Interactive construction of dispute narratives in mediated conflict talk

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Stewart, Katherine Anne, Ph. D.

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In this dissertation, I provide a discourse and narrative analysis of actual conflict talk episodes from mediation sessions that took place in a university conflict resolution center. Specifically, qualitative analytical methods are applied to five videotaped actual mediation sessions to (1) identify examples of the adversarial narrative pattern, pervasive in the literature, and (2) closely analyze the discourse in the cases where a different narrative pattern emerges to understand how these differing patterns are interactively co-constructed by the disputants and mediators. The literature in many fields contains research and theorizing on conflict, narrative, and numerous interaction variables in interpersonal conflict talk. However, the study of actual discourse within conflict events is relatively recent. Little empirical research explicates the situated communicative practices and mechanisms by which interlocutors interactively and emergently construct, resist, reproduce, and transform dispute narratives to produce outcomes consonant with their interests. This study applies microanalytic discourse analysis and narrative theory to examine how dispute narratives are interactively created in conflict talk episodes through work at the utterance level, including the manner in which narratives can be intertextually transformed through the interaction process. The findings herein illuminate the emergent nature of dispute narratives and some of the communicative practices and mechanisms disputants and mediators use to construct them. This study contributes to an understanding of the role of narratives in conflict talk and how narratives can be interactively constructed, co-constructed, challenged, and transformed in the course of a conflict talk event.