The multimodal enactment of deontic and epistemic authority in Indian meetings

Jonathan Clifton, Dorien Van De Mieroop, Prachee Sehgal and Aneet
University of Valenciennes | KU Leuven | Independent scholar, India | I.K.G. Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar

Abstract

Authority is a much discussed topic in organizational literature, but its in situ enactment is little investigated. Using the notions of deontic and epistemic authority and using multimodal conversation analysis as a research methodology, the purpose of this paper is to provide an empirical study of authority-in-action. We particularly focus on both sequences of talk and the multimodal resources that are mobilised to ‘do’ authority. Furthermore, as research from non-Western contexts remains rare, we complement insights into authority enactment based on ‘Western’ data by using data that is drawn from a corpus of naturally-occurring video-recorded faculty meetings at an Indian University. Findings indicate that the doing of authority can be made visible by explicating participants’ orientation to their respective deontic and epistemic rights and their invocation of particular identities, which are accomplished by means of a complex intertwining of verbal and non-verbal resources.

Keywords:
Table of contents

1.Introduction

Authority is, as Taylor and Van Every (2014Taylor, James, and Elizabeth Van Every 2014When Organization Fails. Why Authority Matters. New York: Routledge. Crossref CrossrefGoogle Scholar, xx) claim, “the foundation of organization because without it there would be no unifying force”. However, despite this centrality of authority, there has been little investigation of how it is enacted in organisations. Furthermore, even less (if any) research has focused on the multimodal accomplishment of authority, and little (if any) has used data from non-Western contexts. Using multimodal conversation analysis (CA) as a methodology and linking this to recent work on epistemic and deontic authority, the purpose of this paper is to address these lacunae (1) by making visible, and thus analysable, both the sequences of talk and multimodal resources with which authority is achieved and (2) by using data that comes from a relatively under-researched context, at least as regards CA – viz. faculty meetings in India –, we provide a more globally based analysis of the in situ accomplishment of authority. Findings indicate that both the sequential and the multimodal features of the interaction are recipient-designed to make relevant particular institutional identities. The relevance of these identities for the interaction reflexively makes visible members’ orientations to each other’s relative deontic and epistemic rights, thus performing the authority of the participants vis-à-vis each other which is linked to certain identities within the organisation’s hierarchy.

2.Authority

Traditionally, authority is differentiated from power and influence (Lukes 1978Lukes, Steven 1978 “Power and Authority.” In A History of Sociological Analysis, ed. by Thomas B. Bottomore, and Robert A. Nisbet, 633–676. London: Heineman.Google Scholar). Power (Macht), classically defined by Weber (1978Weber, Max 1978Economy and Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar, 53) as “the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests”, can be coercive, illegitimate, or based on brute force. Whereas authority (Herrschaft) is defined by Weber (1978Weber, Max 1978Economy and Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar, 53) as “legitimate power” which is based on the belief of both the dominant and the dominated in the rightness of the exertion of power. The crucial difference between power and authority thus being that authority is seen as the legitimate exercise of power. Following Weber (1978Weber, Max 1978Economy and Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar, 215), authority has three pure types: traditional; charismatic; and rational-legal. This paper focuses on the rational-legal type, which Weber (1978Weber, Max 1978Economy and Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.Google Scholar, 215) defines as “a belief in the legality of patterns of normative rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands”. Essential to the notion of authority therefore is that one gives up one’s own private judgement in deference to somebody who, or something that, is oriented to as having authority.

Within an organizational context, authority used to be regarded as being strongly embedded in a chain of command in which managers had both knowledge of what needed doing and legitimate status, inherent in their position, that gave them the right to tell their subordinates what to do and how to do it (see e.g. Taylor 1911Taylor, Frederick 1911Principles of Scientific Management. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar). However, this form of vertical authority is increasingly being challenged. This, it is argued, is because since the 1980s and the arrival of the so-called New Work Order (Gee, Hull & Lankshear 1996Gee, James Paul, Glynda Hull, and Colin Lankshear 1996The New Work Order. London: Saint Leonards Allen and Unwin.Google Scholar), organizations have become increasingly characterized by seemingly flattened hierarchies which have made the linear and explicit exercise of authority disappear. Yet, in order to ensure stability, authority remains essential to organisations. In other words, as Taylor (2009Taylor, James 2009 “The Communicative Construction of Community: Authority and Organizing.” In Learning and expanding with activity theory, ed. by Annalisa Sannino, Harry Daniels, and Kris D. Gutiérrez, 228–239. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 230) notes, the role of authority is “to bind co-orientational relationships to each other sufficiently to hold the delicate fabric of human relationships together”. However, as research is largely based on western contexts, it remains to be seen whether this flattening of hierarchies in New Work Order organisations can be considered a global phenomenon (see discussion in the ‘data’ section).

Importantly, despite extensive research into authority in organisational settings cited above, Kahn and Kram (1994)Kahn, William A., and Kathy E. Kram 1994 “Authority at Work: Internal Models and Their Organizational Consequences.” The Academy of Management Review 19 (1): 17–50. Crossref.Google Scholar argue that: (1) most research into authority has been either experimental or based on psychometric measures and (2) little research has been carried out into the in situ doing of authority (see also Taylor & Van Every 2014Taylor, James, and Elizabeth Van Every 2014When Organization Fails. Why Authority Matters. New York: Routledge. Crossref CrossrefGoogle Scholar, xviii). Consequently, it is claimed that “researchers know little [else] directly about authorizing and de-authorizing processes in work organisations” (Kahn & Kram 1994Kahn, William A., and Kathy E. Kram 1994 “Authority at Work: Internal Models and Their Organizational Consequences.” The Academy of Management Review 19 (1): 17–50. Crossref.Google Scholar, 19). Using multimodal CA, and building on recent CA work on epistemic and deontic authority, we therefore intend to provide an explication of the accomplishment of authority as an in situ member’s accomplishment.

3.Method – multimodal conversation analysis and authority

Within CA, there is a growing interest in two important and interrelated concepts that are related to authority: viz. epistemics (e.g., Raymond & Heritage 2006Raymond, Geoffrey, and John Heritage 2006 “The Epistemics of Social Relations: Owning Grandchildren.” Language in Society 35 (5): 677–705. Crossref.Google Scholar; Heritage 2012Heritage, John 2012 “The Epistemic Engine: Sequence Organization and Territories of Knowledge.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 45 (1): 30–52. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and deontics (e.g., Stevanovic & Peräkylä 2012Stevanovic, Melisa, and Anssi Peräkylä 2012 “Deontic Authority in Interaction: The Right to Announce, Propose, and Decide.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 45 (3): 297–321. Crossref.Google Scholar; Stevanovic 2015 2015 “Displays of Uncertainty and Proximal Deontic Claims: The Case of Proposal Sequences.” Journal of Pragmatics 78: 84–97. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Epistemic authority is, as Stevanovic and Peräkylä (2012Stevanovic, Melisa, and Anssi Peräkylä 2012 “Deontic Authority in Interaction: The Right to Announce, Propose, and Decide.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 45 (3): 297–321. Crossref.Google Scholar, 297) point out, the right to know how the world is. Yet, as various researchers have argued, the right to know “how the world is” is not something that participants ‘have’, rather it is negotiated in interaction and may, or may not, relate to actual states of knowledge (Drew 1991Drew, Paul 1991 “Asymmetries of Knowledge in Conversational Interactions.” In Asymmetries in Dialogue, ed. by Ivana Markova, and Klaus Foppa, 29–48. Hemel Hempstead UK: Harvester.Google Scholar). For example, in the case of news anchors and local reporters, Raymond (2000Raymond, Geoffrey 2000 “The Voice of Authority: The Local Accomplishment of Authoritative Discourse in Live News Broadcasts.” Discourse Studies 2 (3): 354–379 CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 365) argues that it is the participants’ orientation to the social position, or “role-based identity”, rather than the actual state of knowledge of the local reporter which allows him/her to claim epistemic authority. Consequently, as Heritage (2013 2013 “Epistemics in Conversation.” In The Handbook of Conversation Analysis, ed. by Jack Sidnell, and Tanya Stivers, 370–394. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar, 371) argues “since personal and social identities are also formed from what persons have experienced and lay claim to have access to and to know, the epistemic claims that are enacted in turns-at-talk are central to the maintenance of identity itself”. Moreover, who has rights to claim and display knowledge is negotiated through the sequential properties of talk (see Heritage (2013) 2013 “Epistemics in Conversation.” In The Handbook of Conversation Analysis, ed. by Jack Sidnell, and Tanya Stivers, 370–394. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar for a summary of these) in which participants’ epistemic statuses and stances are negotiated. Following Heritage (2012Heritage, John 2012 “The Epistemic Engine: Sequence Organization and Territories of Knowledge.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 45 (1): 30–52. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 6), epistemic status relates to the enduring features of a social relationship and stance relates to the “moment by moment expression of that relationship, as managed through the design of turns at talk”. Returning to the definition of authority as giving up one’s own private judgement in deference to somebody who, or something that, is oriented to as having authority, the analysis of the sequential resources by which participants negotiate their relative epistemic stance and status thus allows the researcher to make visible, and thus analysable, the doing of authority as in situ social action. More specifically, when related to rational-legal authority, through analysing the negotiation of epistemic rights and who defers to whose knowledge claims, a researcher can make visible how participants use their role-based institutional identities as discursive resources for managing epistemic rights through which authority is achieved.

A second source of authority is deontic, which concerns rights to determine the future actions of others (Stevanovic & Peräkylä 2012Stevanovic, Melisa, and Anssi Peräkylä 2012 “Deontic Authority in Interaction: The Right to Announce, Propose, and Decide.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 45 (3): 297–321. Crossref.Google Scholar, 297). These rights can be proximal if related to local sequences of interaction, or distal if related to future doings (Stevanovic 2015 2015 “Displays of Uncertainty and Proximal Deontic Claims: The Case of Proposal Sequences.” Journal of Pragmatics 78: 84–97. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Deontic rights, as with epistemic rights, are negotiated in interaction and authority-in-action can be made visible in the way in which participants challenge or acquiesce to the deontic rights of others. Moreover, in the case of legal-rational authority which is related to oriented-to institutional identities that become procedurally relevant to the interaction, deontic rights are displayed both in participants’ displays of status and stance. Deontic status denotes “the relative position of authority or power that a participant is considered to have or have not, irrespective of what he or she publically claims” and deontic stance “refers to the participants’ public ways of displaying how authoritative or powerful they are in certain domains of action relative to their co-participants (Stevanovic & Svennevig 2015Stevanovic, Melisa, and Jan Svennevig 2015Introduction: Epistemics and Deontics in Conversational Directives. Journal of Pragmatics 78: 1–6. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 2).

Essential to the interactional achievement of epistemic/deontic stance and status which underlies the doing of authority is the notion of recipient-design whereby the action, or actions, that a turn at talk perform(s) make(s) relevant a particular identity of both the recipient and, reciprocally, the speaker (Sacks, Schegloff, & Jefferson 1974Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson 1974 “A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn taking for Conversation”. Language 50 (4): 696–735. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 727). In the case of legal-rational authority, we are thus particularly concerned with how one’s institutional role-based identity (cf. Raymond 2000Raymond, Geoffrey 2000 “The Voice of Authority: The Local Accomplishment of Authoritative Discourse in Live News Broadcasts.” Discourse Studies 2 (3): 354–379 CrossrefGoogle Scholar) is oriented to by participants and made relevant to the interaction. So, for example, in order to avoid sanction, participants design their talk so that it is appropriate for the situation and congruent with their relevant institutional identities. Through such an orientation to what constitutes “allowable contributions to talk” (Levinson 1992Levinson, Stephen C. 1992 “Activity Types and Language.” In Talk at work – Interaction in institutional settings (Studies in Interactional Sociolinguistics 8), ed. by Paul Drew, and John Heritage, 66–100. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar) for certain identities, the participants orient to who they are in relation to whom, thus talking into being their, and others’, identities. Participants thus simultaneously use social order as a resource for carrying out their activities and enacting that social order. Finally, and self-evidently, the notion of rational-legal authority – which is based on one’s position within an organisation – is essential to this social order. This is because it implies members’ orientation to who has the legitimate right to tell somebody what to do and what to think. The invocation of the participants’ (hierarchically positioned) organisational identities thus lies at the heart of any discussion of legal-rational authority.

In this paper, we focus specifically on the role of the chair in meetings and how his/her authority is enacted. As Sacks, Schegloff, and Jefferson (1974Sacks, Harvey, Emanuel A. Schegloff, and Gail Jefferson 1974 “A Simplest Systematics for the Organization of Turn taking for Conversation”. Language 50 (4): 696–735. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 729) pointed out, meetings are events in which turn taking deviates from conversation. This is because meeting-talk is often mediated by a chairperson who, as Asmuβ and Svennevig (2009Asmuβ, Birte, and Jan Svennevig 2009 “Meeting Talk: An Introduction.” Journal of Business Communication 46 (1): 3–22. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 11) note, is given the “institutional authority to moderate the talk”. Therefore, such activities as opening and closing the meeting, introducing topics on the agenda, facilitating and closing down topic-talk, introducing the next item on the agenda, allocating turns at talk, selecting the next speaker, and sanctioning inappropriate conduct constitute relatively stable deontic asymmetries which are bound to institutional roles (Stevanovic & Peräkylä 2014 2014 “Three Orders in the Organization of Human Action: On the Interface between Knowledge, Power, and Emotion in Interaction and Social Relations”. Language in Society 43 (2): 185–207. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Significantly, the role of the chair in a meeting is often associated with the hierarchical position in the organisation and is often allocated to the highest ranking participant (Angouri & Marra 2010Angouri, Jo, and Meredith Marra 2010 “Corporate Meetings as Genre: A Study of the Role of the Chair in Corporate Meeting Talk.” Text & Talk 30 (6): 615–636. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). Potentially, at least, it is thus a combination of being the chair and being the hierarchic superior that gives the chair the institutional authority to moderate talk.

Even though there has been some previous CA-research on the role of the chair (e.g. Larrue & Trognon 1993Larrue, Janine, and Alain Trognon 1993 “Organization of Turn-taking and Mechanisms for Turn-taking Repairs in a Chaired Meeting”. Journal of Pragmatics 19 (2): 177–196. CrossrefGoogle Scholar; Pomerantz & Denvir 2007Pomerantz, Anita, and Paul Denvir 2007 “Enacting the institutional role of chairperson in upper management meetings: The interactional realization of provisional authority”. In Interacting and organizing: Analyses of a management meeting, ed. by François Cooren, 31–51. London: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar), little of this research has dealt with the multimodality of the chair’s function (though see Barske 2009Barske, Tobias 2009 “Same Token, Different Actions: A Conversation Analytic Study of Social Roles, Embodied Actions, and ok in German Business Meetings.” The Journal of Business Communication 46 (1): 120–149. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). In adopting a multimodal approach, we not only endeavour to analyse authority in interaction as it is talked into being, but also as it is achieved through a variety of other non-verbal practices. This implies that we follow recent calls to overcome a purely logo-centric vision of communication (Mondada 2016 2016 “Challenges of Multimodality: Language and the Body in Social Interaction.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 20 (3): 336–366. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), and that explications of the actions being performed are complemented with analyses of the participants’ use of resources such as gesture, gaze, head movements, facial expressions, body posture, body movements, and embodied manipulations of material objects (see, for example, Goodwin (1981Goodwin, Charles 1981Conversational Organization: Interaction between Speakers and Hearers. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar; 2000 2000 “Action and Embodiment within Situated Human Interaction.” Journal of Pragmatics 32 (10): 1489–1522. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and Heath and Luff (2013)Heath, Christian, and Paul Luff 2013 “Embodied Action and Organizational Activity.” In The Handbook of Conversation Analysis, ed. by Jack Sidnell, and Tanya Stivers, 283–307. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.Google Scholar, as well as the spatial configurations in which these occur (e.g. Deppermann, Schmitt & Mondada 2010Deppermann, Arnulf, Reinhold Schmitt, and Lorenza Mondada 2010 “Agenda and Emergence: Contingent and Planned Activities in a Meeting.” Journal of Pragmatics 42 (6): 1700–1718. Crossref.Google Scholar). It is important to emphasize that we will not focus systematically on one specific non-verbal resource (such as eye gaze), but that we adopt an integrative conception of multimodality (Mondada 2016 2016 “Challenges of Multimodality: Language and the Body in Social Interaction.” Journal of Sociolinguistics 20 (3): 336–366. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 360), which is in line with recent CA-trends. To date, CA-inspired research has not specifically combined multimodal investigation with sequential analyses of talk to consider how authority is achieved (though for a study on the multimodal display of authoritative and subordinate status in girls’ pretend play, see Griswold 2007Griswold, Olga 2007 “Achieving Authority: Discursive Practices in Russian Girls’ Pretend Play.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 40 (4): 291–319. Crossref.Google Scholar). Therefore, as noted previously, the purpose of this paper is to draw on the concepts of deontic and epistemic authority and the way in which participants in a meeting recipient-design their turns, so making procedurally relevant identities that entail certain epistemic and deontic rights with which legal-rational authority is achieved. One of the novelties of this paper thus lies in the fact that we widen our analytic scope and to take into account nonverbal resources that achieve authority.

4.Data

Another novelty of this paper is that we focus on a traditionally under-researched context. Prior work on authority has tended to use as data from Western organizational contexts which are characterized by seemingly horizontal hierarchies (Van De Mieroop & Clifton 2017Van De Mieroop, Dorien, and Jonathan Clifton 2017 “Corporate settings.” In The Routledge Handbook of Language in the Workplace, ed. by Bernadette Vine, 127–137. New York: Routledge. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). However, these processes may not be entirely similar across the globe. Yet, to date, even though insights can be gained from widening the research lens, research on non-Western contexts is largely lacking (though see some contributions in Van De Mieroop and Schnurr 2017Van De Mieroop, Dorien, and Stephanie Schnurr (eds) 2017Identity struggles: Evidence from workplaces around the world. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). In this article, we aim to contribute to widening this lens by focussing on data collected in India.

Indian social systems are generally regarded as “steeply hierarchical” and Indians as highly “status conscious” (Sinha & Sinha 1990Sinha, Jai B. P., and D. Sinha 1990 “Role of Social Values in Indian Organizations.” International Journal of Psychology 25 (3–6): 705–714. CrossrefGoogle Scholar, 708). In particular, Indian organizational culture is said to be characterized by a general orientation to vertical hierarchies. The typical Indian employee tends to align with their superiors’ opinions (Sinha & Sinha 1990Sinha, Jai B. P., and D. Sinha 1990 “Role of Social Values in Indian Organizations.” International Journal of Psychology 25 (3–6): 705–714. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and “respects people in power, is obedient, submissive, and law-abiding” (Varma, Ekkirala & Stroh 2005Varma, Arup, Ekkirala S. Srinivas, and Linda K. Stroh 2005 “A Comparative Study of the Impact of Leader-Member Exchange in US and Indian Samples.” Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal 12 (1): 84–95. Crossref.Google Scholar, 86). This significantly influences leader-subordinate relationships in India, which can be characterized as inspired by a “parental ideology” (Kakar 1971Kakar, Sudhir 1971Authority Patterns and Subordinate Behavior in Indian Organizations. Administrative Science Quarterly 16 (3): 298–307. CrossrefGoogle Scholar). However, in India, there are signs that this situation is starting to change, and it has been observed that there is increasing pressure on leaders in Indian corporations to adopt an “empowering control style”, which is intended to enhance the organizational commitment of the employees (Bhatnagar 2005Bhatnagar, Jyotsna 2005 “The Power of Psychological Empowerment as an Antecedent to Organizational Commitment in Indian Managers.” Human Resource Development International 8 (4): 419–433. Crossref.Google Scholar). However, despite these gradual changes, it is still safe to conclude that in comparison to their Western counterparts, ‘cultural’ expectations concerning Indian organizations point to a stronger orientation to hierarchical differences and vertical authority. But, as many researchers have pointed out (see e.g. Verschueren 2008Verschueren, Jef 2008 “Intercultural Communication and the Challenges of Migration.” Language and intercultural communication 8 (1): 21–35. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), it remains to be seen whether these generalizations are corroborated by actual organizational practices, which we aim to scrutinize here.

In particular, the data comes from an anonymized corpus of video-recorded faculty meetings that were filmed in 2015–2016 in a private university in a large city in the north of India. All the data were transcribed using the Jeffersonian transcription system (Jefferson 2004Jefferson, Gail 2004 “Glossary of Transcript Symbols with an Introduction.” In Conversation Analysis: Studies from the first generation, ed. by Gene H. Lerner, 13–31. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. CrossrefGoogle Scholar), which we complemented with symbols to code the multimodal details as developed by Mondada (n.d.)Mondada, Lorenza n.d. Conventions for multimodal transcription. Available online at: https://​franz​.unibas​.ch​/fileadmin​/franz​/user​_upload​/redaktion​/Mondada​_conv​_multimodality​.pdf. Last consulted on 10 January 2018. (see Appendix 1). The faculty meetings are held once a month and the objective of the meetings is to update the faculty, department heads and the director on events on campus and also to plan any special events that might be forthcoming. No formal agenda is provided prior to the meeting and no formal minutes are circulated after the meeting.

The particular extracts presented here come from one faculty meeting during which 17 faculty members were present including the department head (given the pseudonym Ryan) and the director of the institute (given the pseudonym Amit). The faculty members are seated in a horseshoe formation with the director in a central position and the department head on his left (see Appendix 2). Written consent and authorization to film was obtained from the participants and from the relevant university ethics committees.

5.Analyses

In the part of the meeting analysed in this paper, student club activities are being discussed. This takes the form of doing a round of reports (Svennevig 2012Svennevig, Jan 2012 “The Agenda as Resource for Topic Introduction in Workplace Meetings”. Discourse Studies 14 (1): 53–66. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) in which faculty members responsible for clubs present the activities of their clubs. These activities are then discussed, the reports are assessed and suggestions are made for future action. In all, the activities of seven clubs were presented of which, for reasons of space, only three are presented here. The presentation of the clubs all followed a similar sequence in which the chairperson initiates topic shift to a club’s activities and the faculty member responsible for the club subsequently reports on the club’s activities. These activities are assessed, action if needed is suggested, and the chair then closes the topic and selects the next speaker. These sequences thus provide an ideal terrain in which epistemic and deontic rights are negotiated. Through these processes, authority based on members’ orientation to each other’s institutional roles is made visible.

5.1Extract one: The IT club

First we present a sequence in which the director of the institute, acting as chair, allocates topic and turn, after which the faculty member responsible for the IT club provides a report of the club’s activities and the chair/director then assesses this and closes topic.

Extract 1.The IT club11.Given our analytical focus, we transcribed the chairperson’s eye gaze throughout the extracts. Whist recognising that this has analytical implications for the discussion, we weighed such possible bias against making the transcript too ‘heavy’, and we decided not to include codings of the others’ eye gaze in the transcript. Yet, whenever relevant, we show the others’ gaze via the figures containing screenshots of the interaction.

410      (0.2)
    ami  *>>looks down-->
411 AMI  ok↓ay *any other club
    ami     -->*looks up and gazes to the right-->
412 RAH  +sirµ %        + itµ club*
    ami                        -->*
    yas  +..points left,+
    rya       µ.points left,,µ 
    fig        %fig 1
413 RAH  *has er: already conducted
    ami  *looks down and writes-->
414      (0.4)
415 RAH  massive and extensive program for
416      ↑thi*rty hours
    ami   -->*gazes at rahul-->
417 AMI  #mm  #=
    ami  #nods#
418 RAH  =from twentieth july* to thirty first july
    ami                   -->*looks down and writes-->
419      (0.6)
420 RAH  i-i consider erm with this we*-we do not need
    ami                            -->*gazes at rahul-->
421 RAH  any more #inte#raction as the #time# is restricted
    ami           #nods#               #nods#
422 RAH  we are falling short* of time for the classes
    ami                   -->*looks down -->
423 AMI  ok↓ay fine*
    ami         -->*looks up and gazes to the right -->>
424      (0.6)
425 AMI  any other cl↑ub

Figure 1.Yash pointing and gazing left, while Amit is gazing right and Ryan is gazing right but pointing left. Four remaining participants to the left of Ryan all gaze to the right. Other people (e.g. Rahul) are outside of the camera’s angle at this point in the interaction.22.In all the figures, relevant gazes are indicated by red arrows, while gestures are marked by blue arrows or circles.
Figure 1.

In line 410, there is a slight pause after closure of the prior topic. In line 411, Amit, the director of the institute, self-selects to close down the prior talk using ok↓ay combined with averted eye gaze (Barske 2009Barske, Tobias 2009 “Same Token, Different Actions: A Conversation Analytic Study of Social Roles, Embodied Actions, and ok in German Business Meetings.” The Journal of Business Communication 46 (1): 120–149. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and, by looking up, introduces a slot for the discussion. In this case, he looks right, as such selecting someone on his right as next speaker via eye gaze. Rahul, sitting on Amit’s right, responds to this by providing a conditionally relevant second action, i.e. he starts to report on the IT club. Interestingly, both Ryan and Yash, through gesturing left, display a right to co-author turn allocation (see Figure 1). However, nobody on their left takes the next turn, even though there are four participants seated in this area who all gaze in the direction of Yash, Amit, and Ryan and thus can see the gestures (see Figure 1). Thus, only Amit’s next speaker nomination through his eye gaze is aligned with, and this makes relevant his identity as turn manager and as ‘chairperson’. Meanwhile, Yash and Ryan’s co-authoring turn allocation33.It is important to note that Ryan’s turn allocation is ambiguous: as he gazes right, thus parallel with Amit’s gaze, he is also pointing in the opposite direction. is not ratified, even though this is within the range of Rahul’s eye gaze, as the three potential turn allocators (Yash, Amit, and Ryan) are seated next to one another (see Figure 1). Consequently, Rahul produces a turn which is congruent with Amit’s (and not Yash and Ryan’s) proximal deontic claim to manage turn taking by nominating next speaker and topic. Moreover, since Rahul recipient-designs his turn confirming Amit’s claim to manage turns, this makes relevant the latter’s institutional identity as chairperson who has legitimate authority to manage turns at talk during the meeting.

In his answer, Rahul explicitly nominates Amit as his addressee (line 142: sir) and he provides a conditionally relevant next action (i.e. an account of the IT club’s activities) which is congruent with Amit’s proximal deontic claim to nominate the next speaker and topic and to be informed about the club’s activities. Rahul is therefore attributed K+ status and the recipient of the talk (i.e. Amit) K- status. Thus, Rahul’s authority for knowing about the club is based on the relevance of his identity as faculty member in charge of the club and his K+ status – made relevant by the fact that the turn is addressed to him. Rahul’s turn consists first of a report of the club activities (lines 412 ff.: IT club has er: already conducted (0.4) massive and extensive program for ↑thirty hours from twentieth July to thirty first July). Significantly, the subject of the utterance is the IT club, not Rahul, so Rahul makes relevant his position of faculty member in charge of the IT club to speak on its behalf and thus with the authority of the club. He then assesses this state of affairs (lines 420 ff. I-I consider erm with this we we do not need any more interaction) and this is followed by an account for the assessment (lines 421ff.: as the time is restricted we are falling short of time for the classes). Thus, through proffering an account, his assessment is slightly downgraded which also displays a diluted authoritative stance.

As Rahul’s turn is in progress, Amit nods (parallel with line 421) which, as Stivers (2008)Stivers, Tanja 2008 “Stance, Alignment, and Affiliation during Storytelling: When Nodding is a Token of Affiliation.” Research on Language and Social Interaction 41 (1): 31–57. CrossrefGoogle Scholar argues, displays tacit agreement with the turn in progress. When the turn is finished, Amit then takes the floor. Prefacing his turn with an acknowledgement token ok↓ay, he then produces a conditionally relevant next action which is to provide a second evaluation (Pomerantz 1984Pomerantz, Anita 1984 “Giving a Source or Basis: The Practice in Conversation of Telling “how I know”.” Journal of Pragmatics 8 (2): 607–625. CrossrefGoogle Scholar) and so he evaluates the prior talk (line 423: fine). The assessment takes the form of an unmarked declarative and as such displays equal, rather than superior, rights to assess the club’s activities (Raymond & Heritage 2006Raymond, Geoffrey, and John Heritage 2006 “The Epistemics of Social Relations: Owning Grandchildren.” Language in Society 35 (5): 677–705. Crossref.Google Scholar, 690). This stance thus makes relevant his epistemic status (i.e., right to know about how to manage clubs) but it does not display superior rights to assess the activities of the club. Thus, symmetric epistemic rights are displayed between the faculty member who runs the club and the boss who is informed about the running of the club.

There is then a micro pause after which Amit initiates a topic shift (line 425: any other cl↑ub) while still gazing to the right, thus opening up the floor to other faculty members again.

5.2Extract two: The sports club

In this section, we discuss an extract in which the chair displays deontic rights to allocate turns and topic, but in which a faculty member who is not in charge of the club suggests further action and evaluates the report of the club’s activities. This faculty member thus claims deontic and epistemic primacy in relation to a club for which she is not responsible.

Extract 2.The sports club

279      (1.8) 280 AMI *then next is the club activities
    ami  *>>looks down -->
281      (0.5)
282 AMI  respective *club heads are the↑re
    ami          -->*looks up, looking around-->
283 YAS  yes
284      (1.9)
285 AMI  starting ↑with
286      (1.2)
287 YAS  +*%(        )+%         %
    yas  +points left+
    ami   *gazes at deepak-->
    fig    %fig 2      %fig 3    %fig 4
288 AMI  euhm #should #weµ £sa:y  # youµ start£ with
    ami       #nods   #points   left#
    rya                  µpoints left,,µ
    dee                    £smiles------------£nods-->
289 AMI  (the next ↑one)£
    dee              -->£
290 DEE  sir we* are handling*
    ami     -->*looks down--*
291      *me  and vivek sir 
    ami  *looks at deepak-->
292      both are handling sports* club this year
    ami                       -->*looks down-->
293      (0.6)
294 DEE  so: for this semester we have er* decided to:
    ami                                  *looks at deepak->
295      (1.1)
296 DEE  organise a basket=basketball ma↓tch*er
    ami                                  -->*looks down-->
297      for girls >for boys<
298      and kho-kho44.Kho-Kho is a tag sport that is played in teams. Both girls and boys play it, yet hardly ever in mixed teams. match for g=girls
299      on nineteenth=coming nineteenth%
    fig                                 %fig 5
300 ?    (  % [       )
301 TAN       [sir for girls% you can take option
    fig     %fig 6          %fig 7
302      *from the girl student also
    ami  *looks at tanvi-->
303      if you* would like to go in for some badminton
    ami     -->*shifts gaze to deepak-->
304      or some other thing
305 DEE  we will=we will *see
    ami               -->*looks down-->
306      [their interest
307 TAN  [that would be a better idea
308 DEE  we can keep badminton *as well
    ami                     -->*looks up and around -->>
309      (1.0)
310 DEE  for girls
311      (1.6)
312 DEE  so °this is° [er
313 AMI               [i request all of the
314      faculty members to

Figure 2.Yash points and gazes at Riya with a sharp angled look left, while Amit gazes left with a wide angle in the direction of Deepak
Figure 2.
Figure 3.While there is mutual eye gaze between Yash and Riya, Riya moves the palm of her hand up
Figure 3.
Figure 4.While Yash is still gazing in the direction of Riya, the latter looks down
Figure 4.
Figure 5.Yash, Amit and Tanvi are looking down while Deepak is gazing at Ryan, who reciprocates his gaze
Figure 5.
Figure 6.Someone across the table takes the turn (outside of the camera’s angle at this point) and Ryan, Tanvi and Deepak gaze at this speaker, as well as some of the other participants
Figure 6.
Figure 7.Most participants gaze at Tanvi while she is speaking, except for Amit, who is still looking down
Figure 7.

Following a pause, Amit announces the next item to be dealt with (i.e., club activities) thus claiming the deontic right to select topic. After a further pause, Amit begins to seek the next speaker (line 285: starting ↑with) thus claiming proximal deontic rights to select next speaker. After a further second pause, Yash utters an unintelligible turn and points left, as such attempting to co-author the selection of the next speaker and also therefore claiming deontic rights to manage turn taking. He gazes left with a sharp angle (see Figure 2) in the direction of Riya, who reciprocates his gaze, but who then almost immediately makes a hand gesture moving her palm up in the direction of Yash (see Figure 3). After this movement, she looks down (see Figure 4), thus displaying her unavailability to take the turn. As such, through gesture and eye gaze, she non-verbally declines Yash’s selection of her as the next speaker. Meanwhile, Amit also gazes left (see Figures 2 to 4), but with a wide angle, thus looking in the direction of Deepak. He subsequently explicitly selects Deepak as next speaker (line 288: euhm should we sa:y you start with the next ↑one). This move is mirrored by Ryan, who also points left, and so co-authors the turn and claims deontic authority to manage the turn taking. However, since Amit’s pointing is already in motion, this turn follows Amit, and therefore makes limited claims to superior rights to allocate turns. So we can observe here that Yash’s speaker selection is again unsuccessful and Amit enacts his identity as turn manager with proximal deontic rights to select the next speaker. Thus, whilst rights to manage turns are claimed by Amit which makes relevant his role based identity of chair which gives him the authority to do this, it is also negotiated in subtle ways, for example by Yash and Ryan’s gesturing which attempts to co-author turn management and so claims rights to manage turns. These attempts are largely ignored by Amit and by the other faculty members – or even declined, as was the case with Riya – and so the meeting participants clearly orient to Amit’s authority as the turn manager.

In lines 290 ff., addressing Amit (line 290: sir), Deepak produces a turn that is congruent with Amit’s claims to manage turn-taking. Deepak reports that he and Vivek are handling the sports club. This makes relevant his institutional position as faculty member responsible for the club and thus provides his source of authority for reporting on its activities and having a K+ status. Since he is selected to report on the club, his K+ status is made relevant and he recipient-designs his turn for Amit who has K- status and therefore needs to be informed. This, therefore, also makes relevant Amit’s status as boss who has the right to know what is happening in the club. After making relevant his identity which gives him epistemic authority, he formulates a report of the club’s activities. In the report, he claims deontic rights to decide future action (lines 294 ff.: we have decided er decided to: (1.1) organise a basket=basketball ma↓tch er for girls >for boys< and kho-kho match for g=girls on nineteenth=coming nineteenth). After Deepak’s report of the sports club’s activities and claim to epistemic and deontic rights to know and decide what to do (lines 290–299), most people are looking down (see Figure 5) and, importantly, Amit as the chairperson, is one of them. As such, there is no verbal or non-verbal next speaker selection at this point. Then someone on the other side of the table (outside camera angle) self-selects to take the next turn (line 300). While many participants orient their gaze to this speaker (see Figure 6), Tanvi self-selects to overlap this speaker after the turn’s beginning (line 301). Soon after this overlapping talk, most participants orient their gaze towards her and as such she successfully obtains the floor (see Figure 7).

In line 301, Tanvi prefacing her turn with ‘sir’, claims the deontic right to suggest future action to Deepak who is confirmed as recipient through her shift in eye gaze (which we can also observe in Figure 7). The suggestion is that, “for girls you can take option from the girl student also if you would like to go in for some badminton or some other thing” (lines 301–304) therefore hinting that Deepak’s management of the club is somehow problematic and needs remedial action. More specifically, through the use of the modal ‘can’, indicating possibility rather than certainty, and the conditional form (‘if you would like’), her turn is designed as a suggestion which is contingent upon Deepak’s agreement and it thus has a very shallow deontic gradient (Landmark et al. 2015Landmark, Anne Marie Dalby, Pål Gulbrandsen, and Jan Svennevig 2015 “Whose Decision? Negotiating epistemic and deontic rights in Medical Treatment Decisions.” Journal of Pragmatics 78: 54–69. Crossref.Google Scholar, 56). However, Deepak only partially aligns with this suggestion and claims the right to make a decision that is contingent on the interest of the girls (lines 305–306: we will=we will see their interest). Interestingly, he uses an ambiguous ‘we’-form which could refer to himself and Vivek, or himself, Vivek, and the club. Either way, he claims to speak on behalf of the club and so provides a source of authority for his deontic right not to defer to Tanvi’s suggestion but to postpone taking action until they have seen the girls’ interest in badminton. He therefore mobilises the authority of the club members as a resource for not surrendering his own private judgement to align with Tanvi’s suggestion. Consequently, he resists Tanvi’s distal deontic claim and displays a stance that Tanvi does not have superior deontic rights in relation to the sports club which he and Vivek (line 291) are handling.

Tanvi again self-selects and overlaps this turn as it is in progress with an assessment of the deontic claim to postpone the decision (line 307: that would be a better idea). On the one hand, this assessment is slightly downgraded through the use of the conditional form (would) but at the same time this downgrade is mitigated by the fact that she offers no account for her assessment and so presents it as a declarative which displays her epistemic rights to assess the prior speaker. Thus, by suggesting that Deepak is right, she claims a right to judge his assessment and so claims superior expertise. However, she offers no authority for this and her identity as faculty member makes relevant no particular epistemic or deontic rights in respect of the sports club. Despite the lack of an identity that could make superior epistemic or deontic rights relevant, Deepak produces a turn which aligns with Tanvi’s suggestion to offer badminton for the girls (lines 308–310: we can keep badminton as well for the girls). However, the use of the modal ‘can’, indicating future possibility, mediates his alignment with Tanvi’s deontic stance and so he produces a turn that is not fully congruent with Tanvi’s suggestion to offer badminton for the girls. Therefore, whilst conceding that offering badminton is a possibility (contingent on the girls), he does not fully comply with Tanvi’s suggestion and so retains his deontic right to manage his club’s future activities. Thus, in the exchange between Tanvi and Deepak, fellow faculty members negotiate who has deontic rights to tell whom to do what. However, the relevance of Deepak’s institutional role as faculty member in charge of the club allows him to mobilise the authority of the club to resist Tanvi’s deontic and epistemic claims in relation to the club.

The negotiation of epistemic and deontic rights in relation to the sports club is cut short as Amit overlaps to change topic to a request to faculty members to ensure that they inform the heads of departments when planning club activities.55.This turn is not fully shown here for reasons of space. As such, Amit closes the presentation and evaluation of the club’s activities without having taken part in the negotiation of epistemic and deontic rights himself.

5.3Extract three: The finance club

In this final extract we demonstrate how the chair’s deontic and epistemic rights can be resisted.

Extract 3.The finance club

332 AMI  *next=next leah$*             $
    ami  *>>looks around *gazes at leah-->
    dee                 $points to leah$
333 LEA  sir ours* is finance club and er
    ami       -->*looks down-->
334      doctor khan and myself
335      we are looking after it
336      (0.2)
337 LEA  so our activity is virtual stock er market game*
    ami                                              -->*
((10 lines omitted with a discussion of the club’s
activities))
348 LEA  *they have to register on a particular website
    ami  *looks at leah-->
349      (0.3)
350 LEA  they are finding it (a little) difficult
351      to understand
352      tomorrow i am going back again to the classes
353      #to g#ive them little bit of more*
    ami  #nod-#                        -->*
354      *of erm i  *mean er [briefing on
    ami  *looks down*looks around-->
355 AMI                      [( +      )+
    yas                         +nods---+
356 LEA  [what it is about
357 AMI  [in that toh66.Hindi: so you can take the help
358      of *mister kapoor
    ami  -->*gazes at leah-->
359 LEA  han§ji77.Hindi: yes (han) + honorific marker (-ji)       §
    lea     §single nod§
360      (0.5)
361 LEA  [but i keep discussing [with him
362 AMI  [(       )   [(        )
363      (0.2)
364 LEA  i have already discussed *[the idea
365 AMI                           *[and you 
    ami                        -->*looks down-->
366      request him to *help you with this
    ami              -->*looks at leah-->
367      he can tell you better methods to convince
368      because he is also teaching
369      these classes [also
370 LEA                [yeah he *has explained me
    ami                      -->*looks down-->
371      i am just going to convey it
372      [further to students
373 AMI  [i kn%ow
    fig       %fig 8
374      (0.8)*%           *%
    ami    -->*gaze to leah*gaze down
    fig        %fig 9       %fig 10
375 AMI  *(  % )          * %         *
    ami  *looks sharp left*looks right*
    fig      %fig 11        %fig 12
376 RIY  *for µhr club       µ ↑sir*=
    ami  *gazes to riya------------*
    rya       µpoints to riyaµ
377 AMI  =yeah
    ami  *looks down -->>
378 RIY  i and missus shreya we are taking
379      care of this club er

Figure 8.Amit looking down while uttering ‘I know’
Figure 8.
Figure 9.Amit executes a quick gaze shift with a micro look at Leah
Figure 9.
Figure 10.Amit shifts his gaze back to his paper
Figure 10.
Figure 11.Amit looks left with a sharp angle
Figure 11.