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Describing trouble: Practical epistemology in citizen calls to the police1

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2008

Marilyn R. Whalen
Affiliation:
Department of Psychiatry, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Don H. Zimmerman
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Abstract

In this article, we examine the way citizens' descriptions of troublesome occurrences in reports to emergency dispatch personnel are vulnerable to suspicion and doubt. The vulnerability of description in these cases involves callers' categorization of, visual or aural access to, and involvement in the reported “trouble.” It is through displays of what we term practical epistemology – displays of how one has come to know about a particular event – that these vulnerabilites emerge and are tested and negotiated in the request for and dispatch of emergency assistance. (Conversation analysis, language in institutional settings, pragmatics)

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1990

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