Alan Firth
Table of contents

Ethnomethodology is a radical form of sociology that offers a distinctive perspective on the nature and researchability of social order. Ethnomethodologists study the taken-for-granted, commonsense reasoning practices through which members of society coordinate, structure and understand their everyday social activities. Through practical, situated actions, people are seen to create and sustain social order. At core, ethnomethodology is concerned with social action, with intersubjectivity, and with linguistic communication — topics that lie at the heart of pragmatics. In addition to producing a diversified range of percipient and ground-breaking studies in its own right, ethnomethodology in large measure underpins conversation analysis. The insights and foundational ideas of ethnomethodology can be increasingly detected in ethnography, social psychology, cognitive science, and in researches into language and social interaction. Yet despite a growing influence on such areas, ethnomethodological writings can be notoriously difficult to penetrate, particularly for the uninitiated. Due to a general resistance to theorize upon its own unconventional research procedures and findings, the perceived lack of ‘theory’ or ‘method’ (in the accepted senses of the word), and a predilection for a compressed and sometimes jargonistic prose style, ethnomethodology has acquired and maintained a position as a marginalized, and commonly misunderstood, sociological enterprise.

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