Sociology Index

Ethnomethodology

Ethnomethodology is a sociological theory developed by Harold Garfinkel and building on the influence of phenomenologists such as Edmund Husserl and Alfred Schutz and more recent linguistic philosophers. The fundamental sociological phenomenon for ethnomethodologists is the social fact. 'Ethnomethodology' means the study of people's practices or methods. Ethnomethodology is a perspective within sociology that focuses on the way people make sense of their everyday world, and there are three central strands to ethnomethodology: Mundane Reason Analysis, Membership Membership categorization, and Conversational Analysis. Indexicality as used in ethnomethodology refers to the contextual nature of behavior and talk. reflexivity as used in ethnomethodology means that an object or behavior and talk have a mirror-like relationship. Commonsense reasoning as used in ethnomethodology is also referred to as mundane reasoning.

This is a micro-perspective and it does not see the social world as an objective reality but as something that people must build and rebuild constantly in their thoughts and actions. Rather than treating ordinary members of society as ‘cultural dopes’, driven by society, Ethnomethodology tries to uncover the methods and practices that are used by people as they create the taken-for-granted-world. Recognising everyday life as an achievement, collective sense making, and the central importance of talk as a social process, ethnomethodology had an impact on all those arenas of sociology where ordinary interaction is an element.

Ethnomethodology and sociology: an introduction
Stephen Linstead, University of York
Abstract: Arising as a powerful challenge to programmatic views of sociology that sought to determine stable laws underpinning social order, ethnomethodology set out an alternative programme to reveal social order as a dynamic, contingent 'ongoing accomplishment'. This introduction to the special section discusses the contributions of each of the papers, which cover mundane reasoning, social learning, the early acquisition of social competence, and the application of membership categorization analysis to gender, in relation to the continuing relevance of Garfinkel's legacy to contemporary sociological theory and practice.

Ethnomethodology Books

Garfinkel, Harold. 1984. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Malden MA: Polity Press/Blackwell Publishing.

Garfinkel, Harold. 1986. Ethnomethodological Studies of Work. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Garfinkel, Harold. 2002. Ethnomethodology's Program. New York: Rowan and Littlefield.

Sacks, Harvey. 1992. Lectures on Conversation. Oxford:Blackwell.