ethnomethodology

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ethnomethodology

The theoretical and specialist approach within sociology, initiated by Harold GARFINKEL, which sets out to uncover the methods (members’ methods) and social competence that we, as members of social groups, employ in constructing our sense of social reality Ethnomethodologists claim that mainstream sociologists have failed to study, or even to show any awareness of, members’ possession of social competence, treating members merely as ‘cultural dopes’, rather than acknowledging that social reality is created by individuals.

For ethnomethodologists, social reality is always to be seen as the ‘rational accomplishment’ of individuals. Whereas conventional sociologists, e.g. DURKHEIM in Suicide or the symbolic interactionists, are seen as taking actors’ capacity to construct ‘meanings’ merely as an unexamined ‘resource’, ethnomethodology makes the ‘methods’ and TACIT KNOWLEDGE that members possess into a ‘topic’ for analysis. What ethnomethodologists seek to do is to analyse the ACCOUNTS provided by members in particular contexts (hence the extensive use of transcripts of ordinary conversation). In this, there are some similarities and continuities with SYMBOLIC INTERACTIONISM. Beyond this, however, ethnomethodologists have sought to reveal the more universal recurring members’ methods involved in ‘doing’ social life, e.g. organized ‘turn-taking’ in talk (see also CONVERSATION ANALYSIS, SACKS).

While ethnomethodology claims to have arrived at universal generalizations, the form of these generalizations (e.g. indicating a persistent indexicality (see INDEXICAL EXPRESSION) in members’ accounts) suggests that the type of generalizations traditionally sought by sociology are unlikely to be achieved, or at least the claims for them are premature. By the same token, many of the research methods and assumptions about method and measurement in conventional sociology are criticized by ethnomethodologists as involving MEASUREMENT BY FIAT (see A. Cicourel, 1964).

Although ethnomethodology was at first presented as an alternative to conventional sociology, the insights drawn from it have in many instances been incorporated into more mainstream approaches, notably in the work of Anthony GIDDENS (1976a and subsequently) – see also STRATIFICATIONAL MODEL OF SOCIAL ACTION AND CONSCIOUSNESS, DOUBLE HERMENEUTIC. By far the best general overview of ethnomethodology is J. Heritage, Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology (1984). See also FIXED-CHOICE QUESTIONNAIRES, AGGREGATE DATA ANALYSIS. OFFICIAL STATISTICS. PRACTICAL REASONING.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Distressing as this story is, it offers in an extreme form an example of behaviour which ethnomethodologists would argue is a far better description of human behaviour than ideas of achieved or failed rationality.
Ethnomethodologists have been intrigued by the alternation of discourses that regulate everyday conversation, and have coined three terms to conduct their analyses: floor, i.e.
Ethnomethodologists have also studied the positive effects of visual cues including eye contact, forward lean when communicating with students, affirmative head nods, and smiles on developing positive academic performance [6, 11].
She says that Mead offered her new ways of "bringing things from the abstract realm and seeing them more as problems of how people talk about things." She had had discussions with ethnomethodologists while a student at Berkeley, but it wasn't until later when she was teaching sociology at the University of British Columbia beginning in the late 1960s that the real upsurge in non-positivist sociology occurred.
To organizational scholars, this observation is the orienting claim of the ethnomethodologists, such as Schutz, Garfinkel, Van Maanen, Barley, Weick, and Roberts, who make the simple observation that explicit communication can never fully describe what we know or the full content of how we are able to "predict" the quotidian rhythms in a given time and place.
For example, ethnomethodololgists often conduct "incongruity experiments"--wherein the researcher performs some kind of norm-violating act in a social setting--in order to read the hidden social "rules" from the observers' reactions, but then the question becomes "So what?" T he authors "are left wondering what generates the conventions," but ethnomethodologists are "hermetically sealed off [from political/ideological concerns], because of their phenomenological restriction to, and inclusion in, the lifeworld of the actor level" (p.
xii) note that although ethnomethodology and phenomenology emerged as a reaction to positivism, "many of today's ethnomethodologists and phenomenologists try to bend it to conform to the scientism of the orthodox consensus."
In phenomenological philosophy (Heidegger 1969), reflexivity is the outcome of the separation or breakdown between subject and object and, for ethnomethodologists, from this separation the need arises for 'accountability' - by which is meant making the world comprehensible for oneself and for the other members of a collectivity (Garfinkel 1967).
It is impossible to explain the persistence of knowledge claims in the face of social change without considering a broad range of such "interests." (9) Numerous variations exist within this general position, including constructivists (KnorrCetina, 1983), discourse analysts (Mulkay et al., 1983), ethnomethodologists (Lynch et al.
Goffman emphasizes routines and the interactive work needed to initialize and sustain the definition of a situation while the ethnomethodologists examine the consequences of deviating from rules.
Quine; in anthropology by Clifford Geertz and Victor Turner; in history by Hayden White; in sociology by the entire tradition of the sociology of knowledge and more recently by the ethnomethodologists; in hermeneutics by Heidegger, Gadamer, and Derrida; in the general sciences of man by Foucault; in the history of science by Thomas Kuhn; in the history of art by Michael Fried; in legal theory by Philip Bobbit and Sanford Levinson; in literary theory by Barbara Hernstein Smith, Walter Michaels, Steven Knapp, John Fekete, Jonathan Culler, Terry Eagleton, Frank Lentricchia, Jane Tompkins, Stanley Fish, and on and on.(2)
The ethnomethodologists of the 1960s, among whom Garfinkel is counted, were rightly condemned by the marxists of the 1970s (Taylor, Walton, and Young 1973) for inattentiveness to issues of power.