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


  • Martyn Hammersley The Open University




ethnomethodology, ethnography, perspectivism, incommensurability


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.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Martyn Hammersley, The Open University

Martyn HAMMERSLEY is emeritus professor of educational and social research at The Open University, UK. He has carried out research in the sociology of education and the sociology of the media. However, much of his work has been concerned with the methodological issues surrounding social enquiry. He has written several books, including (with Paul ATKINSON) "Ethnography: Principles in Practice" (3rd ed., Routledge 2007), "The Dilemma of Qualitative Method" (Routledge, 1989), "The Politics of Social Research" (Sage, 1995), "Reading Ethnographic Research" (2nd ed., Longman 1997), "Taking Sides in Social Research" (Routledge, 2000), "Questioning Qualitative Inquiry" (Sage, 2008), "The Myth of Research-Based Policy and Practice" (Sage 2013), "The Limits of Social Science" (Sage, 2014), and "The Radicalism of Ethnomethodology" (Manchester University Press).




How to Cite

Hammersley, M. (2019). Understanding a Dispute About Ethnomethodology: Watson and Sharrock’s Response to Atkinson’s "Critical Review". Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.1.3048



Single Contributions