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[xmca] Ethnomethodology


There is a somewhat hard to find book by Eric Livingston: Making Sense Of Ethnomethodology you might want to add to your reading list (if you already haven't) and for my purposes, teaching a class or so in Education, pieces of Ethnomethodology's Program (by Garfinkel and edited by Rawls) has been useful. As far as coding goes, if one does Conversational Analysis, then there is some 'coding.'

Ed Wall

On Mar 8, 2009, at 8:01 PM, Martin Packer wrote:


Coding does indeed not enable one to grasp the complexity of events. It ignores or denies, importantly, the intrinsic plurality or ambiguity of events/actions, and their reciprocal relations with context. Both of these
are characteristics which all of us use and exploit as interactional
resources in everyday life. Once an act has been coded a specific
interpretation of it has been fixed, and it has been artificially removed
from its sequential and material context.

These are reasons why I have always been more drawn to ethnomethodology. That's the topic of the class I'm teaching tomorrow (in Spanish, heaven help me - and them!) and so I've been refreshing my knowledge. I stumbled onto my copy of Roy Turner's collection, titled simply "Ethnomethodology," published by Penguin in 1974, which I brought with me from the UK to the US eons ago and now has travelled with me to Colombia. If that doesn't show affection for EM I don't know what does! And I've been reading old and new work by John Heritage, some of which deals with "epistemic landscapes" in a way that very successfully, I think, puts information at the center, as you put it.

But ethnomethodology isn't based on empathy. It does assume that there is at least some degree of communality between the methods used by the researcher and those used by the participants to organize their everyday activity, but these methods are assumed to be procedural, practical, and not subjective or
emotional. And the principal source of evidence for a reading of an
interaction in ethnomethodology is the way an action displays the agent's understanding of those events it responds to. So what you would like to say
about (a), (b), and (c) would be constrained and informed by what the
students say in response to (a), (b), and (c). It works very well, without a
single code being imposed.

Okay, okay, I'll go do my reading. Between you and Andy I never have a spare


On 3/8/09 6:35 PM, "David Kellogg" <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> wrote:


I'm afraid I'm not going to defend fuzzy thinking. Not because I don't agree with it, but because I'm not very good at it. My fuzziness tends to be of the
nonvolitional sort.

As I said, it's an aspect of Jay's work (and also Vygotsky's) I haven't really assimilated very well. For many years I've been trying to ENTIRELY reorganize the "present-practice-produce" paradigm of lessons here in Korea along the lines of his graphico-semiotic functions "getting attention-- presenting
information--checking integration".

It's a VERY powerful way of looking at lessons: it explains why skilled teachers NEVER begin with a blank slate, it puts information at the centre of the exchange where it really belongs, and it provides a model of understanding that is miles from testing practices: integrating old and new, me and you, be
and do.

But I find it pretty hard to code stuff! Take this, for example, from
yesterday's introductory class:

b) "I'm Mr. K."
c) "And you?"

Now, I'd like to say that a) is "getting attention", b) is "giving
information" and c) is some kind of "checking integration". I'd like to go
further, and say that greetings and DOWN intonation are generally
a), indicative/declaratives with horizontal or UP-DOWN intonation are
generally b) and teacher questions often often UP intoned and c).

But the data won't code with any reliability Worse, I find there is a) in b) ("I'm") and b) in a) ("Hi" gives information about how the speaker envisions the relationship), and c) in eveything (even the grammar). Everything is

How nice it would be to shrug my shoulders like Hegel and say "So much the worse for the facts!" I would like to believe, as Benjamin says, that "insight into the relationship between essences is the prerogative of the philosopher and these relationships remain unaltered even if they do not take on the
purest form in the world of fact." But I don't.

This is think one of Mariane Hedegaard's GREAT strengths (shown in the analysis of the Jens data but even more strongly at the end in her analysis of, and even her refusal to analyze, the Halime data) is her emic (empathetic, ethnomethodological) attitude towards what the subjects say. I don't think this is sentimentally motivated. I think it's a serious attempt "not to laugh,
nor to cry, but to understand".

So she has to recognize that to an outsider (Jens, Halime) a dominant culture really DOES look pretty monological and monolithic, and in fact it is, at least in terms of its exclusiveness and inaccessibility. Given that it is categorical exclusiveness and inaccessibility that is the source of this apparent monolithicity, I think the idea that the categorial thinking of the oppressed and that of the oppressor have the same ontological basis is simply

Roy follows up his quotation of Benjamin with a long reference to Malcolm X's well known speech about "the house negro" and the "field negro", recently
misquoted by Al Qaida's Al Zawahiri with respect to Barack Obama. His
argument, which I'm not sure I buy, is that BOTH are powerless, but the field negro is still strong, and part of that strength is a clear, monolithic
distinction between master and slave.

But I am interfering with your time, Martin. Read Hedegaard--it's a real

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

--- On Sun, 3/8/09, Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu> wrote:

From: Martin Packer <packer@duq.edu>
Subject: Re: [xmca] Hedegaard article
To: "eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity" <xmca@weber.ucsd.edu>
Date: Sunday, March 8, 2009, 3:00 PM

I don't know, David. I haven't had time yet to read the Hedegaard article, so I can't put the remarks in that context. I presume you're not proposing that one ought to categorize Danish culture as pathologically monological, or nasty. I don't understand how that kind of appeal to "what we in the west... recognize" (which "we" is that, exactly?) can claim to identify the roots of a failure to think in "fuzzy" terms, not least, of course, because
it's not exactly a fuzzy way of putting things.


On 3/8/09 12:20 AM, "David Kellogg" <vaughndogblack@yahoo.com> wrote:

Dear Martin:

I don't find Jay's comments at all offensive, and they are simplistic only in the sense of being telegraphic (like the word "nasty"). Actually, I find
work anything but simplistic; if anything it's a little too nuanced for my
purposes (coding data involves a LOT of categorial distinctions!)

I interpreted Jay's comments in the context of Mariane Hedegaard's article, particularly the ending, where Halime is describing her relationship to the Danish language and to the Danish "good life". I'm assuming that this article was written well after the Centre-Right Rasmussen government came to power
2001) with, of course, the support of the Bush administration, which they
promptly returned by embroiling Denmark in the Iraq War.

What is not so well known is that the Rasmussen government is supported by
Dansk Folkeparti of Pia Kjaersgaard, which is the equivalent of Jean Marie Le Pen's Front Nationale in France or Jurg Haidar's neo-fascist Austrian
Party. This party, which has been shown to be infilitrated by terrorist neo-Nazi organizations like Combat 18, opposes all forms of immigration, consider white people to be oppressed by the Muslim minority in Denmark, and after 9/11 Kjaersgaard said that the Americans were wrong to call this a
of civilizations because "There is only one civilization and that is ours."

Here are some quotations from their parliamentary delegation, just to give
some sense of what Halime is talking about:

Morten Messerschmidt, DPP member of Danish Parliament:

"I believe that all Muslim communities are, by definition, loser communities.
The Muslims are not capable of critical thinking."[24]

Pia Kjærsgaard's newsletter (February 25, 2002):

"The Social Security Act is passé because it was tailored to a Danish family tradition and work ethic and not to Muslims, for whom it is fair to be provided for by others while the wife gives birth to a lot of children. The child benefit grant is being taken advantage of, as an immigrant achieves a record income due to [having] just under a score of children. New punishment limits must be introduced for group rapes because the problem only arrived with the vandalism of the many anti-social second-generation immigrants."

It seems to me that in the USA in the sixties and again today there was a fairly common liberal sentiment to the effect that racism was above all just
bad idea, and that since it was nothing more than a bad idea, it could be
cured fairly easily by a dose of Sidney Poitier or Barack Obama.

The corollary of this sentiment is that, of course, the oppressed must not be allowed to cherish similar bad ideas, not merely because it might provoke the oppressor to even more savage acts of oppression but above all because racism
is just a bad idea in general.

Well, it doesn't take much to show that this liberal sentiment is simply wrong. Sidney Poitier did not cure American racism, and neither will Barack Obama. The reason is simple; racism is not "just a bad idea" but, like any other pervasive and systematic ideology, a reflection of real material
historical conditions.

Specifically, racism reflects the historical conditions of American slavery, European colonialism, and the not merely historical reserve army of the unemployed, which is growing by leaps and bounds as we speak. Perhaps it's time to consider the idea that so-called "reverse racism", or rather, the
of the oppressed, is really NOT part of the problem, but in fact part of the

David Kirshner's colleague, Kaustuv Roy, has written a wonderful book
David!) called Neighborhoods of the Plantation which begins with a quote from Walter Benjamin on immigration and borders as a means of keeping "culture" pure. Benjamin committed suicide when, fleeing the Nazis, he was
allowed to pass from occupied France into Spain :

"Where frontiers are decided the adversary is not simply annihilated; indeed
he is accorded rights even when the victor's superiority of power is
And these are, in a demonically ambiguous way, 'equal rights', for both parties ot the treat it is the same line that may not be crossed. Here appears, in a terribly primitive form, the same mythical ambiguity of laws that may not be 'infringed' to which Anatole France refers satirically when
says that 'Poor and rich are equally forbidden to spend the night under

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

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