Ethnographies of Reason: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ethnographies of Reason

1st Edition

By Eric Livingston


288 pages

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Written by one of the most eminent scholars in the field, Ethnographies of Reason is a unique book in terms of the studies it presents, the perspective it develops and the research techniques it illustrates. Using concrete case study materials throughout, Eric Livingston offers a fundamentally different, ethnographic approach to the study of skill and reasoning. At the same time, he addresses a much neglected topic in the literature, illustrating practical techniques of ethnomethodological research and showing how such studies are actually conducted. The book is a major contribution to ethnomethodology, to social science methodology and to the study of skill and reasoning more generally.


Winner: EM/CA Section's Distinguished Publication Award 2009 'Ethnographies of Reason is an extraordinary book. In a series of simple, beautifully written chapters with many worked examples, reasoning is disclosed as exquisitely skilled practical action that is embedded in, and exploits, physical and contextual constraints, intersections and juxtapositions. This is a profound and riveting study of everyday reason that opens doors into previously quite unexamined social and psychological phenomena.' John Heritage, UCLA, USA 'Ethnographies of Reason is surely one of the most important social science books published in the last fifty years. Livingston shows how to investigate a wide range of skills and the reasoning that accompanies those skills, how to get into the mind- and body-set of doing something, and how those practices are intrinsically social. It should reinvigorate work in machine intelligence and engineering, and philosophical analysis, as well as in empirical studies in sociology and anthropology.' Martin H. Krieger, University of Southern California, USA

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: Reasoning in the wild; Formal reasoning; Psychological experiments. Exercises and Examples: Tangrams; Jigsaw puzzles; A first ethnography; Phenomenology; A toolic world, part 1; Mapping the infinite plane; Lawlike properties of the prismatic field; An exercise in origami; An embodied correspondence; Straightedge and compass constructions. Projects and Techniques: Sociologies of the witnessable order; Found objects; The stack; The doing of things; Precise description; Indirection; Sketch work; Structures of inquiry and corpus-relevant skills; Emergent themes and analogies of practice. Themes and Orientations: Themes, orientations and research directives; Reflexivity; The primacy of the social; The ordinariness of practical action and its production; Praxeological objects; The characterization problem. Epilogue; Appendices; Index of examples.

About the Author

Eric Livingston is Senior Lecturer in Sociology at the University of New England, Australia

About the Series

Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Directions in Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis are cognate approaches to the study of social action that together comprise a major perspective within the contemporary human sciences. Ethnomethodology focuses upon the production of situated and ordered social action of all kinds, whilst Conversation Analysis has a more specific focus on the production and organisation of talk-in-interaction. Of course, given that so much social action is conducted in and through talk, there are substantive as well theoretical continuities between the two approaches. Focusing on social activities as situated human productions, these approaches seek to analyse the intelligibility and accountability of social activities ‘from within’ those activities themselves, using methods that can be analysed and described. Such methods amount to aptitudes, skills, knowledge and competencies that members of society use, rely upon and take for granted in conducting their affairs across the whole range of social life.

As a result of the methodological rewards consequent upon their unique analytic approach and attention to the detailed orderliness of social life, Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis have ramified across a wide range of human science disciplines throughout the world, including anthropology, social psychology, linguistics, communication studies and social studies of science and technology.

This series is dedicated to publishing the latest work in these two fields, including research monographs, edited collections and theoretical treatises. As such, its volumes are essential reading for those concerned with the study of human conduct and aptitudes, the (re)production of social orderliness and the methods and aspirations of the social sciences.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General