Understanding a Dispute About Ethnomethodology: Watson and Sharrock's Response to Atkinson's "Critical Review"

Martyn Hammersley


Since its emergence, ethnomethodology has been subject to a succession of disputes, prompted both by external commentaries and by internal divisions. Often, the external commentaries have been rejected as displaying gross misconceptions about the character of ethnomethodology, and these misconceptions have frequently been all too evident. In this article I examine a less well-known case where the external commentary—a "critical review" by Paul ATKINSON—displayed considerable understanding of, and indeed appreciation for, ethnomethodological work; albeit alongside some criticism, and an argument for the fruitfulness of combining elements of ethnography and ethnomethodology. It also connected with some disputes internal to ethnomethodology. The response to this review was, nevertheless, sharp rejection. This was on the grounds that ethnomethodology is fundamentally different from the "constructive analysis" characteristic of conventional ethnography, and qualitative research more generally. The arguments on each side make this a particularly illuminating dispute.


ethnomethodology; ethnography; perspectivism; incommensurability

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.1.3048

Copyright (c) 2019 Martyn Hammersley

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