The History and Development of ISCA


The field of conversation analysis was founded in the 1960s by sociologists working at the University of California, Los Angeles.  It was characterized by slow and incremental development during the 1970s when the earliest conferences occurred, hosted at Boston University by the International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis under the leadership of Professor George Psathas.  These conferences, while not interdisciplinary, were certainly attended by representatives of many disciplines, including anthropology, communication studies, ethology, linguistics and applied linguistics, psychology and sociology. Gratifying as this variety was, it also reflected the fact that the analysis of conversational interaction abuts all these disciplinary fields but was not recognized as central to any of them. ISCA was inaugurated to help counterbalance the centrifugal tendencies of the various disciplines on the conceptualization of interaction, and to provide a non-disciplinary forum for the representation of its core notions.


The impetus for the creation of ISCA came from faculty members at the University of California, Los Angeles, led by John Heritage and Tanya Stivers. The context was a sequence of international conferences on conversation analysis held quadrenially from 2002 to 2010. The first of these, held in Copenhagen in 2002 and organized by Mie Femø Nielsen, programmed approximately 160 papers and was attended by upwards of 300 scholars.

The subsequent conference, held in Helsinki in 2006 and organized by Marja-Leena Sorjonen and Auli Hakulinen, had twice as many papers, and a third conference, organized in Mannheim by Arnulf Deppermann, programmed still more presentations and was attended by some 600 scholars. By this point it was apparent that the successes of earlier conferences were not a 'flash in the pan' and that a large and coherent group of scholars with a variety of research interests on the topics of conversation analysis needed an organization to provide a context for the development of their common field. ISCA was born from this recognition, and over 300 members participated in the constitution of the Society and the first elections for Board members at the conclusion of the Mannheim meetings.

Under the auspices of the relatively new ISCA, the International Conference on Conversation Analysis (ICCA-14) was held in Los Angeles, California. ICCA-14 continued to reflect a vibrant community, with over 600 submissions representing 40 countries. The organizers, under the leadership of Tanya Stivers, were able to program 400 of these submissions. Pre-conference workshops numbered 20, with 7-25 participants in each. The main ICCA-14 program occurred across four days with 13 panels of papers being presented in 9 concurrent sessions. A particularly encouraging feature was that students were involved in almost 40% of submissions; 137 papers were solely student-authored. Graduate student members of the organizing committee arranged three special events for their peers: a professional development session, a "meet the professor" lunch, and a student mixer.

There is more to look forward to! Elections were held in July 2018, and a new ISCA board is now in place (see above). As ISCA continues to prosper, ICCA-22 will be hosted by The University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.

ISCA's Organization  

ISCA is incorporated as a public benefit corporation in the state of California. As a non-profit organization, it is exempted from taxes under Section 501(c)(3) of the US tax code. This allows donors to claim the costs of supporting ISCA against taxes.