“The Very Act of Cutting”

Ethnomethodology, Interaction and the Emic–Etic Debate

In: Method & Theory in the Study of Religion
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  • 1 University of Bern, Institut für Religionswissenschaft, Lerchenweg 36, p.o. Box 3000 Bern 9, Switzerland

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.

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  • 2

    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.

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