Challenging generalisations: Leveraging the power of individuality in support group interactions
journal contributionposted on 10.03.2020, 11:29 by Marco Pino
Explicit generalisations are statements that attribute a characteristic to all members of a social category (e.g., drug users). This paper examines the tensions and negotiations that the use of generalisations prompts within support group interactions. Generalisations are practices for the cautious implementation of delicate actions. They can be used to convey perspectives on group members’ experiences by implication (without commenting on them directly), by virtue of those members belonging to the category to which a generalisation applies. At the same time, generalisations can misrepresent some individual cases within that category. Using conversation analysis, the paper investigates how generalisations are deployed, challenged, and then defended in support group interactions. These analyses identify a tension between utilising the sense-making resources that category memberships afford, and the protection of its members from unwelcome generalisations. Data consist of recorded support-group meetings for people recovering from drug addiction (in Italy) and for bereaved people (in the UK).