jofish22: (hard at work)
I have been trying to write a good definition for ethnomethodology, a field of research founded by Harold Garfinkel, since most of them out there are horribly written and only make sense to people already in the field. Please let me know if this makes sense to you.


Garfinkel was interested in the ways people make sense of the social world around them: the term ethnomethodology comes from ethnos, meaning people – as in ethnobotany, ethnomusicology, ethnoscience and the like – and methodology, refering to the study of the methods that people create and use in their everyday life. Ethnomethodology is not itself a method for studying people; rather, it is a study of peoples’ own methods for making sense of the world. So, much as ethnobotany is the study of the ways a certain group of people make sense of the plant life they deal with every day, ethnomethodology is the study of the ways in which a certain group of people make sense of the people that they deal with everyday.

The influential sociologist Emile Durkheim described these ways of making sense as “social facts”, and stated that they were concrete, that they were objectively real, and proceeded to construct his notion of the the entire field of sociology upon this very principle. Garfinkel’s insight with ethnomethodology is to question that principle: rather than accept these ways of making sense of the social world as being facts, he encourages questioning of these “social facts”, taking these “social facts” apart and trying to understand what makes them tick, and breaking them to see what happens and thereby understanding them more. That, at the core, is what ethnomethodology does.


February 2010

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