Membership categorization and storytelling: The cake story

Dennis Day, Susanne Kjærbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this paper, we demonstrate how the collaborative and sequential unfolding of a story ties into the constitution of a membership categorization device which we have glossed as ‘us and them’. The data come from a focus group activity where first and second generation immigrants to Denmark have been asked to discuss their situation in Denmark. Using Ethnomethodological Conversation and Membership Categorization Analysis, we present one story which involves a story-teller and his family and an elderly Danish couple living in the same block of flats. In the telling of the story, co-participants align and affiliate, and disalign and disaffiliate, at sequentially relevant junctions. We will argue that not only do such phenomena indicate listenership and possible agreement to the moral of the story in its telling, but also to the morally implicative categorical work involved in the story’s telling.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPragmatics and Society
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)359-374
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 22 Oct 2019


  • categorization device
  • membership categorization
  • affiliation
  • alignment
  • category and sequence
  • moral (of story)
  • moral implication

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