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Age in action: membership work and stage of life categories in talk

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posted on 23.03.2017, 15:10 by Pirjo H. Nikander
This thesis is an analysis on the discursive practices through which people make sense of and manage their membership in a particular age category. The data comprise of a corpus of over 800 pages of transcribed talk from interviews with Finnish men and women, all close to their 50th birthday. Throughout the analysis of these accounts I will be addressing wider methodological and thematic issues and debates in discursive social psychology. These include arguments about how identities, the membership or non-membership in particular categories, are managed m talk; the analytic possibilities and relevance of discursively mapping people's membership and categorisation work in interactlon; and more specifically, the interactive processes through which participants in an interview situation display, apply, and mobilise notions and descriptions of age and ageing. The analytic focus is firmly on participants' communicative and interpretative sense making: on the tacit reasoning practices, and on the lands of interactional business achieved by age categorisation in action. The wider empirical focus throughout is on how people use categorisations and self-descriptions to accomplish certain kinds of interactional work. In the analysis of the interview data, empirically grounded observations are made (i) On how people orient to and display the factual nature of the human life course as a progression, and how overlap in between age categories is managed (11) On the discursive practices through which membership m an age category is either warranted or resisted (Ill) On the discursive formulations of personal change and continuity, and (iv) On the moral nature of age description The analytic and theoretical contributions from this work are of immediate interest to both discursive and ageing research. The work shows the benefits of discursive theorising and analysis for understanding arguments and descriptions about age. Simultaneously it makes a contribution to the existing literature on identity and categorisation in talk and interaction.



  • Social Sciences


  • Communication, Media, Social and Policy Studies


© Pirjo H. Nikander

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.