Visual identities: Choreographies of gaze, body movement and speech and ‘ways of knowing’ in mother-midwife interaction

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The aim of this chapter is to explore the potential of a video-based, visual methodology for understanding the interactional accomplishment of social identity. Drawing on the theoretical framework of ethnomethodological conversation analysis (CA) and ‘naturally occurring’ video data of mother–midwife interaction (Lomax, 2013), the chapter explores the spatial and visual orientation of speakers in the social construction of identity during routine home visits by midwives. Focusing on sequences of interaction in which mothers talk with midwives about their recent birth experiences, the chapter examines how normative professional and patient identities are accomplished locally and sequentially through the orchestrated gaze, body movement and speech of participants. Interaction can be understood as a choreography in which mothers and midwives display, through their talk and visual attention to the other, their alignment, respectively, to embodied and clinical understandings of birth. These different ways of knowing are reinforced by the asymmetrical organisation of interaction, whereby midwives steer the agenda and mothers are attentive to their questions, ‘responding appropriately to whatever is asked for, at whatever point, and in whatever form’ (Clark and Mishler, 1992:346). The interactional asymmetries which emerge are accomplished posturally and visually through midwives’ inattention to mothers’ speech and gaze.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Handbook of Visual Methods in Psychology
Subtitle of host publicationUsing and Interpreting Images in Qualitative Research
EditorsPaula Reavey
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351032063
ISBN (Print)9781138491793, 9781138491809
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2020


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