Garfinkel, Harold(1917– ) sociologist; born in Newark, N.J. He took his B.A. from the University College: Newark (a part of Rutgers) and his M.A. at the University of North Carolina (1942). After serving with the U.S. Army in World War II, he took his Ph.D. from Harvard (1952). He taught at several universities but spent most of his career at the University of California: Los Angeles (1954–87); he was affiliated with the U.S. Public Health Service (1957–66). In works such as Studies in Ethnomethodology (1967), he pioneered the now internationally influential field of ethnomethodology, the study of methods used by ordinary people to describe and analyze their own activities.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.
Garfinkel, Harold(1917-) US sociologist and founder of the theoretical and specialist approach of ETHNOMETHODOLOGY. Influenced especially by SCHUTZ, Garfinkel's contention in Studies in Ethnomethodology (1967) is that conventional sociology has neglected the study of the ethnomethods (membersmethods) possessed by ordinary members of society and used by them in the ordinary conduct of their social lives. Garfinkel claimed to have revealed the existence of these methods by noting the outcome of informal experiments in which, for example, he encouraged his students to act as lodgers in their own homes. According to Garfinkel, what these and similar experiments demonstrate is the existence of the ‘taken-for-granted assumptions’ in social interaction and also the indexicality (see INDEXICAL EXPRESSION) of members’ ACCOUNTS. Along with the member's creative capacity this latter feature of members’ accounts is seen as invalidating the scientific stance of much conventional sociology. See also DEGRADATION CEREMONY, ET CETERA PRINCIPLE.
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000