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Doing ‘being interrupted’ in political talk

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2020

Marta Baffy
Georgetown University Law Center, USA
E-mail address:


This article examines the questioning of US Attorney General Jeff Sessions by Senators Angus King and Kamala Harris during a congressional hearing. Analyses of the two exchanges, grounded in conversation analytic (CA) methodology, reveal that simultaneous and near-simultaneous talk initiated by the senators is pervasive in both exchanges. However, Sessions does ‘being interrupted’ (Hutchby 1996; Bilmes 1997)—that is, displays an orientation toward his interlocutors’ turns as a violation of his speaking rights—three times more often when he is questioned by Harris rather than King. The discrepancy in Sessions’ handling of the senators’ turns may explain why Harris is sanctioned by two colleagues during her questioning and why commentators have characterized her as aggressive and interruptive, while at the same time lauding (or ignoring) King. These findings ultimately suggest that doing being interrupted may influence how others perceive an interaction and those participating in it. (Institutional discourse, interruption, latching, overlap, political discourse)

Copyright © The Author(s) 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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