Action and Agency in Dialogue

Passion, incarnation and ventriloquism

| Université de Montréal
Foreword Author
| Sciences Po, Paris
ISBN 9789027210234 | EUR 90.00 | USD 135.00
ISBN 9789027288196 | EUR 90.00 | USD 135.00
What happens when people communicate or dialogue with each other? This is the daunting question that this book proposes to address by starting from a controversial hypothesis: What if human interactants were not the only ones to be considered, paraphrasing Austin (1962), as “doing things with words”? That is, what if other “things” could also be granted the status of agents in a dialogical situation? Action and Agency in Dialogue: Passion, incarnation, and ventriloquism proposes to explore this unique hypothesis by mobilizing metaphorically the notion of ventriloquism. According to this ventriloqual perspective, interactions are never purely local, but dislocal, that is, they constantly mobilize figures (collectives, principles, values, emotions, etc.) that incarnate themselves in people’s discussions. This highly original book, which develops the analytical, practical and ethical dimensions of such a theoretical positioning, may be of interest to communication scholars, linguists, sociologists, conversation analysts, management and organizational scholars, as well as philosophers interested in language, action and ethics.

This book won the prestigious NCA LSI 'Old Chestnut' Award 2019!
[Dialogue Studies, 6]  2010.  xvi, 206 pp.
Publishing status: Available
Table of Contents
Part I. Agency, texts, and passion
Chapter 1. For a renewed conception of action
Chapter 2. How texts (and other things) do things with words
Chapter 3. Passion, animation, and decision
Part II. Ventriloquism and incarnation
Chapter 4. Ventriloquism or the ecstatic dimension of communication
Chapter 5. Incarnation
Author index
Subject index
“In his powerful book, Action and Agency in Dialogue, François Cooren helps to explode unexamined assumptions about our extraordinary relationships with nonhuman entities. In a detailed study, that is at the same time imaginative and innovative, Cooren expands our ideas of agency in the context of spoken exchange by showing us how inanimates are partners in a series of conversational contexts. Unafraid of figures, figures of speech, Cooren sometimes works with ventriloqual vocality, decentering the idea of selves and their interactions, in his scholarly thinking that is nevertheless outside the box of some current scholarship. In covering a wide range of literature over many fields, he shows us how things speak for us and to us. As might be expected, the perspective of Action and Agency opens new ways of thinking about speech acts, social institutions and the ontology of things.”
“L’ouvrage s’imposera probablement comme un classique: déjà, on observe de nouveaux disciples qui se revendiquent de cette approche pour expliquer comment, dans l’interaction, des choses nous font faire des choses alors même que l'on parle en leur nom. En un sens, ce livre est la consécration des théories de Cooren sur l’agentivité des non-humains et le pouvoir constitutif du langage.”
“Cooren’s book belongs to a special genre. Unlike the majority of books, it does more than move us further along a path we have already been treading. It is one of those exceptional books that goes back along several such paths and shows that if we follow them in just the right way, move back and forth between them, bridge them -- then we come upon a new landscape. In this case, Cooren has tackled a paradox that bedevils the social sciences in general, but is especially prominent in the fields of Communication, Sociology, and Discourse Studies. The paradox is that we are creatures whose social being, relationships, institutions, practices, beliefs and values are fluid and impermanent, and yet we occupy a symbolic world that is stable and enduring. Much attention in these postmodernist times has been given to the fluidity and impermanence of the human world, and similarly, much attention has been given to its stable parts. But Cooren has tackled the issue of how the two are interconnected and interdependent. In the process he makes texts and writers from Derrida to Garfinkel to Latour to Bakhtin to Austin and Searle accessible to those who aren’t already familiar with them, and provides a new approach to such thorny topics as action, agency, cultures and collectives, social influence, authority, and roles and relationships.”
“Cooren has written a highly orginal book about speech-act theory in which he leads readers through a vast literature to demonstrate that when 'we' speak many other voices are speaking as well. Action and Agency in Dialogue will be of interest to communication scholars, linguists, sociologists, conversation analysts, management and organizational scholars, as well as philosophers interested in language, action and ethics.”
“We have to be grateful to Cooren for acting as the (reversible) vent of such a broad trans-linguistic, transcultural and trans-disciplinary dialogue.

“With this book, François Cooren takes his place among social theorists who argue persuasively for nonhuman agency; among communication theorists who dare wrestle with the material amidst the symbolic; and among organizational scientists who ground organizations in action. Elegantly written and compellingly argued, Cooren offers up some of the most original theorizing on agency in the communication sciences that we have seen to date. Nonhuman agency does not just “make a difference” in this book. It is a difference that connects, communicates, and brings to life the impossible. ”
“Within this new, groundbreaking book, François Cooren presents a well-argued and persuasive theoretical perspective that could very well alter the way we look at the process of communicating in future studies.”
“Every researcher in organizational communication will be really interested in this exploring work that endeavors to understand how an organization is created, maintained and transformed through communication processes. In order to explain how organization is embodied by interactions and how all actors/agents are parts of a chain of agency, the concept of ventriloquism is notably proposed. Both stimulating and ambitious, this book gives a very clear account of the theory despite the complex ideas it contains.”
“This seminal work of François Cooren makes an attempt to develop an alternative model of Speech Act Theory. The book is based on the idea that action is always something that is shared. Whenever someone appears to act, others also proceed into action. Cooren convincingly demonstrates in the book that any action should be considered as contributing to a configuration of activities it participates in. His goal is not to deny that speakers do things with words, but to show that many other agents are implicitly or explicitly mobilized in this type of activity. The originality of the leading idea, the rigorous presentation style, the interesting examples, and the author’s broad knowledge of his field all make this book an intriguing scholarship and an excellent read for anybody.”
“François Cooren's masterfully synthetic Action and Agency in Dialogue brings Bruno Latour's actor-network-theory together with Jacques Derrida's deconstruction to generate a unique perspective on discourse analysis. [...] The book would be an excellent text for an advanced qualitative methods course. Students will be encouraged to think critically about what it means to act and how agency is distributed while being introduced to major thinkers ranging from John L. Austin through Harold Garfinkel and Michel Foucault. It is also a must read for those of us who think Latour and Derrida should be put to work together.”
“This book is recommended to anyone who seeks to extend their work beyond the micro level and who wishes to explore the deeper implications of interaction’s reflexive nature.”
“[...] an exciting and welcome journey. Shifting from matters of the procedural consequentiality of conversation to what may perhaps be called the ontological consequentiality of discourse, what is at stake is an understanding of how we speak and act into the world of voices and things that speaks and acts upon us.”
“François Cooren est une figure importante du courant de recherche qui, à la suite notamment de James R. Taylor et Linda L. Putman, développe une analyse méticuleuse de la dimension communicationnelle des processus organisationnels. Par son ambition théorique et sa volonté d’interroger les liens entre dialogue et action, cet ouvrage marque une étape importante pour ces travaux, déjà largement diffusés internationalement. [...] Cet ouvrage passionnant a le grand mérite de ne pas se refermer sur lui-même, mais d’ouvrir au contraire de nombreuses pistes d’analyse.”
“Cooren’s book is interesting, and his new theory is daring and innovative. [...] Cooren’s book is refreshing and thought-provoking, and it engages researchers interested in communication in a discussion of what we do when we speak, what makes us do it, and what happens when we speak.”
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This list is based on CrossRef data as of 01 may 2020. Please note that it may not be complete. Sources presented here have been supplied by the respective publishers. Any errors therein should be reported to them.


Communication Studies

Communication Studies
BIC Subject: CFG – Semantics, Pragmatics, Discourse Analysis
BISAC Subject: LAN004000 – LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Communication Studies
U.S. Library of Congress Control Number:  2010008091