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Commonplaces and social uncertainty: negotiating public opinion

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This article explores commonplaces in focus group discussions about genetically modified food. In the discussions, members of the general public interact with food biotechnology scientists while negotiating their attitudes towards genetic engineering. Their discussions offer an example of uncertainty discourse in which the use of commonplaces seems to be a central feature. My analyses support earlier findings that commonplaces serve important interactional purposes and that they are used for mitigating disagreement, for closing topics and for facilitating risk discourse. In addition, however, I argue that commonplaces are used to mitigate feelings of insecurity caused by uncertainty and to negotiate new codes of moral conduct.

Keywords: appraisal; biotechnology; commonplaces; focus groups; risk discourse; uncertainty

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Department of Language and Culture, Aalborg University, Aalborg East, Denmark

Publication date: January 1, 2008

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