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The epistemics of social relations: Owning grandchildren


Scholars have long understood that linkages between the identities of actors and the design of their actions in interaction constitute one of the central mechanisms by which social patterns are produced. Although a range of empirical approaches has successfully grounded claims regarding the significance of various forms or types of identity (gender, sex, race, ethnicity, class, familial status, etc.) in almost every form of social organization, these analyses have mostly focused on aggregated populations, aggregated interactions, or historical periods that have been (in different ways) abstracted from the particulars of singular episodes of interaction. By contrast, establishing the mechanisms by which a specific identity is made relevant and consequential in any particular episode of interaction has remained much more elusive. This article develops a range of general analytic resources for explicating how participants in an interaction can make relevant and consequential specific identities in particular courses of action. It then illustrates the use of these analytic resources by examining a phone call between two friends, one of whom relevantly embodies “grandparent” as an identity. The conclusion offers observations prompted by this analysis regarding basic contingencies that characterize self-other relationships, and the role of generic grammatical resources in establishing specific identities and intimate relationships.

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Language in Society
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