Negotiating narrative

Story structure and identity in youth justice conferencing


  • J. R. Martin University of Sydney
  • M. Zappavigna University of Sydney
  • P. Dwyer University of Sydney



Discourse Analysis, Genre, Narrative


Youth justice conferencing is one of a number of programs which have been introduced into western legal systems in recent years, typically under the banner of a ‘restorative justice’ reform movement. These conferences bring young people (who have admitted their guilt), victims and other parties into a face-to-face meeting in which the impact of the offence and possible reparative actions are discussed at length. In this paper, based on field observations and transcripts, we report on our preliminary efforts to analyse the generic structure of conferencing, focusing in particular on the accounts given by young people of their offending behaviour. The flat ideational focus of these accounts and the absence of an ongoing prosody of evaluation make them quite unlike the personal recounts typically produced by young people and, while seemingly appropriate to the context of a youth justice conference, also create a genre identity for the young person which may be at odds with the expectations of other conference participants (and indeed theorists of restorative justice) who are looking for signs of sincerity and remorse from the young person.

Author Biographies

J. R. Martin, University of Sydney

Professor of Linguistics, Linguistics Department University of Sydney

M. Zappavigna, University of Sydney

Postdoctoral Reseearch Fellow, Linguistics Department University of Sydney

P. Dwyer, University of Sydney

Head of Department, Performance Studies Department University of Sydney


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How to Cite

Martin, J. R., Zappavigna, M., & Dwyer, P. (2010). Negotiating narrative: Story structure and identity in youth justice conferencing. Linguistics and the Human Sciences, 3(2), 221–253.




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