Stephen Hester on the problem of culturalism

Sally Hester, David Francis

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    At his death in April 2014, Stephen Hester left behind an unfinished manuscript of a book, entitled 'Descriptions of Deviance'. In this book he takes an MCA approach to examining how categorial formulations of deviance are interactionally constructed and negotiated in talk in educational settings. The data comprise transcriptions of pupil review meetings involving teachers and educational psychologists in an education authority in Northern England. In analysing this data, and consistent with the approach he had championed throughout his career, Hester emphasises the occasionality of categorial formulations. Recognising that this emphasis is not unproblematic and requires careful consideration, before turning to the data he discusses the problem of 'culturalism'. He argues that Sacks' distinction between 'occasioned' and 'natural' category devices does not lend support to the culturalist view of category use. Furthermore, while Schegloff's cautions concerning the methodological pitfalls of MCA are serious and well made, the analysis of categorial data, especially texts, need not fall into the trap of 'culturalism'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)56-63
    JournalJournal of Pragmatics
    Early online date21 May 2017
    Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 May 2017


    • Membership Categorisation Analysis
    • Culturalism
    • Stephen Hester


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