Deontic authority and the maintenance of lay and expert identities during joint decision making: Balancing resistance and compliance

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Abstract

Expertise is commonly viewed as a professionalized competence in a specific field. Expert professional identities are produced and reproduced through professional training and other socialization mechanisms, which work to generate for a specific group of individuals a specific set of expert skills and knowledge. In this paper, I examine participants’ orientations to their distinct expert professional identities from the perspective of deontic authority. Drawing on 15 video-recorded church workplace meetings between pastors and cantors as data, and conversation analysis as a theoretical and methodological framework, I analyze situations where a non-expert participant makes a proposal that the expert participant orients to as reasonable to comply with. Specifically, I demonstrate how the expert participants respond to these proposals with displays of deontic authority, arguably in an attempt to maintain their expert identities in the face of their de facto compliance with the proposals. In these situations, the expert participants are shown to invoke (1) a past decision of their own, (2) a future decision of their own, or (3) a pattern that is beyond both participants’ control. Each of these practices involves the expert participant balancing resistance and compliance by minimally acknowledging the content of the non-expert participant’s proposal, while excluding the non-expert from those who have deontic authority in the matter. In so doing, the expert speaker implies that the non-expert proposal speaker lacks (1) procedural knowledge about the specific matters about which it is relevant to make proposals to experts and (2) access to the distinct experiential perspective that characterizes expert perception of things. It is thus argued that, in this context, the mere claims of deontic authority, produced without any substantial displays of expert knowledge, can serve the maintenance of expert professional identities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalDISCOURSE STUDIES
Volume23
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - Sep 2021
Publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Compliance
  • deontic authority
  • deontic rights
  • expertise
  • proposals
  • proximal deontic claims
  • resistance
  • sharing

Publication forum classification

  • Publication forum level 2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Communication
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Anthropology
  • Linguistics and Language

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