Kevin Whitehead

Kevin Whitehead
Associate Professor
PDF icon CV

Office Hours

Thursday 10:30am - 12:30 pm

Office Location

SSMS 3411 Faculty Office
SSMS 3410 Conversation Analysis Lab


Race and racism; social categories and identities; ethnomethodology and conversation analysis; interactions in conversational and institutional settings; conflicts and violence in interactions


Ph.D., UC Santa Barbara


My primary research interests for the past 15+ years have been at the intersection of social interaction and race/racism. Specifically, I have worked to develop a research agenda and approach that applies an ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to the study of race and the other social categories and forms of social organization with which it intersects. The focus of this research is the fine-grained examination of some ways in which the social organization of race is produced and reproduced through the locally organized, everyday practices of people in interaction with one another.

More recently, I have been working in collaboration with multi-disciplinary and multi-methodological groups of colleagues located at a number of institutions in the United States, Canada, and South Africa on research focused on advancing research and theory on conflicts and violence in both everyday interactional settings and in police encounters. My primary role in these projects involves using ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches to examine how violence comes to be produced during the course of interactions captured on video – either by onlookers (e.g., cell phone videos), or as a result of institutionally mandated recording (e.g., police dashboard cameras). In particular, I have focused on examining how membership categories (including race, gender, and others) are made relevant and managed in these interactions, and how violence emerges from the moment-by-moment sequential unfolding of the interactions.

In addition to these areas of “applied” conversation analytic research, my research has also contributed to more “basic” understandings of social interaction and social categories more generally, and my collaborations with colleagues and students have focused on a range of topics that intersect with various features of social interaction in ordinary conversational, research, and text-based (e.g., online) settings.

Whitehead, K. A., & Lerner, G. H. (in press). When simple self-reference is too simple:

Managing the categorical relevance of speaker self-presentation. Language in Society.

Whitehead, K. A. (in press). On Sacks and the analysis of racial categories-in-action. In 

Smith, R. Fitzgerald, R., & Housley, W. (Eds.), On Sacks: Methodology, Materials and

Inspirations. London, U.K.: Routledge.

Whitehead, K. A. (2020). The problem of context in the analysis of social action: The case of

implicit whiteness in post-apartheid South AfricaSocial Psychology Quarterly, 83(3), 294-313.

Whitehead, K. A., & Lerner, G. H. (2020). Referring to somebody: Generic person reference as

an interactional resourceJournal of Pragmatics161, 46-56.

Whitehead, K. A. (2019). Using ethnomethodology and conversation analysis to study social

categories: The case of racial categories in South African radio talk. In A. Fynn, S. Laher, & S. Kramer (Eds.), Transforming Research Methods in the Social Sciences: Case Studies from South Africa (pp. 251-264). Johannesburg, South Africa: Wits University Press.

Whitehead, K. A. (2018). Discursive approaches to race and racism. In H. Giles, & J. Harwood

(Eds.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Intergroup Communication (pp. 324-339). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Bowman, B., Whitehead, K. A., & Raymond G. (2018). Situational factors and mechanisms in pathways to violencePsychology of Violence8(3), 287-292.

Whitehead, K. A., Bowman, B., & Raymond, G. (2018). “Risk factors” in action: The situated constitution of “risk” in violent interactionsPsychology of Violence8(3), 329-338.

Whitehead, K. A. (2018). Managing the moral accountability of stereotypingJournal of

Language and Social Psychology37(3), 288-309.

Whitehead, K. A. & Baldry, K. (2018). Omni-relevant and contingent membership categories in research interview and focus group openingsQualitative Research18(2), 135-152.

Kaufman, S., & Whitehead, K. A. (2018). Producing, ratifying and resisting support in an

online support forumHealth22(3), 223-239.

Dominguez-Whitehead, Y., Whitehead, K. A., & Bowman, B. (2017). Confessing sex in online student communitiesDiscourse, Context & Media, 20(2), 20-32.

Whitehead, K. A. (2018). Discursive approaches to race and racism. In H. Giles, & J. Harwood (Eds.) The Oxford Encyclopedia of Intergroup Communication (pp. 324-339). New York: Oxford University Press.

Whitehead, K. A. (2015). Everyday antiracism in action: Preference organization in responses to racismJournal of Language and Social Psychology34(4), 374-389.

Whitehead, K. A., & Stokoe, E. (2015). Producing and responding to –isms in interaction.

Journal of Language and Social Psychology34(4), 368-373.

Durrheim, K., Greener, R., & Whitehead, K. A. (2015). Race trouble: Attending to race and racism in online interactionBritish Journal of Social Psychology54(1), 84-99.

Whitehead, K. A. (2015). Extreme case formulations. In Tracy, K., Ilie, C., & Sandel, T. (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction (pp. 579-584). New York, NY: Wiley-Blackwell.

Cresswell, C., Whitehead, K. A., & Durrheim, K. (2014). The anatomy of “race trouble” in online interactionsEthnic and Racial Studies37(14), 2512-2528.

Dominguez-Whitehead, Y., & Whitehead, K. A. (2014). Food talk: A window into inequality among university studentsText & Talk34(1), 49-68.

Whitehead, K. A. (2013). Managing self/other relations in complaint sequences: The use of self-deprecating and affiliative racial categorizationsResearch on Language and Social Interaction46(2), 186-203.

Whitehead, K. A. (2013). Race-class intersections as interactional resources in post-apartheid South Africa. In C. M. Pascale (Ed.), Social Inequality and the Politics of Representation: A Global Landscape (pp. 49-63). Newbury Park, CA: Sage. DOI: 10.13140/2.1.4872.5443.Whitehead, K. A. (2012). Moving forward by doing analysisDiscourse Studies14(3), 337-343.

Whitehead, K. A. (2012). Racial categories as resources and constraints in everyday interactions: Implications for racialism and non-racialism in post-apartheid South AfricaEthnic and Racial Studies35(7), 1248-1265.

Whitehead, K. A. & Bowman, B. (2012). The professional consequences of political silenceJournal of Social Philosophy43(4), 426-435.  

Whitehead, K. A. (2011). Some uses of head nods in “third position” in talk-in-interactionGesture11(2), 103-122.

Whitehead, K. A. (2011). An ethnomethodological, conversation analytic approach to investigating race in South AfricaSouth African Review of Sociology42(3), 1-22.

Whitehead, K. A. (2009). “Categorizing the categorizer”: The management of racial common sense in interactionSocial Psychology Quarterly72(4), 325-342.

Whitehead, K. A., & Lerner, G. H. (2009). When are persons “white”? On some practical asymmetries of racial reference in talk-in-interactionDiscourse & Society20(5), 613-641.


My main teaching areas are on courses relating to language, interaction, and social organization, including:

·       SOC 136A/236: The Analysis of Conversational Interaction 

·       SOC 136C/236C: Social Categories in Interaction

·       SOC 185E: Introduction to Ethnomethodology

.       SOC 274: Pro-seminar on Language, Interaction and Social Organization