Faculté des lettres et sciences humaines

Des réponses "je ne sais pas" lors d'une enquête sociale

Gonzalez Martinez, Esther

In: Bulletin VALS-ASLA, 2008, vol. 88, p. 19-41

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    Within the framework of French accelerated criminal procedure, a social investigator meets with the suspect to carry out an inquiry of his financial, employment and family status. Based upon a corpus of recordings of 11 such meetings, this article presents the organization of the central phase of the encounter, heavily structured by interrogative sequences in which the suspect answers questions from the investigator, followed by post-expansions that confirm the responses. The article focuses on one particular sequence of an encounter in which the suspect repeatedly replies "I don't know". These responses locally produce the suspect's inability to speak about certain points in his past that he is asked about – an inability seemingly unrelated to a lack of knowledge. The author argues that the suspect's responses are displayed as related to emotions he has associated with the topic at hand. The article covers the two interlocutors' production of these responses' intelligibility, as well as its link to the in situ shaping of a social investigation in a judicial setting.