The Authority of the “Broader Context”: Authority and Power in Social Interaction

Mariaelena Bartesaghi, Oren Livio, Frédérik Matte

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In this chapter, we argue for context as both a theoretical and methodological resource. We examine how context authorizes by simultaneously highlighting and obscuring features of a text, affording and constraining analytical claims, and reflexively positioning us as authors of our own analyses. Because defining context is itself problematic, we offer three situated definitions based on the conversation analysis—discourse analysis debate, the notion of dislocation, and the broader framework of critical discourse studies. We then provide three complementary analyses of the beginning of the interaction between Kim Davis, David Moore, and David Ermold to illustrate these definitions. The first foregrounds the text-context relationship and argues that Davis’s smile at the beginning of the interaction serves as an initial “text” that participants recontextualize to elicit specific moral readings; the second views context as dislocal and suggests that participants import past and future events into the situation to construct their authority; and the third identifies grammatical and extralinguistic cues that participants utilize to “expand” or “contract” context and advance their ideological goals. We conclude by discussing the value and challenges of our analyses and considering how choices about contexts exercise authority over analyzing interactions and always partially reveal the situation itself.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAuthority and power in social interaction
Subtitle of host publicationMethods and analysis
EditorsN. Bencherki, F. Matte, F. Cooren
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351051668
ISBN (Print)9781138484597
StatePublished - 13 Aug 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities
  • General Social Sciences
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (all)
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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