Conversational Syntax, Turn-Taking, and the Fate of the World During the Cuban Missile Crisis
David Gibson, Assistant Professor of Sociology
In October 1962, the fate of the world hung on the American response to the discovery of Soviet nuclear missile sites in Cuba. That response was informed by hours of meetings between John F. Kennedy and his top advisers, meetings that the President secretly tape recorded. These recordings provide us with a rare inside look at high-level political deliberation in a moment of crisis and the role of talk in shaping the perception of options. Presenting findings from a recent article in the American Journal of Sociology and his forthcoming book, Gibson shows how Kennedy's decisions arose from the intersection of distant events unfolding in Cuba, Moscow, and the high seas with the immediate conversational minutia of turn-taking, storytelling, argument, and justification.