September-October 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 7

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Harold Garfinkel

Harold Garfinkel died on April 21 at his home in Los Angeles, CA. He was 93. With his death, social science has lost one of the great originals of American social theory in the twentieth century. His perspective, expressed in language of radical originality and singular power, has had immense influence across the social sciences and has been widely absorbed into the fabric of sociological theory.

Born into a large Jewish community in Newark, NJ, Garfinkel studied business and accounting at the University of Newark before a burgeoning interest in sociology took him, in 1939, to Howard Odum’s Department at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. There he worked on a study of intra- and interracial homicide trials for a Master’s thesis. The study, later published in Social Forces, showed quite distinctive patterns of trial proceedings for Black-on-White homicides relative to other racial combinations, sharply illuminating the institutionalized racism of South Carolina courts. During the same period, Garfinkel published a short story, “Color Trouble” that described the racial victimization of a woman who refused to move to the back of a Virginia bus. Subsequently anthologized into The Best Short Stories of 1941 (together with literary luminaries Richard Wright, Sherwood Anderson, Graham Greene, and William Faulkner), the story belies Garfinkel’s subsequent reputation as abstruse and obscurantist.

After military service during World War II, Garfinkel entered Harvard on the GI Bill of Rights in 1946 and studied with Parsons in Harvard’s newly formed Department of Social Relations. He was one of several individuals later named by Parsons as part of a “golden age of graduate studies” at the university. His dissertation focused on topics in the theory of action and, in particular, on the understanding and reasoning that inform its construction. This was difficult terrain in 1946. Behaviorist orthodoxy had declared the thoughts and feelings of actors out of bounds to scientific inquiry, and even Parsons, the leading theorist of the “action frame of reference” in 1937, had by 1951 moved to a more systems-oriented approach. However, Garfinkel was inspired by Alfred Schütz’s vision of reasoned action undertaken under conditions of imperfect knowledge, as well as the incongruity procedures pioneered at Harvard in the late 1940s by Bruner and Postman. The latter would form the basis for the first of many “breaching” experiments for which Garfinkel became famous that were designed to expose the forms of reasoning indigenous to the actors’ point of view and implicated in their conduct.

In 1954, Garfinkel was hired by Leonard Broom to the faculty at UCLA. During an interim appointment, he worked with Fred Strodtbeck and Saul Mendlovitz on jury deliberations recorded in Wichita, KS. Here was a domain in which reasoning and the giving of reasons as grounds for judgments was a paramount activity, and Garfinkel coined the term “ethnomethodology” to capture the ways in which the jurors’ reasoning about motives and circumstances was shared, commonsensical, and yet methodical. This ethnomethodological reasoning would be the focus of the large bulk of his research career at UCLA. It was in these years that, with the help of UCLA undergraduates from his classes, he deployed the quasi-experimental breaching procedures that were a prominent feature of his published research.

Studies in ethnomethodology emerged during a time of turmoil and change in the academic social sciences and American society at large. By 1960, cognitive approaches, greatly assisted by advances in computer science, were finally overcoming behaviorist orthodoxy in psychology and beyond. In anthropology, “emic” approaches to indigenous cultural classification were yielding sub-disciplines such as ethnobotany to which, indeed, Garfinkel analogized his own enterprise. At the same time, the “cognitive revolution” was mired in difficulty. Contemporary philosophical debates included powerful arguments against the idea that rule-based systems could be determinative of meaning in language or of the production of action, citing difficulties arising out of the context-based or indexical character of the algorithms driving human reasoning and behavior.

These themes resonated powerfully with the gestalt phenomenology to which Garfinkel had been exposed, first in North Carolina and subsequently in Cambridge. By conjoining them with deceptively simple demonstrations of their consequences in ordinary social life, Garfinkel fashioned a devastating critique of contemporary sociological theory. The indexical nature of reasoning and action, he argued, meant that regardless of whether or not they were “over-socialized” the actors’ behaviors could no longer be credibly viewed as the product of normative determinism. In its place, Garfinkel substituted a vastly more complex process of commonsense reasoning, which he documented with his experimental procedures, as well as an ethnographic study of coroners’ procedures. These studies, taken together, embodied a powerful critique of official statistics and of sociological research methods that relied on administrative data. They also became a core impetus for the constructivist movement in the study of deviance, gender, and other sociocultural phenomena that ultimately reached into the study of organizations and other forms of macrosociology.

In addition to his contributions to the theory of action, and his own subsequent investigations of technical knowledge in the sciences and professions, Garfinkel’s initiatives stimulated wide-ranging empirical work in the sociology of science and, through conversation analysis, the sociology of interaction. Perhaps inevitably, this colossus of practical reasoning could be endearingly impractical. “Oh, is that how it works,” said in tones of wonderment about a commonplace gadget, was a not uncommon response encountered by friends and colleagues. But behind his long struggle to bring practical reasoning under descriptive control was a well-concealed humanistic impulse that, in resisting the possibility of exhaustive description, resisted too the subordination of human initiative to the hegemony of causal explanation. In the course of this struggle, Garfinkel made an imperishable mark on American sociology.

John Heritage, University of California, Los Angeles

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Allen Day Grimshaw

Allen Day Grimshaw, Professor of Sociology Emeritus at Indiana University-Bloomington, died June 15, 2011, at his home, surrounded by family and friends, after a long illness. He was born December 16, 1929, in New York City. He attended high school in Auburn, IN, and began his undergraduate studies in engineering at Purdue University. He completed the AB degree in anthropology and sociology in 1950 at the University of Missouri and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. After service in the Air Force, Allen took his PhD at the University in Pennsylvania in 1959 with a dissertation on urban race riots. He joined the faculty at Indiana University-Bloomington in 1959 as Instructor and retired as Professor of Sociology in 1994.

Allen was a prolific writer, authoring or editing eight books and publishing more than 90 scholarly articles, anchored by the broad themes of peace and justice. Early in his career, Allen’s research centered on social conflict and violence, leading to the volume Racial Violence in the United States (Aldine, 1969). His work later took a cross-cultural turn after fieldwork in India, culminating in a co-edited book, Comparative Social Research (Wiley, 1973).

Allen’s international fieldwork experiences were the genesis of his keen appreciation of the importance of language for social life—and thus for social research. As co-chair of the Social Science Research Council’s Committee on Sociolinguistics, he took on the challenge of educating sociologists, linguists, and linguistic anthropologists about what they could learn from each other. Allen saw language as a critical but often taken-for-granted resource for studies of inequality, conflict resolution, and social interaction. His papers on these subjects were published in Language as Social Resource (Stanford, 1981). Allen combined his interests in social conflict and language in his widely cited, edited volume Conflict Talk (Cambridge, 1990).

Later, Allen turned his attention to professional discourse, and embarked on an influential research project where scholars from different disciplines were asked to analyze the same transcript of a doctoral dissertation defense. The result was publication of the monograph Collegial Discourse: Professional Conversation Among Peers (Ablex, 1989) and the edited volume What’s Going on Here? Complementary Studies of Professional Talk (Ablex, 1994), which continue to be major contributions to the field of sociolinguistics.

Allen taught undergraduate or graduate courses on language, social conflict, social psychology, cross-cultural research methods, the city in India, and war as a social problem. He was named a Lilly Foundation Teaching Fellow in 1983-84. Katherine O’Donnell, whose PhD thesis was directed by Allen, noted, “Allen was an exacting but supportive mentor to graduate students. He was a real ally. He loved hearing our tales from the field and regaled us with his stories, holding court at the ASA and AAA conferences. His disdain for injustice and fascination with language and culture were palpable.”

Allen was deeply involved in building the Department of Sociology at Indiana University to one of the best in the country. He took very seriously the cultivation and evaluation of junior faculty. His deep and imposing voice brought faculty meetings to order and he was usually the first to ask penetrating and challenging questions to job candidates and visiting speakers. Allen was an avid raconteur with a rapier wit that was best appreciated when it was not aimed in your direction.

Allen and his wife, Polly, were generous in their support of Indiana’s Department of Sociology, providing the means to create an endowed professorship and a lecture series that bear their names. Allen was also extremely generous in providing service to Indiana University and to his profession. He chaired numerous committees of the American Sociological Association and served as editor of the American Sociologist and as associate editor of the American Sociological Review and Sociometry.

Allen had to overcome the tragic loss of his daughter Gail in the prime of her life. He supported steadfastly his dearly loved wife, Polly Swift Grimshaw, as she battled and succumbed to a long and painful illness. Allen was also preceded in death by his parents, Austin and Elizabeth Grimshaw, and his sister, Anne Kempers. He is survived by sons, Adam and Andrew, their wives, Ali and Laurie, and his four grandsons.

William A. Corsaro, Indiana University-Bloomington, with help from Katherine O’Donnell, Hartwick College

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Warren N. Kubitschek

It is with deep sorrow that the faculty and students in the Center for Educational Opportunity (CREO) and the Sociology Department mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, Warren Kubitschek, who died on April 3, 2011. Warren’s illness was untimely and brief, leaving us little chance to prepare for missing of an outstanding colleague, wise mentor, expert statistical consultant, knowledgeable data analyst, and quintessential sociologist. But more than that, Warren was a loyal and trusted friend. His gentle, respectful, and humble personality made him beloved by all.

Warren was born in Chicago, received his BA in Sociology from Grinnell College, his MA in Sociology from the University of Akron, and worked toward a PhD in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He began his professional career as an Assistant Professional Specialist at the University of Notre Dame in 1985 and later was promoted to an Associate Professional Specialist. He remained at Notre Dame for the rest of his life.
Warren published several papers in leading sociology journals. Much of his recent work involved collaborative analyses of achievement data that he and Maureen Hallinan collected in the Chicago Catholic schools. This study, funded by the U.S .Department of Education, examined achievement gains in the Chicago Catholic schools. In addition, with data generously provided by Tony Bryk, the Catholic school gains were compared to growth in achievement in the public schools to determine whether the “Catholic school advantage” continues to characterize Catholic schools. In addition to this study, Warren served as project manager and statistical advisor for a set of analyses examining ability group effects on student friendship and achievement

Warren’s work mentoring graduate students provided a sterling example of his high academic standards. He patiently explained advanced statistical techniques to students while gently insisting that they ask interesting sociological questions as they undertook their master’s and dissertation theses. He was equally helpful to faculty to the point where everyone in CREO benefited from Warren’s statistical and computer expertise at some point in their research projects.

In addition to his professional career, Warren was a musician. He played the trombone in high school, learned the accordion and assorted other ethnic instruments over the years, and led a folk dance band in South Bend. Warren was a lifelong aficionado of folk dance and taught at the Door County Folk Festival for many years.

Warren is survived by his spouse, Catherine Kubitschek, his mother, Jenny Kubitschek, two sisters, Carolyn Kubitschek and Wendy Culp, and a brother, Craig Kubitschek. A memorial celebrating Warren’s life was be held at the University of Notre Dame on July 16, 2011.

Maureen Hallinan, University of Notre Dame

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Roger W. Nett

Upon learning of Roger Nett’s death on May 9, 2011, I was reminded that we were among the first four doctoral students of the Department of Sociology at Washington State University, having graduated together in 1949.

At WSU, Roger and I spent countless hours in the student union talking about our sociological endeavors, the courses we were taking, and so forth. A memorable feature of our conversations (my wife often being present) was listening to Roger discuss the children’s story he was writing. One of the more memorable characters was Aardvark, who inhabited the Palouse Hills around Pullman. I never imagined that Roger would have his book, and yet Thorntree Meadows appeared in l957 under the imprimatur of a major publisher. Roger was very talented in a number of ways.

After leaving Pullman, Roger first taught at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, then the University of Pittsburgh, and after that the University of Houston. There were a number of side journeys along the way.

Roger Nett was above all a creative sociologist. In l959 Roger and Stanley A. Hetzler, co-authored An Introduction to Electronic Data Processinga book that peered well into the future. Nett and Hetzler were the first sociologists, to my knowledge, to write a monograph about this major technological innovation. It was a path-breaking accomplishment. A Spanish translation appeared in 1961.

Among other items, Roger authored two cutting-edge essays that were published in the journal Ethics. The first (in 1953) was titled “Conformity-Deviation and the Social Control Concept,” which was reprinted in W. Buckley’s edited volume, Modern Systems Research for the Behavioral Scientist (l968). The second (in 1971) was titled “A Civil Right We Are Not Ready For: The Right of Freedom of Movement of People on the Face of the Earth.” This essay addresses a deep-seated political, economic, and moral issue in the modern world.

Additionally, we co-authored a monograph-text, “A Methodology for Social Research” (1968). This work radically reinterprets Mannheim, moving the sociology of knowledge sharply away from, for instance, phenomenology and toward a more Mead/Dewey view of human nature. The book was intent upon explicating how and why sociologists (and other social scientists) should and do create more “objective knowledge” (a phrase employed in the book). Certain objective social science knowledge is essential in advanced industrial-urban orders. To achieve this goal sociologists must come to terms with the complex interplay among theory, methods, and data, while taking account of the social context in which they carry out their activities.

This book’s framework comes into sharper focus if one examines specific social research issues that confront modern industrial-urban orders. Consider Rating Agencies. As a result of the severe economic depression of 2007 or 2008 and onwards we learned that the “objective evaluation” of major financial instruments by Rating Agencies was severely flawed. Certain groups have thus called for a fundamental restructuring of how the data utilized by these Agencies are collected and analyzed. Second, consider the current rethinking of how and why the GDP should be reconstructed. A commission was established by the French government to do just that. The work of the commission was spearheaded by such luminaries as the economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen. Third, consider Fukushima. .Social scientists collecting data on this nuclear disaster will almost surely encounter major ethical and political pressures to shape their findings so as to support particular interests. Addressing these kinds of foundational issues is an essential feature of the methodology book that Roger Nett and I co-authored. The book was translated into Spanish (1980), and it was reissued (with a new introduction) in l997.

During his later academic years Roger wrote a manuscript on social control, but this was unfortunately not published. He also spent a great deal of time in Latin America. In the l960s he taught at the Universidad Central del Ecuador and the Universidad Catolica de Chile. He retired from the University of Houston as professor emeritus in l986 and moved to Salem, OR, in the Northwest, a region he viewed as home.

Nancy, Roger’s third spouse, survives him. So does his second spouse, Emily Nett. All six of his children survive him: John Nett, George Nett, Chewelah Nett Fritchman, Erika Morin-Nett, Cristabel Nett, and Alejandra Nett Taylor. He had eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. His children and their offspring provided him with enormous meaning in life.

Gideon Sjoberg, University of Texas- Austin

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