Guest blog: Marina Cantarutti on the latest EM/CA Bootcamp

One of the most enjoyable (if challenging) episodes in young scholars’ induction into the discipline is the chance to spend time in intensive discussion with peers and mentors. I’m delighted to feature a report by Marina Cantarutti, PhD student at the University of York, on the latest “EM/CA Bootcamp”,  organised by the very active group at the University of Southern Denmark.


Marina Cantarutti

The fourth edition of the intensive Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis course (a.k.a. EMCA “Bootcamp”) took place this December in Denmark. Organised by the Doctoral Programme in Language and Communication and the Research Unit ‘PIPE’ (Professional Interaction and Practice) at the University of Southern Denmark, the course gathered fifteen very enthusiastic PhD students from all over the world doing research at universities in Hawaii, Switzerland, Sweden, the UK and Denmark, for a four-day EMCA retreat (and treat!).

The programme included some mini-lectures on Ethnomethodology and Membership Categorization Analysis (Dennis Day), Embodiment/Talkless Action (Kristian Mortensen), Challenged Interaction and Intervention, and Applied CA and Research Design (Rineke Brouwer), and Making Collections and Instructed Actions (Johannes Wagner). What made each of these practical lectures truly enriching is the fact that they all focused on the issues that we need to face as EMCA researchers, such as the benefits and pitfalls of working through these methodologies, the objections directed at EMCA we may find in our contexts and across disciplines, and the challenges of working with different forms of interactions and data.

EMCAers at work

Learning from expert researchers is always fabulous, but working alongside peers is invaluable. Every slot in the programme included some form of groupwork that required, among other things, the building of collections, collaborative analyses, and exegesis of key texts.

Among the most challenging activities lay the debate on these tricky issues:

  • what an instruction can be in fact defined and recognised as;
  • the tricky placement of our research topics as being exponents of one or another particular form of applied CA;
  • the analysis of entirely talk-less segments of embodied (and instrument-/machine-mediated) action;
  • and of course, “decoding” Garfinkel.

Data sessions were very rich, as they involved the analysis of segments from different institutional contexts (schools, work meetings, a warehouse…), with different kinds of Members (teachers, students, social workers, robots!), in different languages, and with and without any talk, which once again proved how versatile and wide-reaching EMCA can be. It has to be said that these sessions were also special in that they were held at some unusual places, such as the playroom, and in the (empty) jacuzzi.

EMCAers at play

screen-shot-2016-12-29-at-19-13-34Of course, it was not all work and no play at “Big Brother’s house”. EMCAers can also make good cooks, and each homemade meal turned dinner into a gourmet experience. Other true talents emerged after dinner as impromptu concerts in the jacuzzi, dancing lessons, and table football or ping pong matches happened, instructing us into other forms of “doing being X”.

And in the farewell evening, a new rite of initiation for EMCA researchers was born, under the creative mind of Magnus Hamann: the EMCA anthem, sung to the melody of the (in)famous YMCA.

EMCA 1.jpg

A semiotic puzzle

We are deeply grateful to Dennis and the team for four very inspiring days of learning, sharing and working together. This group of really enthusiastic researchers is ready to keep EMCA alive by helping, in our own way and with as much rigour as possible, to continue trying to make sense of social action and interaction across different spheres of everyday life.


The EMCAers take a well-deserved food break