Picking fights with politicians: categories, partitioning and the achievement of antagonism

Jack B Joyce, Linda Walz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
121 Downloads (Pure)


In 2016 the UK held a divisive referendum on its membership of the European Union. In the aftermath, difference and division were rife in politics and in everyday life. This article explores how such difference and division play out in and through interaction through examining a citizen ‘picking a fight’ with a politician over how Brexit has been handled. Drawing on membership categorisation analysis we show how antagonism is interactionally accomplished. The analysis focuses on three categorial strategies which interlocutors use to achieve antagonism: establishing omnirelevant devices, categories and their predicates; explicitly challenging category membership; and partitioning a population. Beyond offering insights into moments of social life that are not easily captured, the findings contribute to an empirical conceptualisation of antagonism and illustrate how membership categorisation analysis can shed light on its interactional achievement.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)562-587
Number of pages26
Issue number4
Early online date14 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished online - 14 Apr 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to the Conversation Analysis Reading & Data Sessions group (CARDS) at Ulster University and the Discourse & Rhetoric Group (DARG) at Loughborough University for their observations and helpful feedback on earlier pieces of analysis. We thank the editor and anonymous reviewers for their detailed and constructive feedback. We would also like to thank William Housley for doublechecking our Welsh translation. Diolch!

Publisher Copyright:
© International Pragmatics Association.


  • antagonism
  • membership categorisation analysis
  • conflict
  • Brexit
  • social interaction
  • political discourse


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