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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Extraordinary Emergencies: Reproducing Moral Discourses of the Child in Institutional Interaction

  • Author(s): Rafaely, Daniella
  • Whitehead, Kevin A
  • et al.

This report uses audio recorded telephone calls and textual data from an emergency medical services call center to examine the interactional practices through which speakers produce what we call “extraordinary emergencies”, treating the events concerned as requiring moral, as well as medical, attention. Since one of the overarching institutional aims of emergency call centers is to facilitate the efficient provision of medical services, call-takers typically treat reported emergencies as routine events. However, in some instances speakers produce practices that do not contribute toward the institutional agenda of providing medical assistance, thereby treating them as extraordinary cases. These practices occurred recurrently in calls involving reports of emergencies relating to child sexuality, including sexual assaults against children and obstetric emergencies where the mother was particularly young. We discuss the implications of these findings for the situated reproduction of particular moral norms, especially with respect to the category of the child in society.

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