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Methods@Manchester

Ethnomethodology

Wes Sharrock, Sociology

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Ethnomethodology thinks of itself as an asymmetrical and incommensurable alternate to sociology more generally. Its methodological preoccupations can be articulated around the theme of unique adequacy, which arises from conceiving ‘sociological description’ as something which:

  1. is practiced by the participants in social affairs themselves
  2. is itself socially organised.

In consequence, the emphasis falls upon the fact that sociology is a natural language pursuit, in the sense that both sociological investigators and those that they investigate are language users, and are extensively using the same ‘ordinary’ language.

Centrally, though not exhaustively, its studies pay attention to:

  1. how social activities are done through talk in interaction
  2. how social order is described - is made ‘observable and reportable’ - within those interactions relative to their practical purposes.

Key aims

Ethnomethodology thinks of itself as attempting to identify and document the competences which, within any given social setting, count as the requirements for a mastery of its everyday ways of talking and of how these competences feature in the production and reproduction of the local social order. Brief reference will be made to the way in which these concerns are crystallised in the related research field of ‘conversation analysis’.

The lecture on 3 June, 1 - 2pm, in room 1.69/1.70, Humanities Bridgeford Street provided plain explications of the jargon (e.g. ‘alternate, ‘incommensurable’, ‘unique adequacy’) and will illustrate the general issues with examples from ethnomethodology’s collection of studies. The audio recording will be available soon.

Staff interested in Ethnomethodology

PDF slides

Download PDF slides of the presentation 'What is Ethnomethodology?'