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‘They're not racist …’ Prejudice denial, mitigation and suppression in dialogue

Authors


Correspondence should be addressed to Susan Condor, Department of Psychology, Lancaster University, Bailrigg, Lancaster LA1 4YF, UK (e-mail: s.condor@lancaster.ac.uk).

Abstract

Social scientific work on the suppression, mitigation or denial of prejudiced attitudes has tended to focus on the strategic self-presentation and self-monitoring undertaken by individual social actors on their own behalf. In this paper, we argue that existing perspectives might usefully be extended to incorporate three additional considerations. First, that social actors may, on some occasions, act to defend not only themselves, but also others from charges of prejudice. Second, that over the course of any social encounter, interactants may take joint responsibility for policing conversation and for correcting and suppressing the articulation of prejudiced talk. Third, that a focus on the dialogic character of conversation affords an appreciation of the ways in which the status of any particular utterance, action or event as ‘racist’ or ‘prejudiced’ may constitute a social accomplishment. Finally, we note the logical corollary of these observations – that in everyday life, the occurrence of ‘racist discourse’ is likely to represent a collaborative accomplishment, the responsibility for which is shared jointly between the person of the speaker and those other co-present individuals who occasion, reinforce or simply fail to suppress it.

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