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  Away of accounting for the organization of society that relies on description rather than theory, aims for explication rather than explanation, and is concerned with ideographic detail rather than broad generalization. According to Harold Garfinkel (with whom the idea is most closely associated) the ethomethodologist\'s task is to render the familiar strange in order to expose the common-sense understandings and practical reasonings that sustain local social orderings.

Notwithstanding a growing interest in actor-network theory and conversation analysis (two offshoots of ethnomethodological thinking), neither human geographers nor other social scientists concerned with ideas about space, place and Identity have made much self-conscious reference to the ideas and practices of ethnomethodology in the last five years. This reflects at once the marginalization of ethnomethodology in recent social scientific thinking, and the (arguable) success of the project, which is to re-specify social science (and therefore to make it into something else — not geography, not sociology …).

Ethnomethodology is not therefore an \'approach\' which can readily be combined with, pursued alongside or mixed in with other analytical agendas. It is rather a way of radically rethinking the aims and conduct of social research. It is not, for example, interested in ontological debates about the status of social phenomena. (Indeed, it is an alleged indifference to \'given\' objects of concern — \'race\', gender, religion and so on — that has led some social scientists to give ethnomethodology a wide berth.) For the ethnomethodologist, relationships between the world as it \'is\' and as it appears to be are not at issue. The question is \'how does the world appear to be, and how do people make it like this?\' The answer is derived not only by analysts observing a variety of social settings, events and process in meticulous detail, but also by them observing and reflecting on their own activities. This places the analyst outside disciplinary debates on whether particular methods are appropriate for particular investigations. It turns attention instead towards the processes that lead analysts to generate and use particular methods, and to produce particular kinds of results, in particular contexts.

Ethnomethodology is a diverse and contested undertaking which has been much-debated in sociology, psychology and anthropology. It has inspired research traditions concerned with ethnography and discourse analysis, and points the focus of intellectual activity quite squarely on the \'ordinary\' activities of everyday life. These \'ordinary\' activities may be concerned with how people go shopping, how officials construct records, or how scientists create knowledge. (SJS)

Suggested Reading Button, G., ed., 1991: Ethnomethodology and the human sciences. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Garfinkel, H. 1967: Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall (republished 1984, Cambridge: Polity Press). Garfinkel, H. 1996: Ethnomethodology\'s program. Social Psychology Quarterly 59: 5-21. Laurier, E. 1998: Geographies of talk. Area 31: 36-45.



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