[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [xmca] Ethnomethodology

Backing up a bit in this thread, to the connection with coding and categorization, I just wanted to say that Martin's description below is indeed one way that some researchers do a kind of 'grounded theory' analysis, reducing the primary data to categories, relations among categories, frequencies of items in the categories, etc. I certainly try to steer research students away from such an approach, and I don't think that the grounded theory tradition originally envisioned this. It was more hermeneutic, as one can see preserved a bit in the German- developed qual analysis software Atlas.ti . As such this style of qual analysis seeks an on-going refinement of categories by a back-and- forth, perhaps even a dialectic, with the primary data. So it is a procedure to facilitate this cycling, from interpretation of data in its own terms (a bit more EM), through interpretation in relation to the categories-so-far, to revision of the category system, to re- interpretation in relation to the new category system, rubbing up against the original text data, etc. etc.

I think that in some ways this hermeneutic helps to bridge between EM and FA, without becoming quite so embroiled in the politics of who- trumps-whom. Michael Roth, and some of the California EM people have argued by asymmetry for EM to be in a way "meta" to FA. And there is an interesting truth in that, which I find most congenially in Latour's version, though it is common to most so-called "practice theories": that the primary work of making meaning through action (including discourse and representational/mediational practices) in some sense underlies the construction and use of all abstracted categories in FA. But despite the sometimes painful contortions of language that EM forces itself to, you just can't do the work of meaning making without already having and using a lot of higher-order categorical or category-like abstractions. Semiosis is based on linking or contextualizing, putting A in relation to B (by way of C, pace Peirce) and it jumps or slides along the cline from concrete to abstract and back again as we make meaning.

I am happy to agree that the analysis of practice ought to always be part of the More whenever any FA is done, and to criticize when that does not happen, and especially when its absence leads to uncritical reifications or missed alternative interpretations and insights. But I don't think the metaphors that describe FA as built on the foundations of EM or practices, or as being a meta-analytic methodology that subsumes all possible FAs, are quite so helpful. What we have here is not unlike the old debates about macro-social forces or structures vs. micro-social practices and actions. EM takes the high ground when it argues about "methodology", because clearly all doing-science is also just plain doing. But EM also poses to some extent, heartily denied all round, as a theory of social action and meaningful social doings. Theories are not just descriptions or explanations, they are also paradigms of what matters and how to make sense of them. Theories and methodologies are as entwined as ends and means; they come in pairs, inseparable and pretty much meaningless if disconnected -- or perhaps I should say they mean different things when differently paired. If you've ever taught a course on pure method, you probably know this. We may call it the same method, but it does not work the same way or mean the same thing outside of some paradigm-connection to a theory.

So, no master theories, and no master methods. A hermeneutic spiral staircase of mutually supporting and mutually subverting category- mediated and practice-focused modes of analysis. I think. For now. ;-)


Jay Lemke
Educational Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

On Mar 10, 2009, at 6:19 PM, Martin Packer wrote:


When you say coding in CA, are you refering to the identification of an utterance as, for example, the first part of a two-part pair? I don't view
this as coding, but rather as a step in an ongoing articulation of the
organization of the conversation, in which component parts will be
identified in sequential and material context, always subject to revision as more of the conversation is considered. I think of coding, as for instance in grounded theory, as a practice of abstraction and generalization in which the codes replace the original data with abstract categories which are then
compared to produce more abstract features and kinds. In this kind of
approach the researcher writes notes or memos not about the data but about the categories. The data becomes merely an 'illustration' of the categories, and the end result is a 'theory' that takes the form of stated regularities among categories. The data, in all its richness and complexity, is left far
behind. CA is a very different approach.

Thanks for pointing to the Livingston book. I too find Ethnomethodology's Program very useful, both the book and the 1996 article with the same name.
Anne Rawls (she is the daughter of John Rawls) is writing some very
interesting pieces of EM, linking it to a fresh interpretation of Durkheim's
sociological project and his objections to Kant. Some references:

Garfinkel, H. (1996). Ethnomethodology's program. Social Psychology
Quarterly, 59(1), 5-21.
Rawls, A. W. (1996). Durkheim's epistemology: The neglected argument. The
American Journal of Sociology, 102(2), 430-482.
Rawls, A. W. (1998). Durkheim's challenge to philosophy: Human reason
explained as a product of enacted social practice. The American Journal of
Sociology, 104(3), 887-901.
Rawls, A. W. (2006). Respecifying the study of social order: Garfinkel's transition from theoretical conceptualization to practices in detail. In H. Garfinkel & A. W. Rawls (Eds.), Seeing sociologically: The routine grounds
of social action (pp. 1-98): Paradigm Publishers.


On 3/8/09 8:29 PM, "Ed Wall" <ewall@umich.edu> wrote:


       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.
ignores or denies, importantly, the intrinsic plurality or ambiguity
events/actions, and their reciprocal relations with context. Both of
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
from its sequential and material context.

These are reasons why I have always been more drawn to
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,"
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
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
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
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
the "present-practice-produce" paradigm of lessons here in Korea
along the
lines of his graphico-semiotic functions "getting attention--
information--checking integration".

It's a VERY powerful way of looking at lessons: it explains why
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
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
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
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
analysis of the Jens data but even more strongly at the end in her
of, and even her refusal to analyze, the Halime data) is her emic
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
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",
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,
distinction between master and slave.

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

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
so I can't put the remarks in that context. I presume you're not
that one ought to categorize Danish culture as pathologically
or nasty. I don't understand how that kind of appeal to "what we in
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,
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
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
Party. This party, which has been shown to be infilitrated by
neo-Nazi organizations like Combat 18, opposes all forms of
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
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
limits must be introduced for group rapes because the problem only
with the vandalism of the many anti-social second-generation

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
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
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
David!) called Neighborhoods of the Plantation which begins with a
from Walter Benjamin on immigration and borders as a means of
"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
parties ot the treat it is the same line that may not be crossed.
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

David Kellogg
Seoul National University of Education

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list

xmca mailing list