Garfinkel, Sacks and Formal Structures: Collaborative Origins, Divergences and the History of Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Human Studies 42 (2):183-198 (2019)


In this essay, I discuss the relationship between Garfinkel’s Studies in Ethnomethodology and subsequent developments in ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. I argue that a point of continuity in ethnomethodology and CA, which marks both as radically different from long-standing traditions in Western philosophy and social science, is the claim that social order is evidently produced in ongoing activities, and that no specialized theory or methodology is necessary for making such order observable and accountable. In the half-century following the publication of Studies, Garfinkel explicitly aimed to radicalize ethnomethodology’s stance toward what he called “formal” or “classical” treatments of social order, while much of CA pursued the path of an empirical social science that became increasingly integrated with other branches of social science. Nevertheless, I argue, Garfinkel’s radical initiatives are not completely out of play in ethnomethodological conversational analysis, and the potential remains for further elucidating, exemplifying, and developing them.

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References found in this work

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.Thomas S. Kuhn - 1962 - University of Chicago Press.
Lectures on Conversation.Harvey Sacks & Gail Jefferson - 1995 - Human Studies 18 (2):327-336.
Indexical Expressions.Yehoshua Bar-Hillel - 1954 - Mind 63 (251):359-379.

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