On the Sociological Relevance of Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: Booth 62
Oral Presentation
Ilkka ARMINEN , Social Research, University of Helsinki, University of Helsinki, Finland
Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis has occasionally been criticized of lack of sociological relevance. However, I will suggest that it has minimally sociological potential because of three grounds: 1) ability to identify and detail social action, 2) provide a micro/macro linkage between action and social structure, and 3) be sensitive to social change by identifying new kinds of actions. CA analyzes the ways in which participants in interaction form a joint focus of attention, where the perception of perceiving formation of a joint focus forms the basis of a joint social action. Therefore, the analysis of a sequential accomplishment of action in interaction allows CA to explore emerging social actions. Most of the CA studies are not essentially sociological, they explore sequential properties as such, or topicalize them from an interactional linguistics point of view. CA’s sociological potential is eminent in such studies where social categories become procedurally relevant for the achievement of action (e.g., C Goodwin on Rodney King trial). In as much as CA studies decipher and reverse engineer the constitutive socio-structural resources for the activities in interaction, they themselves provide evidence of the structuration in force. The analysis of the ways in social structures become demonstrably relevant and consequential for formation of action, provides CA's answer to the duality of social structure, i.e., that structure exists only through its structuration (e.g. Knorr-Cetina on global micro-structures). The sensitivity to the defining details of the constitution of social action enables CA to become sensitive social action. Following strictly its procedures, CA ends up describing in detail the semiotic resources that become relevant in the formation of situated social action.  This situated sensitivity to details of social action makes possible to discern new kinds of actions indicating social change, or its potential (i.e., Licoppe on connected presence, Kitzinger on heteronormativity in interaction).