276⟩



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