Sociology 4033


This seminar course will focus on some recent interpretive approaches to the social sciences. It is hoped that this will provide a strategic context in which to assess the contributions and limitations of the various theories and perspectives studied in your previous courses in sociology. Our principal point of entry into these issues will be: (a) Phenomenonology, (b) Ethnomethodology, and (c) related forms of Discourse Analysis.

A recent debate, which will serve as a probe is that of Macro-Micro relations, the relation between immediately observable talk or activity and the social context in which it take place. The essential questions include: How do the day-to-day practices and experiences of individuals relate to the larger social context - variously label d `social structure', `institutions', systems of inequality, etc.? To what extent do these `structures' or `social facts' determine how we act and think in our daily lives? Or, conversely, to what extent do these `structures' essentially depend on those everyday, detailed activities accomplished in immediate social situations? Also, in what ways can those `structures' be changed through people's concrete actions and critical consciousness? In fact, Macro theories have often been criticized by Interpretive perspectives for ignoring what people actually do in immediate situations _ how people creatively interpret what is happening, construct and improvise their activities and make decisions moment-to-moment. On the other hand, Micro theorists are accused of ignoring the constraints arising from the wider social structures and system of power, the economy etc.

We shall begin with an examination of the most recent and sophisticated interpretive perspective - ETHNOMETHODOLOGY. This studies the rational and orderly character of everyday activities with respect to the procedures whereby ordinary members of society (as connoted by "ethno-") make sense of and construct them (as indicated by "-methodology") in concrete situations. In short, the central interest is in members' practical actions and practical reasoning.

This emphasis opens up a whole domain of social action systematically ignored by conventional sociology, such as Functionalism. Instead of taking `social facts' and `social structures' as givens. Ethnomethodology examines them as `ongoing accomplishments' of how people organize their everyday activities. Inquiring into how people co truct their activities such as to make them recognizable and observable for one another is the basis of a significant and increasingly influential critique of mainstream sociology.

Following this, we shall take a selective look at related forms of DISCOURSE ANALYSIS, in terms of both talk and texts. A central concern is with the types of meanings and social actions accomplished through particular uses of language. Discourse, for our purposes, refers to any extended linguistic production whether in the form of talk ( in courts or classrooms, TV interviews) or text (printed or electronic). In this connection, we shall consider some work by Dorothy E. Smith concerning what she terms "textually-mediated social relations". Again, a central question is: in what ways can a detailed study of sequential, syntactic and rhetorical features of language use contribute to our understanding of Macro processes? This is part of the more general concern with "the social organization of knowledge" in terms of the ways in which much of our knowledge in society is mediated and controlled through texts.


As this course is a seminar, you are expected to keep up with the readings such that you are prepared to discuss their major arguments critically. Although the final grade will be based directly on the two essays, seminar participation will also influence that mark.

Evaluation is based equally on two major essays, each of which should be approximately 10-15 pages each, computer-processed or typewritten.

In connection with both of them, you will be required to make an informal presentation to the class on work-in-progress for general discussion and feedback.

DUE DATES: February 22d. and March 27th.

The Instructor is editing a set of articles to be distributed and for which a modest photocopying charge will be levied.

TOPICS & READINGS: (provisional - to be modifed according to interests)

Phenomenological Backdrop:
Schutz, Alfred (1962). Common-Sense and Scientific Interpretations of Human Action.

1. Weeks, Peter (1995). Ethnomethodology. 6th. edition.

Conversation Analysis in General:
1. Relevant section of Weeks, Peter (1995). Ethnomethodology. 6th. edition.

2. Schegloff, Emanuel, Gail Jefferson, & Harvey Sacks (1977). The Preference for Self- Correction in the Organization of Repair in Conversation (Selections on pp. 361, 362, 364-369, 375-381). Language, 53.

3. Transcript Extracts: The Preference for Self-Correction.

4. Schegloff, Emanuel A.(1991). Reflections on Talk and Social Structure. In Boden, Deidre & Don H. Zimmerman (eds.), Talk and Social Structure: Studies in Ethnomethodology (pp. 44-70). Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ethnomethodological Studies of Work:
Selections to be announced.

Classroom Talk:
1. Weeks, Peter A.D. (1994). The Quest for Reasonableness and Reasoning in a Mathematics Lesson. Occasional Paper, Department of Sociology, University of Manchester (Shorter Version).

Courts & Hearings:
1. Extracts from Lynch, Michael & David Bogen (1996). The Spectacle of History: Speech, Text, and Memory at the Iran-Contra Hearings. Durham: Duke University Press. E876 L96.

1. Clayman, Steven E. (1992). Footing in the Achievement of Neutrality: The Case of News-Interview Discourse. In Drew, Paul & John Heritage, eds., Talk at Work: Interaction in Institutional Settings. Cambridge University Press.

2. Other selections T.B.A. Other Settings: Reality Disjunctures: 1. from Cuff, E.C. (1994). Problems of Versions in Everyday Situations. Boston, MA: International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis/University Press of America. 2. from Eglin, Peter (1979). Resolving Reality Disjunctures on Telegraph Avenue: A Study of Practical Reasoning. Canadian Journal of Sociology, 4: 359-377.

3. from Dorothy Smith (1990), "The Active Text: A Textual Analysis of the Social Relations of Public Textual Discourse", chapter 5 in Texts, Facts, and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling. London & New York: Routledge.

Textual Analysis:
1. Smith, Dorothy E. (1990). Textually Mediated Social Organization. In Texts, Facts, and Femininity (pp. 209-224). New York: Routledge.

(Other selections to be announced later)

1006 Introduction to Sociology
2313 Deviance
2513 Sociology of Communication
2613 Sociology of Gender
3013 Classical Sociological Theory
3023 Modern Sociological Theory
3513 Sociology of Education
3523 Sociology of Knowledge
3563 Sociology of Music
3573 Sociology of Art & Culture
4013 Senior Seminar
4033 Advanced Sociological Theory

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