This study investigates the interactional work mediators do to actively manage the mediation process while trying to maintain a stance of neutrality, as well as how disputants engage with the projected neutral image of the mediators. It draws first on a comparison of how mediators talk when they are in and out of their professional mode, and secondly on how disputants corroborate or undermine the neutral stance advanced by the mediators.
Data enabling the study come from an eighteen-month-long ethnographic fieldwork conducted at a community mediation center. As part of the ethnographic fieldwork, six co-mediated hearings were tape-recorded along with the post-mediation debriefings, during which the two mediators shared with each other, the observer (if any) and the researcher (me) their perceptions of the dispute itself and evaluated the hearing that has just finished. Further sources of data for the dissertation are five follow-up one-on-one interviews conducted with practitioners volunteering at the center.
The analysis examines closely two aspects of mediator talk—asking questions and restating disputants' utterances—and looks at how the production format and the participantion framework (Goffman 1981) of the speech event shape mediator talk. In addition, it considers disputants' role in sustaining mediators' projected stance of neutrality by investigating the design of disputants' turns to express agreement or disagreement with assessments proferred by the mediators. Drawing upon mediators' informal conversations during the post-mediation debriefings, this study expands "the frontstage view of discourse in the workplace" (Sarangi & Roberts 1999: 22) and discusses also how mediators step out of their more formal roles and talk shop with one another backstage (Goffman 1959).
This study of mediation hearings highlights the importance of understanding the dynamics of interaction through micro-level analysis of language in context and makes a contribution to the cross-disciplinary investigation of neutrality in institutional settings. Furthermore, it contributes to the field of conflict management by helping bridge the gap between professional codes prescribing neutrality and the reality of mediators as active participants who bring their own sets of beliefs and values in guiding the interaction during the conflict resolution process.
|Advisor:||Hamilton, Heidi E.|
|School Location:||United States -- District of Columbia|
|Source:||DAI-A 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Emergent discourse, Linguistics, Mediation hearings, Neutrality|
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