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Doing moving on: A conversation-analytic investigation of chairing the agenda in local council meetings

This paper takes a conversation analytical approach to exploring the organisation of British town and parish council meetings. The particular focus is on how Chairs, interactionally manage these meetings, exploring the methods used in order to maintain control of the floor, and to ensure the meeting progresses from one item on the agenda to the next. The data comprises approximately 7 hours of recordings taken from one town and three parish council meetings in the north of England. Extracts of relevant sections of these data are analysed to demonstrate how the Chair moves on from one item on the agenda to the next. The agenda is considered important as it controls the topics that may occur in the meeting (Farkas, 2013). Further, it can also be invoked by the Chair in order to get back on track (Holmes and Marra, 2004). This paper considers the broad issue of the Chair “having the floor” (Sacks, 1967, cited by Goodwin, 1980:277), how having the floor might affect face and how the Chair goes about “saving face” as well as taking a “protective orientation” (Goffman, 1967:14) towards the co- present councillors. Initial analysis has found that there are pre-sequences used in order to ‘move on’, including the use of requests, declaratives and suggestions. Overall, the paper explores ways in which the Chair controls the meeting, avoids conflict, and moves from one item on the agenda to the next. It also reports on how input from other councillors might affect the Chair “having the floor”.