Ethnomethodological methods for identity and culture

Stokoe, E. and Attenborough, F. (2014) Ethnomethodological methods for identity and culture. In: Researching Identity and Interculturality. Routledge, London, pp. 89-109. ISBN 9781322157979

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This chapter sets out an ethnomethological approach to the study of topics like ‘identity’ and ‘culture’. Drawing on examples from previous studies of domestic, workplace and other settings, we show that and how an ethnomethodological approach eschews any kind of analyst-driven (and predetermined) theory of what ‘identity’ and ‘culture’ are, in favour of a search for how speakers and writers come to develop, invoke and orient to their own, participant-driven (and contextually dependent) theories of what ‘identity’ and ‘culture’ are whilst interacting with other speakers and writers (see Attenborough, 2011; Attenborough & Stokoe, 2012; Stokoe, 2009; Stokoe, Benwell & Attenborough, 2013). In order to explain this approach, we have divided the chapter into two sections. In the fi rst, we look at how the empirical investigation of these topics takes place from the perspective of two ethnomethodologically informed methods: conversation analysis (CA) and membership categorisation analysis (MCA). Working with these methods, we foreground the importance of identity categories to and for co-interactants in a particular sequence of data where someone’s identity is at stake (see Extract 1). In so doing, we point to the way in which the cultural meanings carried by categories are never innately given, but rather moulded and shaped around the social and cultural action(s) being attempted in that particular sequence of interaction (for a different approach, see Baynham, this volume). The take-away ethnomethodological message here, we go on to suggest, is that culture is never just ‘culture’, but is always ‘culture-in-action’, where much of that action is performed in and through the various identity categories that people invoke during local, and contextually specifi c, forms of social interaction (also see Kadianaki, O-Sullivan & Gillespie, this volume). In the chapter’s second section, we build on this observation by looking in detail at two particular ways in which identity categories can be deployed systematically so as to accomplish social action(s): fi rst, we show how certain kinds of identity may be made relevant to actions such as ‘complaining’ and ‘denial’ (Extracts 2-5); second, we illustrate the ways that identity categories produce culture in affiliative accounts of various kinds, as component features of ‘categorial practices’ (Extracts 6-9). Overall, we hope to give readers a clear sense of how to use conversation analysis and membership categorisation analysis in order to catch phenomena such as culture and identity ‘in flight’, as it were, in the categories that people develop, invoke and orient to whilst pursuing social actions of various kinds.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions: School of Humanities
Depositing User: Dr Frederick Attenborough
Date Deposited: 05 Aug 2019 09:04
Last Modified: 05 Aug 2019 09:07

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