Human Studies

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 209–221 | Cite as

An Intellectual Remembrance of Harold Garfinkel: Imagining the Unimaginable, and the Concept of the “Surveyable Society”

  • Douglas W. Maynard

In October 2011, a commemoration of Harold Garfinkel’s life and achievements was held at the University of California, Los Angeles, where Garfinkel had been a professor for the duration of his career. I presented a version of this intellectual remembrance at that event. My purpose was and is to recount aspects of a collaborative research experience with Garfinkel when he visited my home department (Sociology) at the University of Wisconsin during the spring semester of 1990, and to convey something of his remarkable presence and intellectual personage. Assuming Garfinkel is known mostly through his nonpareil writings and contributions to the social sciences, I mean to provide a different view, something a little closer and more personal but still about his ultimate and deeply sociological concerns.

The visit in 1990 was the longest of three separate occasions over the years after his 1987 retirement from UCLA when he was free to spend time in our department. During this particular...


Survey Research Practical Action Answer Category Ordinary Activity Survey Enterprise 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



My thanks go to Steve Clayman, Virginia Gill, Tim Halkowski, and Nora Cate Schaeffer for extremely helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.


  1. Briggs, C. L. (1986). Learning how to ask: A sociolinguistic appraisal of the role of the interview in social science research. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Cicourel, A. V. (1974). Theory and method in a study of argentine fertility. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  3. Evans-Pritchard, E. E. (1937). Witchcraft, oracles, and magic among the Azande. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  4. Fowler, F. J. Jr., & Mangione, T. W. (1989). Standardized survey interviewing: Minimizing interviewer-related error. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  5. Garfinkel, H. (1967). Studies in ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  6. Garfinkel, H. (1996). Ethnomethodology’s program. Social Psychology Quarterly, 59, 5–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Garfinkel, H. (2002). Ethnomethodology’s program. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  8. Garfinkel, H. (n.d.). Sources of issues and ways of working: An introduction to the study of naturally organized ordinary activities. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  9. Garfinkel, H., & Sacks, H. (1970). On formal structures of practical actions. In J. D. McKinney & E. A. Tiryakian (Eds.), Theoretical sociology (pp. 337–366). New York: Appleton-Century Crofts.Google Scholar
  10. Gubrium, J. F., & Holstein, J. A. (2002). From the individual interview to the interview society. In J. F. Gubrium & J. A. Holstein (Eds.), Handbook of interview research: Context & method (pp. 3–32). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  11. Halkowski, T. (2012). Approximation elicitors and accountability in the pursuit of amounts. Unpublished manuscript, University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.Google Scholar
  12. Horgan, M. (2004). ‘What Would You Say?’ Some practices for answering questions in telephone survey interviews. Unpublished master’s thesis, Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI.Google Scholar
  13. Lynch, M. (2011a, July 13). Harold Garfinkel obituary: Sociologist who delved into the minutiae of daily life. The Guardian, London.Google Scholar
  14. Lynch, M. (2011b). Harold Garfinkel (29 October 1917-21 April 2011): A remembrance and reminder. Social Studies of Science, 41, 927–942.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Malcolm, N. (1962). Ludwig Wittgenstein: A memoir. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Maynard, D. W., & Schaeffer, N. C. (2000). Toward a sociology of social scientific knowledge: Survey research and ethnomethodology’s asymmetric alternates. Social Studies of Science, 30, 264–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Mishler, E. G. (1986). Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Rawls, A. W. (2002). Editor’s introduction. In H. Garfinkel (Ed.), Ethnomethodology’s program (pp. 1–76). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
  19. Schaeffer, N. C. (1991). Conversation with a purpose—Or conversation? Interaction in the Standardized Survey. In P. P. Biemer, R. M. Groves, L. E. Lyberg, N. A. Mathiowetz, & S. Sudman (Eds.), Measurement errors in surveys (pp. 367–391). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  20. Schaeffer, N. C., & Dykema, J. (2011). Response 1 to Fowler’s chapter: Coding the behavior of interviewers and respondents to evaluate survey questions. In J. Madans, K. Miller, A. Maitland, & G. Willis (Eds.), Question evaluation methods: Contributing to the science of data quality (pp. 23–39). Hobken, NJ: Wiley.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Suchman, L., & Jordan, B. (1990). Interactional troubles in face-to-face survey interviews. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 85, 232–241.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Watts, D. J. (2011). Everything is obvious once you know the answer: How common sense fails us. New York: Crown Business.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of WisconsinMadisonUSA

Personalised recommendations