Inequality in action: entitlement and estimated time of arrival request in emergency calls

In this study an inductive approach is taken to analysing emergency calls from a government operated emergency medicine call centre in the Western Cape, South Africa. This ethnomethodologically informed study’s analytic approach is that of conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis. During analysis specific attention is paid to the ending sequence of calls and in particular asymmetries in displays of entitlement in the context of estimated time of arrival (ETA) requests in the emergency calls. I answer two research questions; i) how do callers display entitlement through ETA requests in emergency calls? and ii) how are social asymmetries displayed in ETA requests in emergency calls? Nine excerpts are analysed in detail to demonstrate systematic interactional machinery at play. Asymmetries in entitlement are found to be collaborative accomplishments of the participants in the calls and may serve as a mechanism for reproducing material inequalities in everyday interaction. For developing nations, where there is severe material inequality, inequality can be understood to be an institutional structure that not only affects the material existence of members of society but the everyday interactions society members engage in.
This research report is submitted to the Faculty of Humanities, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, in partial fulfilment of the degree of Masters of Arts in Research Psychology by Dissertation and Coursework.