Marjorie Harness Goodwin


Current Research Projects

Language and Embodied Interaction in the Family

As a core faculty working with the Center for Everyday Lives of Families I became interested in developing new ways of studying multimodal human interaction in the context of the family. My concerns include how working parents as caregivers 1) accomplish the work of getting things done in the family (2) cultivate “family culture” in the midst of everyday talk (considering forms of socialization for competition as well as for creativity). I am interested in how parents structure opportunities for their children’s social, cognitive, and emotional development through their joint participation in mundane daily activities. Alternative participation frameworks that are constructed by families afford different ways of sustaining focused interaction, gearing into what someone has said, and displaying to each other how participants are aligned within the activity frame, considering turn structures, intonation contours, and body postures. Different types of trajectories develop in light of the forms of joint attention and sustained engagement that are established across a range of settings, including the car. In collaboration with a Swedish CELF researcher, Asta Cekaite, Charles Goodwin and I have developed a perspective for the analysis of emotion that focuses on how emotion is organized as social practice within ongoing human interaction. We view the act of stance taking as intrinsically multimodal and multiparty-- built through the coordinated activities of separate individuals in the midst of mundane activity. By viewing emotion as multimodal stance display, the analysis of emotion can be transformed from the study of events lodged within individuals to the investigation of changing displays of embodied actors within sequences of situated interaction

Family Interactions Brushing Teeth

Papers associated with this include:

  1. Emotion as Stance (in press; with A. Cekaite and C. Goodwin)
  2. Car Talk (2012; with C. Goodwin)
  3. Choreographies of Attention: Multimodality in a Routine Family Activity (2011; with E. Tulbert)
  4. Occasioned Knowledge Exploration in Family Interaction (2007)
  5. Participation, Affect, and Trajectory in Family Directive/Response Sequences (2006)

Social Organization in Children's Peer Groups: Ethnographic Analysis of Language Practices on the Playground

One of my current research projects examines forms of children's informal social learning across peer-controlled settings on the playground. A principal concern of mine has been how, in the midst of interaction with their peers, children elaborate and dispute their notions about ethnicity, social class, and gender-appropriate behavior, as they play or work together and sanction those who violate group norms This fieldwork, situated in a Los Angeles elementary school with children of mixed ethnicities and social classes, has involved following a group of children over three years as they moved from fourth to sixth grade. In all over 80 hours of audio and video taped interaction were recorded while children ate lunch, played at recess, and interacted in the classroom. During play (and outside of teachers' awareness) children decide who is to be included or excluded within their playgroup; through their language choices children propose forms of inclusiveness or, alternatively, differentiation among players. Through forms of ridicule such as ritual insults, storytelling, and directives, children socialize one another regarding in- and out-group membership and notions of social class. Most psychological studies of children's friendships and "relational aggression" are based on interview data; subsequently, though we know much about how children report incidents to researchers, we know little about how they conduct themselves in the midst of such episodes. I feel it is important to document ethnographically the lived practices that children use to build their social worlds, as within interaction members of a peer group collaboratively establish their own perspectives on how relevant events are to be interpreted.

Papers associated with this include:

  1. Building Power Asymmetries in Girls' Interactions (2002)
  2. The Relevance of Gender, Ethnicity and Class in Children's Peer Interaction (2003)
  3. Organizing Participation in Cross-Sex Jump Rope: Situating Gender Differences within Longitudinal Studies of Activities (2001)
  4. Peer Language Socialization (with A. Kyratzis) (2011)
  5. The Hidden Life of Girls: Games of Stance, Status, and Exclusion (2006)
  6. He-Said-She-Said: Talk as Social Organization among Black Children (1990)
  7. Engendering Children's Play: Person Reference in Children's Conflictual Interaction. (2011)
  8. "Whatever (Neck Roll, Eye Roll, Teeth Suck)": The Situated Coproduction of Social Categories and Identities through Stancetaking and Transmodal Stylization (with H. S. Alim) (2010)

Embodied Language Games

A second current research project of mine involves a comparative study of the game and play activities of diverse groups of fifth grade children: (1) a peer group that includes primarily second generation Central American and Mexican bilingual Spanish/English speakers and three Asian girls in a working class area of downtown Los Angeles, in Pico Union/Koreatown, (2) an ESL class in Columbia, South Carolina, which includes children from Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Korean and Azerbeijan, (3)African American children of migrant farm workers in rural Ridge Spring, South Carolina. In this more recent work I have investigated how children in Latino and multi- ethnic groups of different social classes develop forms of negotiational abilities (including forms of logical proof) and organizational skills in the midst of spontaneous play on the playground (see audio/video sample of data). Building on Piaget's work on The Moral Judgment of the Child, social scientists have made the claim that girls generally are less concerned with making and arguing about rules than boys. My work has provided important challenges to many of the stereotypes about gender, ethnicity, and interactive competence. Most studies of moral development in psychological anthropology and throughout the social sciences have relied on interviews and questionnaires, conducted in laboratory settings, viewing values located within the individual (as presented in talk to the anthropologist) more important than interactive practice. My work finds that arguments are made not through talk alone, but through the use of the body in conjunction with other semiotic resources -- for example, graphic representations such as a painted hop scotch grid.

Embodied Language Games
    Papers associated with this work include:

  1. Multi-modality in Girls' Game Disputes (2002; with M. Yaeger-Dror and C. Goodwin) - audio files
  2. Emotion within Situated Activity (2000; with C. Goodwin)
  3. Games of Stance: Conflict and Footing in Hopscotch. (1998)
  4. Morality and Accountability in Girls Play (1999)

Language in the Workplace

Another strand of my research deals with language in the work place. During 1989-1991 I worked on a project with five other anthropologists at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center studying the social organization of work practice at the San José International Airport. Our methods involved a combination of participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of audiotaped and videotaped interaction (over 120 hours of tape). In these materials we developed new ways of analyzing the coordination of work activity as it is mediated by technology in multiple, distributed participation frameworks. Unique to this research is the analysis of how documents are integral features of the communication process. A distinctive characteristic of work at the airport is the simultaneous articulation of multiple streams of activity. The involvement of a single person in multiple information sources at the same time is something that requires considerable expansion of Goffman's notion of the" social situation. "

Dealing with the complexity of this work setting required not only new conceptual frameworks, but also new ethnographic methods for capturing in visual form both distributed action and orientation to relevant documents. At points seven cameras were used to record simultaneous activity in different work stations throughout the airport. One goal of the project was to make our observations (and materials) available to colleagues for teaching and further research, as well as to researchers in disciplines who actually have power over the setting we investigated, including architects and systems designers. We also wanted to make our analysis accessible to the people whose work practice was investigated, and could be impacted by our study. To this end we filmed, narrated, and edited a 60 minute videotape entitled The Workplace Project: Designing for Diversity and Change, which documents and analyzes work practice in several key centers for coordination at the San Jose, CA airport.

Formulating Planes

    Papers associated with this work include:

  1. Informings and Announcements in their Environment: Prosody within a Multi-Activity Work Setting. (1996)
  2. Assembling a Response: Setting and Collaboratively Constructed Work Talk. (1995)
  3. Formulating Planes: Seeing as a Situated Activity (1996; with C. Goodwin)


My involvement with the Workplace Project enabled me to develop new ways of presenting data visually. I have also been able to expand existing concepts of "participation" (see paper on Participation), which almost always focuses on speaker-centered talk to studies of embodiment and stance in ordinary dinner-time conversation and storytelling. I am concerned that descriptions of talk-in-interaction include not only talk, but also paralinguistic features of speech, including not only intonation but also the types of stances and positionings that our bodies take up in the midst of communicative activity. My paper "Byplay" discusses new ways of thinking about participation in story telling, illustrating the active ways in which hearers can provide playful commentary on ongoing talk in its midst. "Producing Sense with Nonsense Syllables" provides analysis of the very active coparticipation in storytelling possible by a man with a language disorder, aphasia. Though the aphasic man possesses only a limited repertoire of semantic resources, intersubjectivity is possible because sequential structures allow him to ratify the correctness of what is being said by others, responding to family members who have shared his experiences and act as his voice. Rather than viewing aphasia from the perspective that focuses on the isolated individual, I examine how the social group that the injured individual is embedded within adapts to the new demands posed in the ongoing task of making meaning together. Rather than locating meaning or language within the production capabilities of a single speaker, I argue that we must investigate the participation frameworks within which talk emerges, and is given shape.


    Papers associated with this work include:

  1. Participation (2004; with C. Goodwin)
  2. Emotion within Situated Activity (2000; with C. Goodwin)
  3. By-Play: Negotiating Evaluation in Story-telling (1997)
  4. Processes of Mutual Monitoring Implicated in the Production of Description Sequences (1980)
  5. Concurrent Operations on Talk: Notes on the Interactive Organization of Assessments (1987; with C. Goodwin)
  6. Interstitial Argument (1990 with C. Goodwin)