Beyond questions and answers
Exploring the discursive process of identity construction and ascription, the study reveals the ways in which a set of identities emerged in and through the dynamic interaction between the lawyers and the witness of a homosexual rape trial in 18th century London. Grounded in Goffman’s notion of <i>footing</i>, the study argues that, through sequential turns of questions and answers, these identities were interactively constructed and negotiated by the lawyers and the witness. Shifting into and departing from a particular identity can be seen as a strategic means by which the participants contextualized and framed the local context of the rape trial to substantiate their legal arguments and to offset oppositional arguments that might render the testimony inconsistent and invalid. The findings indicate that such identities allowed the participants to assume and speak from particular perspectives (logical, moral, and psychological) with respect to the event at issue, thereby shaping courtroom reality by either mitigating or magnifying the culpability of the witness.