There Is No Objective Subjectivity in the Study of Social Interaction
The variant of ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis (CA) represented and advocated by Emanuel A. SCHEGLOFF pursues the goal of analyzing discourse in a strictly empiricist manner that excludes the impact of the researcher's subjective "preoccupations" and "presuppositions" from the investigative process. This paper outlines the SCHEGLOFFian research strategy and characterizes it as representing a methodologist—as opposed to naïve—variant of epistemological realism. It is argued that this approach, while avoiding circularity, fails to make feasible an "account of the object itself" (SCHEGLOFF 1997a, p.174). This line of argument is illustrated by its practical consequences apropos one of CA's classical themes, viz. conversational repair (cf. SCHEGLOFF, JEFFERSON & SACKS 1977). It is demonstrated that conversation analytic data analysis presupposes decisions concerning the selection, the preparation, and the (re)presentation of the data that influence the analytic results but that cannot be justified empirically. Accordingly, the adequacy of conversation analytic findings hinges on "the practical purposes" of the processes that yield those findings rather than its correspondence with discourse as "an internally grounded reality of its own" (SCHEGLOFF 1997a, p.171). This conclusion applies the ethnomethodological insight in the locally constructed nature of social interaction and reality to social science itself.
epistemology; methodologism; realism; ethnomethodology; conversation analysis; Emanuel A. SCHEGLOFF; conversational repair