InterviewVol. 18, No. 1 (2018)

In Pursuit of Conversation Analysis: An Interview with Professor John Heritage

Junko Takahashi1,

Gahye Song1

1 Teachers College, Columbia University


On the late-summer evening of September 23, 2017, we had the privilege of speaking over dinner with John Heritage, a plenary speaker at the eighth annual Conference of The Language and Social Interaction Working Group (LANSI) held at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Heritage is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and one of the key scholars in the discipline of conversation analysis (CA).

Early in his academic career, Professor Heritage published the book Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (1984), in which he successfully brought Harold Garfinkel’s complex and highly technical analysis of “members’ methods” (the foundation of CA) to a wider audience. In 1988, he became a faculty member at UCLA—”CA central,” where the founders of conversation analysis, including Emanuel Schegloff, Harvey Sacks, and Harold Garfinkel, had been based. Since then, Professor Heritage has been a leading researcher in the field, consistently producing illuminating CA work in a variety of contexts, from media talk to medical interaction. Most recently, his focus has been on the study of epistemics in interaction.

With this interview, we return to where John Heritage started: at the University of Leeds, England, where he was a graduate student focusing on what first made him interested in pursuing CA. We learn about some of the eye-opening events in his life and the past endeavors and accomplishments that helped him reach where he is today.