"The Studies are Probably the Best Thing That Garfinkel Ever Wrote." Michael Lynch in Conversation With Dominik Gerst, Hannes Krämer & René Salomon


  • Michael Lynch Cornell University
  • Dominik Gerst University Duisburg-Essen
  • Hannes Krämer University Duisburg-Essen
  • René Salomon University of Würzburg




ethnomethodology, conversation analysis, history of American sociology, science and technology studies, epistemics, practice theory


Michael LYNCH is widely known as one of the key figures of ethnomethodology. In this interview, he takes the discussion of GARFINKEL's "Studies in Ethnomethodology" (1967) as an opportunity to take the reader back to California in the 1970s as he shares his personal story of how he became acquainted with Harold GARFINKEL and ethnomethodology as a radical approach on the rise. LYNCH provides an account of ethnomethodology as a distinctive way of researching, writing, talking; which stands in high contrast to conventional social sciences and, which not only has been marginalized by the sociological mainstream at the time it came up, but may be seen as endangered nowadays. As he says in the interview, the tense relationship between ethnomethodology and conversation analysis as a robust field of inquiry can be traced back to this question as well. He reflects upon GARFINKELs central intellectual resources—namely phenomenology and the philosophy of WITTGENSTEIN—and shows how his own work embraces the relationships of ethnomethodology with science and technology studies and actor-network theory. Giving insights into how his work is driven by a confrontation of social theory and philosophy with empirical concreteness, LYNCH discusses concepts such as practice and knowledge which may be seen as in-between-phenomena within this confrontation. Finally, he suggests to continuously reread GARFINKEL's "Studies in Ethnomethodology" as the book provides a rich resource of ideas which especially become productive in light of own research.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biographies

Michael Lynch, Cornell University

Michael LYNCH, born 1948 in New York, professor emeritus at the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. After studying sociology at the State University of New York he gained a PhD from UCI for an ethnographic study of day-to-day research practices in a neuroscience laboratory in 1978-1979. After a visiting postdoctoral fellowship at the Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, he received a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA. Thereafter he taught at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. In 1987, he took up a position in sociology at Boston University, Massachusetts, and since 1993 he worked in the Department of Human Sciences at Brunel University in West London. In 1999 he took up a position in the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University, New York. His research interests include ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, science and technology studies, social theory and philosophy of the social sciences.

Dominik Gerst, University Duisburg-Essen

Dominik GERST, born 1986 in Kassel, studied sociology and German philology at the Georg-August University in Göttingen, Germany. From 2014-2016 he received a doctoral scholarship in the post-graduate program "Perceiving and Negotiating Borders in Talk." Until September 2018 he was research associate in the research group "Border & Boundary Studies" at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. Since October 2018 he is research associate at the Institute for Communication Studies at the University Duisburg-Essen, Germany. In his dissertation project at the faculty of cultural and social studies at the Viadrina he is working on border knowledge in the German-Polish field of security. His research interests are border & boundary studies; ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, esp. membership categorization analysis; sociology of knowledge; qualitative methodology.

Hannes Krämer, University Duisburg-Essen

Hannes KRÄMER, born 1980 in Weimar, studied communication studies and social sciences at the universities of Duisburg-Essen, Germany, Maynooth, Ireland, and Bern, Switzerland. He was research associate at the excellence cluster 16 at the University Konstanz, Germany. He received his PhD in 2013 for his work on creative work at the faculty of cultural and social studies at the European-University Viadrina. From 2014-2016 he led the research project "Temporal Boundaries of the Presence" and afterwards he led the research group "Border & Boundary Studies" and was scientific coordinator at the Viadrina Center B/ORDERS IN MOTION. Since 2018 he is professor of communication in institutions and organizations at the University Duisburg-Essen. His research interests are studies of work and organization; cultural sociology; practice theory and micro-sociology; border & boundary studies; sociology of time; mobility studies; ethnography.

René Salomon, University of Würzburg

René SALOMON, born 1976, member of faculty and researcher at the chair for general sociology at the Julius-Maximilians-University Würzburg. Research interests: practice and systems theories; qualitative methodology; sociology of knowledge.




How to Cite

Lynch, M., Gerst, D., Krämer, H., & Salomon, R. (2019). "The Studies are Probably the Best Thing That Garfinkel Ever Wrote." Michael Lynch in Conversation With Dominik Gerst, Hannes Krämer & René Salomon. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.2.3251

Most read articles by the same author(s)