Jessica is fascinated by how moral troubles are implicated in ordinary social interactions. Her research has explored many topics in which morality surfaces, from little words such as “like,” to political arguments, family interactions, and responses to racism. She conducts qualitative research using discourse analysis and teaches qualitative methods courses in the Social Psychology programme.
Jessica's research involves discourse analysis of language and social interaction; she transcribes recorded ordinary interactions in a range of settings, from the interpersonal and relational (among friends, family) to the organisational and institutional (related to health, politics, education, business). Most of her work focuses on mundane conversations in which something moral arises, particularly when something goes awry. She is especially interested in practical problems, challenges, troubles, and dilemmas—those moments when interaction acquires a little “danger” or requires a bit of delicacy. Jessica's doctoral dissertation used a series of such situations to theorise that the relationship between communication and morality is centrally concerned with the social organization of difference. Her subsequent publications have further sought to understand how morality is entangled everyday distinctions, disalignments, and disagreements. Her book Everyday Talk: Building and Reflecting Identities (2nd edition, 2013), written with first author Karen Tracy, works through many of the concepts, theories and perspectives underlying my research, and is frequently used as an undergraduate textbook in courses on discourse, identity, and culture.