Confessions of lockdown breaches. Problematising morality during the Covid-19 pandemic

Márquez Reiter, Rosina (2021). Confessions of lockdown breaches. Problematising morality during the Covid-19 pandemic. Journal of Pragmatics, 179 pp. 61–69.



This paper examines confessions of Covid-19 breaches in two radio phone-ins. The programmes hosted invited experts who were recruited at certain moments in the show to comment on the (in)direct experiences of lockdown compliance or breaches reported by the callers.

The analysis focuses on the social actions the participants are seen to be carrying out and orienting to through talk such confessions and disclosures of minor unlawful behaviour in public.

A set of features of confessions were found depending on whether personal circumstances could be said to warrant the breaches and the recipients align or not with the warrantability of the breaches. Callers who disclosed their breaches at the first available opportunity, presented them as primarily warranted by a long-term health condition and displayed full awareness of doing confessing. Both early confessions and those that appear later in the narration were carefully crafted. They were mitigated to minimize the seriousness of the transgression and reduce the actor’s accountability.

The positional nuances of the participants as they share their stories, coupled with their assessment of self- and other behaviour, shines a light on their orientations to, and interactional management of, the moral accountability of behaviour in public spaces during the pandemic.

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