Residents and Activists
Membership Categorization Analysis as a Critical Tool
This article uses Membership Categorization Analysis (MCA) (Sacks 1992) to offer an example of concrete tools that can be used by teachers who wish to develop critical media literacy skills with their students. Specifically, the article suggests that MCA can be a way to deal with the societal silence that often accompanies discrimination. As an example, three texts that implicitly reference Race in the United States are examined. The texts, all authored during Summer, 2020, offer accounts for a situation where a person carried, pointed, or fired a gun. In each case, those with the gun are characterized as residents or property owners, and are put in opposition with a group of people termed as activists, or members of a mob. Thus, the article shows how category terms and their associated actions and descriptors can be used to set up racist inferences, including inferring the presence of people who were not actually present in a given situation, or actions which did not occur. The study’s findings also offer a pathway for teachers by suggesting: 1) that putting local texts in conversation with national ones can help students uncover societal patterns that relate to their own lives; and 2) that MCA is a tool that teachers can use to find concrete examples of the silences that often surround discrimination.