Ethnomethodology, Conversation Analysis and the Study of Action-in-Interaction in Military Settings
In this chapter we discuss what ethnomethodology and conversation analysis can contribute to studies of the military, specifically ‘action-in-interaction’ in military settings. The chapter is methodologically focused and explores how work in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis provides an alternative way of approaching the problems posed by studying the different forms of practice that constitute ‘soldierly work’. Rather than approach these issues in the abstract, and in line with the central thrust of ethnomethodological and conversation analytic studies, we shall outline this approach through a discussion of the methods employed, and difficulties encountered, in the course of research we conducted into a specific case: a fatal ‘blue-on-blue’ or ‘friendly fire’ attack on British infantry by American aircraft during the Second Gulf War. What initially drew us to the incident was the availability of a cockpit video-tape – complete with audio of communications between the two pilots involved in the attack and the ground forward air controller who they were working with – that was leaked to the public during a controversial coroner’s inquest in 2007, some 4 years after the attack took place. Our interest in the footage was twofold. We wanted, firstly, to see what we could make of data of this kind; and, secondly, we wanted to look at what the three official inquiries into the incident (including two military boards of inquiry alongside the coroner’s inquest) had made of it, how they had used the video as a resource for analysing what had gone wrong. This methodological strategy reflects the ‘duplex’ forms of analysis that ethnomethodology and conversation analysis rest upon: in this case, an analysis of the pilot’s communicative and sense-making practices coupled with an analysis of analyses of those practices by a number of authoritative auditors, with tacking between the data and after-the-fact accounts of it. In order to bring this out, we will discuss, initially, the problems we encountered in transcribing the video and what those difficulties themselves revealed about what the pilots were doing. After that, we turn to the ways in which we established links between the video and the reports published by the official inquiries, reports which offered competing where not conflicting interpretations of what happened and why. Again, we shall suggest that this reveals something about what is involved in holding military operatives to account. Based on this, and linking own research to wider work in the field, we will conclude, finally, by returning to the question of what ethnomethodologcal and conversation analytic research adds to our understanding of action-in-interaction in military settings: namely, a focus on its specificities and the forms of organisation internal to it.
Citation : Elsey, C., Mair, M., Smith, P.V. and Watson, P. G. (2016) Ethnomethodology, Conversation Analysis and the Study of Action-in-Interaction in Military Settings. In: WILLIAMS, A. J., JENKINGS, N., WOODWARD, R. and RECH, M. F. (eds.) The Routledge Companion to Military Research Methods. Abingdon: Routledge. pp. 180-195
ISBN : 9781472442758
Research Institute : Institute for Allied Health Sciences Research
Peer Reviewed : Yes