Opening a Hearing: Sequencing and the Accomplishment of Shared Attentiveness to Court Proceedings

  • J. Maxwell Atkinson
  • Paul Drew
Part of the Oxford Socio-Legal Studies book series (OSLS)


Two of the most noticeable features of interaction in courts which have recurrently attracted the attention of sociological observers, are first the way in which unspoken activities (such as standing up and sitting down) appear to be closely co-ordinated with spoken activities, and second the fact that speaking rights seem to be subjected to special restrictions which do not hold across all social settings. But, while such observations have provided important contrastive materials for the elaboration of complaints about court procedures and a variety of claims about the (mostly undesirable) effects they are supposed to have on some participants, little attention has been given to questions like whether and how their organisation might provide for the resolution or partial resolution of situated problems of the settings in which they are found. That unspoken activities, such as sitting down and standing up, seem to be somehow or other tied in with specific sequences in court hearings has presumably been regarded as too obvious to deserve serious consideration as a topic for analysis in its own right. Accordingly, as was elaborated in Chapter 1, both that ‘somehow or other’ and the obvious recognisability (to members) of similarities and differences between the way such activities are organised in courts, as compared with other settings, have been taken for granted and used as resources in the production of metaphorical and ironic accounts of court proceedings.




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Copyright information

© Social Science Research Council 1979

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. Maxwell Atkinson
    • 1
  • Paul Drew
    • 2
  1. 1.SSRC Centre for Socio-Legal StudiesWolfson CollegeOxfordUK
  2. 2.Department of SociologyUniversity of YorkUK

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