Developed in the s by Harold Garfinkel, ethnomethodology challenged traditional sociological approaches that relied on theoretical constructions to answer the question of how social order is produced. Ethnomethodologists use careful description of naturally occurring interactions to investigate the interpretive and constitutive practices of members of society.
Share via Email Harold Garfinkel coined the term "ethnomethodology", literally meaning "people's methodology" Harold Garfinkel, who has died aged 93, was professor emeritus in sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he was based from until his retirement in In the s, he coined the term "ethnomethodology", literally meaning "people's methodology".
In the social sciences, methodology usually refers to systematic techniques for collecting and analysing data but, following Garfinkel, ethnomethodologists identified it with a broad range of ordinary abilities, such as taking part in conversational exchanges, navigating through traffic situations and recognising what is happening in specific social environments.
The idea was that the totality of such practices builds up to the massive order of things and people we call "society", even though participants in particular practices do not necessarily aim for anything beyond the immediate circumstance. Garfinkel's major work, Studies in Ethnomethodologychallenged "top down" theories which proposed that society was structured around relatively limited sets of rules and overarching values.
He presented an alternative "bottom up" picture of society built from innumerable occasions of improvised conduct adapted to particular situations.
Ethnomethodologists showed how the formal methods and procedures that take place in courtrooms, scientific laboratories and workplaces are underpinned by everyday understandings, argumentative practices and embodied skills. Garfinkel challenged the idea that sociological methods were grounded in a specialised scientific rationality that was independent of the irrational and subjective basis of Ethnomethodology essay social conduct.
Some sociologists worried that Garfinkel's vision dismantled Ethnomethodology essay very idea Ethnomethodology essay an objective science of society; others attempted to come to terms with how to study society as the created product of collective activity.
Ethnomethodology was taken up in fields such as social anthropology, communication and information science, education studies, and science and technology studies.
It became common to refer to Garfinkel as the "founding father" of ethnomethodology, although he would occasionally joke that the field was "a company of bastards"— referring to the reputation for contentiousness that he and his students acquired.
He grew up in Newark, New Jersey, where his father, Abraham, ran a small business. Harold studied accounting at Newark College but developed an interest in sociology. Inhe received a master's degree in sociology at the University of North Carolina. His early publications, based on his master's thesis on race relations in the American south, demonstrated an acute insight and an ability to write fluently in plain English.
His first publication, Colour Trouble, was a quasi-fictional account of a conflict that arose when an African-American woman refused to sit at the back of a bus when the vehicle crossed the former Mason-Dixon line on the way from New Jersey to North Carolina.
It was included in a collection of the best short stories of After serving in the second world war, Garfinkel began his doctoral studies with Talcott Parsons at Harvard.
Following Parsons's lead, his work took a theoretical turn. His prose became convoluted and notoriously difficult for the uninitiated and many of the initiated to fathom. Parsons and his students aspired to reinvent sociology by articulating a comprehensive theory of social structure and social action.
Garfinkel shared that ambition, but eventually took a very different path. Garfinkel sought to probe the presumptive existence of social order with a series of idiosyncratic investigations that disrupted commonplace routines in households and public places.
Even apparently mild disruptions, such as acting the part of a polite stranger at one's own family's dinner table, provoked explosive reactions laden with indignation. This demonstrated the moral accountability infused within even the most mundane of routines.
Contrary to prevailing efforts by social theorists to derive individual actions from postulated social structures, Garfinkel delved more deeply into the minutiae of daily life. He did not aim to reduce actions to psychological or neurological causes; instead, he attempted to pursue communicative actions all the way down to their constitutive details.
Garfinkel was a remarkable and volatile character who kept his interlocutors off balance with startlingly original arguments, unique examples and puzzling turns of phrase. During seminars and tutorials, he would ponder questions visibly, almost theatrically, pausing for an inordinate amount of time while the novices waited on his words.
Often, he would break the silence with enigmatic pronouncements and anecdotes that left his students with problems to work out. His writings and published lectures were infused with a deep appreciation of irony and absurdity.
Like a standup comic, he had a knack for exposing the strangeness of everyday routines. This is not to say that he took his work lightly. Indeed, he was one of those rare individuals whose actions in the present were geared towards posterity.
He is survived by his wife, Arlene, to whom he was married for 65 years, and by his daughter, Leah, and son, Mark.The Notion of Member is the Heart of the Matter: On the Role of Membership Knowledge in Ethnomethodological Inquiry In ethnomethodologischen Untersuchungen erhält die Spannung zwischen Subjektivität und Objektivität, die der gesamten qualitativen Sozialforschung inhärent ist, spezielle Bedeutungen.
May 08, · Then read John Heritage's (again!) review essay on ethnomethodology in "Social Theory Today." [ pdf ] These two should be enough.
But at this point, it might be good to dip into Heritage's book-length exposition of Garfinkel: " Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology.". Ethnomethodology As an opening to this project, I have to mention how uneasy I was with having to invade my own personal space in order to complete this assignment.
My stomach was actually turning flips just thinking about having to [ ].
Ethnomethodology is the study of methods people use for understanding and producing the social order in which they live. It generally seeks to provide an alternative to mainstream sociological approaches. . Ethnomethodology As an opening to this project, I have to mention how uneasy I was with having to invade my own personal space in order to complete this assignment.
I use the term ethnomethodology to refer to various policies, methods, results, risks, and lunacies with which to locate and accomplish the study of the rational properties of practical actions as contingent ongoing accomplishments or organised artful practices of everyday life.