Heckling — A mimetic-interpersonal perspective
The present paper aims to model the interactional operation of heckling, which has received little attention in impoliteness and interaction studies, despite the fact that studying this phenomenon has various advantages for the analyst. In order to fill this knowledge gap, I approach heckling by combining Turner’s (1982) anthropological framework with my interaction-based relational ritual theory (e.g. Kádár 2012, 2013; Kádár and Bax 2013). Following Turner, I define heckling as a ‘social drama’, which is evaluated by its watchers as ‘judges’. In accordance with my relational ritual framework I argue that heckling is a mimetic ritualistic mini-performance, which is inherently interactional as it operates in the adjacent action pair of the heckler’s performance and the public speaker/performer’s counter-performance. Adopting Turner’s terminology, heckling is a ritualistic performance of ‘anti-structure’, i.e. it upsets the regular social — and consequently interactional — structure of a setting. Successful counter-performance is a ritual of ‘structure’, which restores the normal social structure of the event, as the public speaker/performer regains control over the interaction. Through the social actions of performance and counter-performance the heckled and the heckler aim to affiliate themselves with the audience, who are ‘metaparticipants’ of the ritualistic interaction, and with the watchers/listeners in the case of video/audio-recorded interactions, who can be defined as ‘lay observers’ (cf. Kádár and Haugh 2013). Approaching heckling as a theatrical type of relational ritual helps us capture various complexities of this phenomenon, such as its relationship with certain interactional settings and metaparticipant expectations/evaluations, and its interface with related phenomena such as impoliteness.
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