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In everyday life we may hear someone being racist or saying something otherwise objectionable in a public space. Calling out that person for being discriminatory is generally regarded as morally imperative, yet it is evidently very difficult to do so when one is outside of an ongoing conversation. This article maps some interactional practices overhearers use to enter an ongoing dispute in which there is evident racism. We show how interveners design and time their turns at talk to take a stance against some racism oriented to as egregious or disruptive whilst walking the accountability tightrope. That is, we analyse their efforts to remain ‘outside’ of the dispute and not accountable for their entry. By documenting the design and timing of an intervener’s turns, we argue against using a participation framework approach to track participation, and contend that challenging racism, despite one’s moral obligation to do so, requires careful coordination between the disputants, overhearers, and the intervener.


Journal article


Journal of Pragmatics



Publication Date