Guest blog: Bogdana Huma on the interactional analysis of economic encounters

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis have made significant advances in our understanding of how institutions work, but the business of economics has proved rather a tougher nut to crack. In this welcome blog, Bogdana Huma reports on a recent syposium on “economic encounters”. In a well-appointed attic in Maastricht, symposiasts analysed bazaars, cheese shops, cold calling, and much more….

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Bogdana Huma, Loughborough University

At the end of October, the lively city of Maastricht hosted an EM/CA workshop on the topic of economic encounters. The event brought together academics from 12 universities and eight countries, all passionate about researching the artful accomplishment of various economic exchanges in and as part of everyday life.

What at first might have appeared a restrictive focus, turned out to be a vastly diverse and yet unexplored field of enquiry as the topics of the presentations and data sessions ranged from delivering information in mortgage consultations to paying with vouchers in a high street clothing store.

The event was organised by Lauren Wagner and Eric Laurier and partially funded by the Universiteitsfonds Limburg, the Institute for Transnational and Euregional Cross Border Cooperation and Mobility, and the Finnish Centre of Excellence in Intersubjectivity and Interaction.

A room in Maastricht

The workshop was held in the beautiful and somewhat labyrinthine building of Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. As we followed Lauren down and up several flights of stairs towards the attic, the room which had been assigned for the workshop, she related how the faculty had gradually expanded across several initially separate buildings.

1. Participants labouring over an extract from a holiday sales call brought by Rein Sikveland.JPGIt was noticeable that they still retained some of their individual charm such as massive wooden staircases and large majestic windows overlooking a well-groomed inner garden. Even if it had crossed somebody’s mind to skip a session, finding the way out would have been impossible. Nonetheless, the dedication of the audience was mainly gained through a range of captivating contributions, assembled into a well-balanced and flexible schedule that accommodated even last minute changes. The programme comprised a mix of:

  1. data sessions held by Rein Sikveland on cross-selling in holiday telesales and Barry Brown and Airi Lampinen on paying with vouchers;
  2. short talks delivered by Jarkko Niemi on salespeople collaborating during sales meetings with clients, Lauren Wagner on the role of identity in the marketplace, and Eric Laurier on paying methods in a café and ways of representing video data;
  3. full-length presentations delivered by Lorenza Mondada on cutting and selling cheese in delicatessen shops, Marloes Herijgers on packaging and delivering information to clients during mortgage consultations, Alan Firth and Adam Brandt on haggling in a Thai bazaar, Brian Lystgaard Due on buying spectacles, Emma Richardson on the organisation of paying in a pub, and my own on paper on resistance in business-to-business prospecting calls.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-16-59-40For the last session of the workshop we left the spacious attic in favour of a stylish café as the venue of choice for a reflective but also forward-looking discussion.

The convergence of participants’ research interests, aspirations for advancing EM/CA research on economic encounters, and concrete plans for actions emerged over steaming coffee and delicious cakes. So much so, the time and location of the next meeting have partly already been agreed upon.

Collegial interchange

Mainly, the workshop was driven by the academic ethos to get acquainted with each other’s work as a springboard for the constitution of a research network fostering future collaborations. Nonetheless, the dominating spirit of the event was one of joviality and congeniality, spearheaded by Lauren as the local host, who, on top of attending to the organisation of the workshop, offered to put people up in her own flat, as long as they didn’t mind sharing the space with her cat, Maybellene. Moreover, her flat was the venue for one of the dinners which consisted in delicious Moroccan tajines that we enjoyed, as per Lauren’s instructions, by eating without cutlery from large pots. All in all, the event occasioned a productive meeting during which likeminded researchers shared their curiosity, enthusiasm, and aspirations for exploring the intricacies of commercial interactions.


Lorenza Mondada (Basel/Helsinki) on service encounters in a delicatessen