Getting service at the constituency office: Analyzing citizens' encounters with their Member of Parliament

2018-09-10T09:05:22Z (GMT) by Emily Hofstetter Elizabeth Stokoe
In this paper, we present an analysis of how constituents procure services at the constituency office of a Member of Parliament (MP) in the United Kingdom. This paper will investigate how several previously documented interactional practices (e.g. entitlement) combine at the constituency office in a way that secures service. From a corpus of 12.5 hours of interaction, and using conversation analysis, we examine constituents’ telephone calls and meetings with constituency office staff and the MP, identifying practices constituents use. First, constituents opened encounters with bids to tell narratives. Second, constituents presented lengthy and detailed descriptions of their difficulties. These descriptions gave space to manage issues of legitimacy and entitlement, while simultaneously recruiting assistance. Third, we examine ways in which constituents display uncertainty about how the institution of the constituency office functions, and what services are available. The paper offers original insights into how constituency services are provided, and how constituency offices give access and support to ordinary citizens, while expanding the conversation analytic literature on institutional service provision.