Common-sense anti-racism in book group talk: The role of reported speech


Benwell B (2012) Common-sense anti-racism in book group talk: The role of reported speech. Discourse and Society, 23 (4), pp. 359-376.

This paper explores the rhetorical accomplishment by British book group members of anti-racist identities through their discussions of fictional texts exploring themes of race and immigration. ‘Common-sense anti-racism’ is a social action or stance that is presented as self-evidently taken by speakers, yet explicitly flagged at the same time. Speakers in book group discussions routinely display enlightened, anti-racist views principally by invoking the figure of the ‘racist other’ and their reported speech. Many of the examples of reported speech do not involve explicit markers of quotation or shifts in footing, meaning that the attribution of certain utterances to a racist ‘other’ relies on an assumption of shared values. The paper questions why anti-racism tends to be packaged as an accountable matter in need of some impression management in the way that racism often is, and concludes that this is linked to the way in which it operates in contexts where anxieties around issues of race and racism continue to exist.

common sense, anti-racism, book group talk, reported speech, the racist ‘other’, discourse analysis, ethnomethodology.

Discourse and Society: Volume 23, Issue 4

Publication date31/07/2012
Date accepted by journal11/01/2012