Sociology Index


Member is a central term in ethnomethodology theory and replaces terms like status position or role in structural theories. From a structural perspective an individual actor is examined according to their structural characteristics (gender, age, ethnicity, class) and is assumed to behave in accordance with these structural characteristics. The subjectivity of the actor is insignificant. The term ‘member’ accomplishes this. Ethnomethodology also refers to membership categories, like teacher, mother, employee, and identifies membership categorization devices and rules of application as a form of ethnomethodological analysis.

Ethnomethodology is specific in explicating the ways, in which a group of members create and maintain a “sense of social structure” (Paul Ten Have 2004), which is an intelligibility and accountable local social order (Garfinkel 1967; Paul Ten Have 2004). The approach was originally developed by Harold Garfinkel, who attributed its origin to his work investigating the conduct of jury members in 1954.

This interest developed out of Garfinkel's critique of Talcott Parsons' attempt to derive a general theory of society. This critique originated in his reading of Alfred Schutz, though Garfinkel ultimately revised many of Schutz's ideas. Garfinkel also drew on his study of the principles and practices of financial accounting; the classic sociological theory and methods of David Emele durkheim and Max Weber.

Competency and participation in acquiring a mastery of language: a reconsideration of the idea of membership - Michael A. Forrester and David Reason. Abstract: For ethnomethodology and conversation analysis the concept of 'member' or 'participant' remains central. The aim of this paper is to consider a number of ideas originally outlined by Garfinkel and Sacks (1970), and by way of extension and clarification, discuss transcript extracts from recorded everyday interactions between two parents and their pre-school child. We close by noting that one of Garfinkel and Sacks' (1970) particular insights was that in displaying mastery of language, speakers display membership, but mastery of language is itself a concerted accomplishment in occasion precisely because speakers display membership by not drawing attention to the fact that they are indeed a member.