Interactional Categorization and Gatekeeping: Institutional Encounters with Otherness

Author: Louise Tranekjær

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This book is about categorization processes in native/non-native workplace interaction, within the context of internship interviews between Danish employers and second language speakers who were born abroad. In this volume, which is one of the first books on gatekeeping, Tranekjær seeks to address processes of power and ideology from a conversation analytical perspective. The book examines the challenges that non-native internship candidates face in processes of employment when employers and job-counsellors seek to conceptualize, categorize and address the candidates' linguistic, ethnic and religious otherness. The book shows how processes of categorization are influenced by broader structures of ideology related to social issues of controversy and debate such as migration, integration and second-language learning. The book also includes an overview of previous gatekeeping studies and proposes a redefinition of the term, which suggests a broader meaning and relevance of the notion.

Taking as a point of departure the seminal work of Sarangi and Roberts, and more generally of linguistic anthropology, the author manages to take us through the thick intricacies of tense gatekeeping encounters like those of internship interviews, often the first way into the (unpaid) working world for many immigrant minority youngsters. Surely, the author has got the job done right.

This study builds upon and advances earlier research on gatekeeping encounters, showing the importance of the presence of co-membership or its opposite – the establishment of a we-relation or a you-relation among interlocutors. Combining approaches from interactional sociolinguistics, conversation analysis, and cultural studies, the book presents compelling transcribed examples and provides fresh insights into the performance of social identity in face-to-face interaction.

All in all, the book provides some very interesting insights into the field of intercultural communication which may be applied to the analysis of institutional encounters in other domains, such as migration and asylum-seeking contexts, in which people belonging to different linguacultural backgrounds interact and negotiate meaning; in such cases, the power asymmetries between migrants and welfare officers, combined with a number of other factors, may easily lead to misunderstandings and to negative outcomes for the less powerful participants.

Discourse & Society 28 (5)

Louise Tranekjær is Associate Professor in the Department of Culture and Identity at Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research interests include institutional interaction, membership categorization analysis, identity, processes of inclusion and exclusion and discourse analysis.

1. The Internship Interview – A Hybrid Communicative Event
2. Gatekeeping – An Interactional and Ideological Process
3. Categories and Knowledge in Interaction
4. When Background is Foregrounded – Nationality and 'Ways of Life'
5. Do You Understand? The Issue of Language
6. Liquor, Pork and Scarfs – The Issue of Religion
7. Gatekeeping – The Power of Categories
8. Interactional Pitfalls and Pointers

Postgraduate, Research / Professional
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