The action-orientation of talk. ‘How God has changed my heart.’ A study of religious discursive practices
P. D. Xanthopoulou
For a growing number of people there is nothing more important than religion. Yet research that focuses on the interactional constructions spirituality and religiosity is relatively rare in psychology. This study aims to highlight the rich and complex set of discursive and conversational practices that are used by individuals taking part in discussions within religious, and specifically Christian, contexts. It will begin to trace some of the implications of these practices for the production of religious identities and realities. The analysis is conducted within a Discursive Psychology (DP) framework, focusing on issues of accountability and fact construction (Edwards & Potter, 1992; Wooffitt, 1992; Potter, 1996). A primary goal will be to identify the ways in which descriptions generate attributions, agency, normativity and knowledge (Edwards and Potter, 1992). This involves an exploration of the epistemological and action orientation of religious discourse (Potter, 1996). The data for this study comprise a corpus of Television shows obtained from a larger corpus of programmes recorded from the God Channel both from the UK and US. All data are transcribed using conventions developed by Gail Jefferson, with additional detail added for ‘emotional expressions’ (Hepburn, 2004). The analysis of the extracts so far, has identified specific patterns in talk. The brief extract below is part of an interview, and is an example of ‘action-oriented talk’. It shows how the speaker constructs versions of events attending to the responsibility and accountability of her ‘Christian membership’, constructing a version of the world as independent from her own interests and agendas. Extract from The Dream (God TV). Action-oriented talk (Arrowed). (Int: Interviewer; Jes: Responder). (29) Jes: and god really challenged me? I had Writen a (29) whole album worth of songs (0.2) erm non (30) Christian songs but just kinda like out of my own (21) experience and they were just sitting there in a (32) book (.) and god really said to me Jessie? (33) you’ve been that wicked lady servant (0.2) The taken for granted assumptions, identified in the analysis, were found to do justification, as the speakers drew upon these to provide reason for their actions. This study will then consider the implications of such findings for our understanding of how various features of religious discourse can become legitimised from ‘within’ their institutional settings, and how such Legitimation may filter into their circulation in everyday life. More broadly, this demonstrates how discursive practices are both constructed and constructive (Potter & Hepburn, in press), and hence are an important focus for qualitative research.
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