Varenne: on Garfinkel's Studies in ethnomethodology

Harold Garfinkel

Studies in ethnomethodology

Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall. 1967.


1. What is Ethnomethodology?

2. Studies of the Routine Grounds of Everyday Activities.

3. Common Sense Knowledge of Social Structures: The Documentary Method of Interpretation in Lay and Professional Fact Finding.

4. Some Rules of Correct Decisions that Jurors Respect.

5. Passing and the Managed Achievement of Sex Status in the Intersexed Person.

6. "Good Organizational Reasons for 'Bad' Clinic Records".

7. Methodological Adequacy in the Quantitative Study of Selection Criteria and Selection Practices in Psychiatric Outpatient Clinics.

8. The Rational Properties of Scientific and Common Sense Activities.



text of pp. 26-31

I suggest, instead, that their written explanations consisted of their attempts to instruct me in how to use what the parties said as a method for seeing what the conversationalists said. I suggest that I had asked the students to furnish me with instructions for recognizing what the parties were actually and certainly saying. (p.29)

They stumbled over the fact that the question of how a person is speaking, the task of describing a person's method of speaking, is not satisfied by, and is not the same as showing that what he said accords with a rule for demonstrating consistency, compatibility, and coherence of meanings. ... "Shared agreement" refers to various social methods for accomplishing the member's recognition that something was said-according-to-a-rule and not the demonstrable matching of substantive matters. The appropriate message of a common understanding is therefore an operation rather than a common intersection of overlapping sets. (author's italics) p.30

The work of achieving and making secure their rights to live in the elected sex status while providing for the possibility of detection and ruin carried out within the socially structured conditions in which this work occurred I shall call "passing". (Garfinkel's italics. p. 118)

Passing: a definition

'Passing' as work (practice, labor) is a fundamental process in which everyone is always involved, and this includes the possibility that anyone can at anytime challenge the identity that we have been working at and which has been the default identity our others (significant or not) have used, is in fact not the identity that others should work with in our future. At any point we can be "discovered" as having always been someone else leading either to degradation or graduation ceremonies (depending on whether the new identity we will now be know for is a positive or negative one within the polity of relevance--thus the importance of the examination)

[full text of Chapter V on passing]

on struggling with a body to build, literally, a body that corresponds to the changed status

One of the most dramatic 'non-game analysable occasions' started with the castration operation and lasted for approximately two months. ... Immediately postoperatively, she developed bilateral thrombophlebitis of the legs, cystitis, contracture of the urethral meatus, and despite the plastic mold which was inserted into the vagina at the time of surgery, a tendency for the vagina outlet to contract. She also required postoperatively several minor surgical procedures for modification of these complications and also to trim the former scrotal tissue to make the external labia appear more normal. Despite the plastic mold, the newly-made vagina canal had a tendency to close and heal, which required intermittent manipulations of the mold and daily dilatations. Not only were all of these conditions painful or otherwise uncomfortable but also, although minor, since they were frequent, they produced increasing worry that the surgical procedure would not end up with the desired result of a normal functioning and appearing set of female genitalia. Although these distressing conditions were carefully (and ultimately successfully) treated, at the time that she was well enough to go home these complications were still not fully resolved... (from footnote 6)

February 2, 2007 [ 2003]