Race and the management of talk in an online discussion list.
Since its inception the internet has grown to have an all pervasive impact on social life, affecting the private, socio-cultural, economic and political aspects of human existence. An email discussion list hosted on the internet by a South African Tertiary Education institution provides an opportunity for researchers to study how members of the list manage textual talk amongst themselves. Given the context of the study, race is the “elephant” in the room, or in this case the online space, which may be pointed out at any given moment in conversation on the discussion list. The analysis of the data in this study indicate that participants in an asynchronous discourse environment make extensive use of techniques such as addressivity, linking or quoting to maintain the relevancy of their contribution to the conversation. As well as these techniques, there is evidence that echoing is a crucial conversational process through which inter-subjective understanding is created amongst members of the discussion list. Furthermore, the analysis displayed that race talk in this context is occasioned to perform specific social activity, for example, drawing in the audience to inferred systems of meaning by gesturing towards a racial membership category which then forces listeners to apply their common sense knowledge in an effort to hear race as relevant for understanding the conversation. The study concludes by arguing that the discursive techniques presented in the data are relevant to the further study of discourse, and especially discourse where race may be occasioned at any given time, in post-apartheid South Africa.