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The notion of member is the heart of the matter : on the role of membership knowledge in ethnomethodological inquiry

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Have, Paul ten

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Abstract In ethnomethodological inquiries, the tension between "subjectivity" and "objectivity" which is inherent in all qualitative social research, takes special meanings. In fact, those terms are rarely used in ethnomethodological research reports, or methodological writings. What is widely implied and often explicitly recognised, however, is that an ethnomethodologist has to "understand" the practices studied, before they can be analysed, and that this "understanding" involves the researcher using his or her "membership knowledge". In a way, this unavoidable use of membership knowledge for understanding what people are doing, is then turned from a implicit resource into an explicit topic for analysis. This can be illustrated by a consideration of the two research strategies for which ethnomethodology has become (ill-) famous, the "breaching experiments" initiated by its founder Harold GARFINKEL, and the use of recordings and transcripts of verbal interaction by ethno-methodology's most successful off-shoot, Conversation Analysis as initiated by Harvey SACKS. Varieties of a third strategy, ethnography, including the ethnography of specific (sub-) cultural practices, of technology use, and auto-ethnography, will also be discussed for its
Keywords objectivity; subjectivity; ethnomethodology; research; method
Classification Social History, Historical Social Research
Document language English
Publication Year 2005
Page/Pages p. 28-53
Journal Historical Social Research, 30 (2005) 1
ISSN 0172-6404
Status Published Version; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works