“The Very Act of Cutting”

Ethnomethodology, Interaction and the Emic–Etic Debate

in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
Restricted Access
Get Access to Full Text
Rent on DeepDyve

Have an Access Token?

Enter your access token to activate and access content online.

Please login and go to your personal user account to enter your access token.


Have Institutional Access?

Access content through your institution. Any other coaching guidance?


In the course of the emic–etic debate in the scientific study of religion\s, two complexes—insider–outsider and emic–etic—have increasingly become entangled. Taken against this backdrop, this article argues that ethnomethodology provides a methodological and epistemological outlook on these two complexes that can support efforts to disentangle them. Based on the discussion of ethnomethodological studies, I trace this outlook back to ethnomethodology’s focus on observable social interaction as dynamic, situational, and directed toward the public. This focus rejects the preoccupation with what is going on “inside people’s heads,” and thus underlines the methodological and epistemological redundancy of the insider–outsider distinction. Finally, I maintain that ethnomethodology and the majority of strands within the scientific study of religion\s are jointly rooted in an emic standpoint that concentrates on the study of specific contexts and interactions, and seeks to avoid generalized a priori classifications.

“The Very Act of Cutting”

Ethnomethodology, Interaction and the Emic–Etic Debate

in Method & Theory in the Study of Religion



AlbertiBenjaminFowlesSeverinHolbraadMartinMarshallYvonneWitmoreChristopher “Worlds otherwise”: Archaeology, anthropology, and ontological difference Current Anthropology 2011 52 6 896 912

AyaßRuthMeyerChristian AyaßRuthMeyerChristian “Alles Soziale besteht aus verschiedenen Niveaus der Objektivierung”: Ein Gespräch mit Thomas Luckmann Sozialität in Slow Motion: Theoretische und empirische Perspektiven 2012 Wiesbaden Springer 21 39

BeckfordJames A. “Start together and finish together”: Shifts in the premises and paradigms underlying the scientific study of religion Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 2000 39 4 481 495

BergerPeter L.LuckmannThomas The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge [1966] 1991 London Penguin

BragaCorin Carlos Castaneda: The uses and abuses of ethnomethodology and emic studies Journal for the Study of Religions 2010 9 27 71 106

ButtonGraham Ethnomethodology and the Human Sciences 1991 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

CancikHubertGladigowBurkhard CancikHubertGladigowBurkhardKohlKarl-Heinz Gegenstände und wissenschaftlicher Kontext von Religionswissenschaft Handbuch religionswissenschaftlicher Grundbegriffe 1988 volume I Stuttgart Kohlhammer 26 40

CastanedaCarlos A Separate Reality: Further Conversations with Don Juan 1971 New York Washington Square Press

CicourelAaron V. Cognitive Sociology: Language and Meaning in Social Interaction 1974 New York The Free Press

De MilleRichard The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies 1980a Santa Barbara Ross-Erikson Publishers

De MilleRichard De MilleRichard Ethnomethodallegory: Garfinkeling in the wilderness The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies 1980b Santa Barbara Ross-Erikson Publishers 68 90

De MilleRichard DuerrHans Peter Lottergerede über Castaneda Der Wissenschaftler und das Irrationale 1981 Frankfurt am Main Syndikat 386 393

DingwallRobert LehnDirk vom Foreword Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology 2014 Walnut Creek, CA Left Coast Press 7 9

DurkheimEmile Les forms élémentaires de la vie religieuse [1912] 2003 Paris PUF

DurkheimEmile Les règles de la methode sociologique [1894] 2004 Paris PUF

FlemmingIsabelle M. BirxH. James Ethnography and ethnology 21st Century Anthropology: A Reference Handbook 2010 Thousands Oaks, CA Sage 153 162

FlynnPierce J. The Ethnomethodological Movement: Sociosemiotic Interpretations 1991 Berlin and New York Mouton de Gruyter

GarfinkelHarold RawlsAnne Warfield Seeing Sociologically: The Routine Grounds of Social Action [1948] 2006 Boulder, CO Paradigm Publishers

GarfinkelHarold Studies in Ethnomethodology 1967 Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice-Hall

GarfinkelHarold A comparison of decisions made on four “pre-theoretical” problems by Talcott Parsons and Alfred Schuetz 1972 Unpublished paper. University of California at Los Angeles.

GarfinkelHaroldSacksHarvey McKinneyJohn C.TiryakianEdward A. On formal structures of practical actions Theoretical Sociology: Perspectives and Developments 1970 New York Appleton Century Crofts 337 366

GeertzClifford The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays 1973 New York Basic Books

HarrisMarvin Cultural Materialism: The Struggle for a Science of Culture [1979] 2001 Walnut Creek, CA Altamira Press

HavePaul ten The notion of member is the heart of the matter: On the role of membership knowledge in ethnomethodological inquiry Historical Social Research / Historische Sozialforschung 2005 30 1 28 53

HavePaul ten ChapelleCarol A. Conversation analysis and ethnomethodology The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics 2013 [Accessed October 6 2014] Oxford, UK Wiley-Blackwell (online: doi: 10.1002/9781405198431.wbeal1337).

HeadlandThomas N.PikeKenneth L.HarrisMarvin Emics and Etics: The Insider/Outsider Debate 1990 Newbury Park, CA Sage

HilbertRichard A. The Classical Roots of Ethnomethodology: Durkheim Weber and Garfinkel 1992 Chapel Hill and London The University of North Carolina Press

HolbraadMartin Ontography and alterity: Defining anthropological truth Social Analysis 2009 53 2 80 93

JeffersonGail Harvey Sacks: Lectures on Conversation 1995 Oxford Blackwell

KippenbergHans G.StuckradKocku von Einführung in die Religionswissenschaft 2003 Munich C.H. Beck

KrechVolkhard Wohin mit der Religionswissenschaft? Skizze zur Lage der Religionsforschung und zu Möglichkeiten ihrer Entwicklung Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 2006 58 2 97 113

KurthStefanLehmannKarsten Religionen erforschen: Kulturwissenschaftliche Methoden in der Religionswissenschaft 2011 Wiesbaden VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften

LatourBruno The Pasteurization of France 1993 Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press

LehnDirk vom Harold Garfinkel: The Creation and Development of Ethnomethodology 2014 Walnut Creek, CA Left Coast Press

LibermanKenneth Understanding Interaction in Central Australia: An Ethnomethodological Study of Australian Aboriginal People 1985 Boston and London Routledge and Kegan Paul

LibermanKenneth Dialectical Practice in Tibetan Philosophical Culture: An Ethnomethodological Inquiry Into Formal Reasoning 2004 Lanham, MD Rowman & Littlefield

LibermanKenneth More Studies in Ethnomethodology 2013 Albany, NY State University of New York Press

LynchMichael Art and Artifact in Laboratory Science: A Study of Shop Work and Shop Talk 1985 London Routledge and Kegan Paul

LynchMichael Scientific Practice and Ordinary Action: Ethnomethodology and Social Studies of Science 1993 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

LynchMichael Against reflexivity as an academic virtue and source of privileged knowledge Theory Culture & Society 2000 17 3 26 54

LynchMichael Ontography: Investigating the production of things, deflating ontology Social Studies of Science 2013 43 3 444 462

LynchMichaelSharrockWes Harold Garfinkel: Four Volume Set 2003 Thousands Oaks, CA Sage

MaynardDouglas W.ClaymanSteven E. The diversity of ethnomethodology Annual Review of Sociology 1991 17 385 418

MaynardDouglas W.ClaymanSteven E. ReynoldsLarry T.Herman-KinneyNancy J. Ethnomethodology and conversation analysis The Handbook of Symbolic Interactionism 2003 Walnut Creek, CA Altamira Press 173 202

McCutcheonRussell T. The Insider/Outsider Problem in the Study of Religion: A Reader 1999 London and New York Cassell

MeyerChristian Wer handelt in Trance: Zur Performanz der Geister in den Ritualen der brasilianischen Umbanda Paragrana 2009 18 2 177 197

MeyerChristian MichaelsAxel Performing spirits: Shifting agencies in Brazilian Umbanda rituals Ritual Dynamics and the Science of Ritual volume II: Body Performance Agency Experience 2010 Wiesbaden Harrassowitz 35 58

MolAnnemarie The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practices 2002 Durham, NC Duke University Press

MolAnnemarie Mind Your plate! The ontonorms of Dutch dieting Social Studies of Science 2013 43 3 379 396

PalecekMartinRisjordMark Relativism and the ontological turn within anthropology Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2012 43 1 3 23

RawlsAnne Warfield RawlsAnne Warfield Editor’s introduction. Harold Garfinkel 2002 Ethnomethodology’s Program: Working Out Durkheim’s Aphorism 2002 Lanham, Boulder, New York and Oxford Rowman & Littlefield Publishers 1 64

RawlsAnne Warfield Epistemology and Practice: Durkheim’s “The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.” 2004 Cambridge Cambridge University Press

RawlsAnne Warfield RawlsAnne Warfield Respecifying the study of social order: Garfinkel’s transition from theoretical conceptualization to practices in details Seeing Sociologically: The Routine Grounds of Social Action 2006 Boulder, CO Paradigm Publishers 1 97 In Harold Garfinkel [1948] 2006

RenoStephen J. Castaneda and Don Juan: Some preliminary observations Religious Studies 1975 11 4 449 465

SchegloffEmanuel A. JeffersonGail Introduction Harvey Sacks: Lectures on Conversation 1995 Oxford Blackwell ix lxii

SmithJonathan Z. Relating Religion: Essays in the Study of Religion 2004 Chicago The University of Chicago Press

StuckradKocku von Schamanismus und Esoterik: Kultur- und wissenschaftsgeschichtliche Betrachtungen 2003 Leuven Peeters

SudnowDavid Ways of the Hand: The Organization of Improvised Conduct 1978 London Routledge and Kegan Paul

TaylorBrian Conversion and cognition: An area for empirical study in the microsociology of religious knowledge Social Compass 1976 23 1 5 22

ThompsonCharis Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies 2005 Cambridge, MA MIT Press

VermaMichele M. Indo-Caribbean Hindu Practice in Queens: Ethnomethods of Constituting Place Practice and Subjects 2008 New York Columbia University (doctoral dissertation).

Viveiros de CastroEduardo Immanence and fear: Stranger-events and subjects in Amazonia hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2012 2 1 27 43

WhitakerMark P. BarnardAlanSpencerJonathan Reflexivity Encyclopedia of Social and Cultural Anthropology 2002 London and New York Routledge 470 473

WiebeDonald TylochWitold Does understanding religion require religious understanding? Current Progress in the Methodology of the Science of Religions 1984 Warsaw Polish Scientific Publishers 297 308

WoolgarSteveLezaunJavier The wrong bin bag: A turn to ontology in science and technology studies? Social Studies of Science 2013 43 3 321 340

ZnamenskiAndrei A. The Beauty of the Primitive: Shamanism and the Western Imagination 2007 Oxford and New York Oxford University Press


In this regard Hilbert (1992) and Rawls (2004) clearly reject the assumption that ethnomethodology does not align with “classical sociology.” As a matter of fact both authors show that Garfinkel’s distinct research focus on the constitution of social facts is still firmly rooted in the works of Durkheim and Weber.


Content Metrics

Content Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 31 31 13
Full Text Views 105 105 66
PDF Downloads 11 11 2
EPUB Downloads 0 0 0