indexical expressionany word or expression which draws its sense only from the immediate context of its use (e.g. personal pronouns). Indexicality can be seen as a frequent feature of social concepts (and also many sociological concepts), a feature which means that SOCIAL ACTORS (as well as sociologists) must often undertake careful interpretive work to determine the meanings prevailing within particular social settings (see also HERMENEUTICS).
For ethnomethodologists, the indexicality of social concepts and social accounts means that the kind of generalized sociological and scientific accounts sought by orthodox sociologists are unattainable. However, elements of indexicality can be seen as a feature of all concepts, including those in physical science (see also INCOMMENSURABILITY, SCIENTIFIC PARADIGM, RELATIVISM). While this certainly means that science can no longer reasonably be seen in simple positivist or empiricist terms as directly referring to phenomena, this does not prevent general theories being advanced. Likewise, elements of indexicality in sociological accounts need not preclude workable general accounts (compare ETHNOMETHODOLOGY).