Guest blog: EM/CA Bootcamp 2018

Each year colleagues in Denmark organise an intensive get-together for postgraduates and other early-career researchers who want to delve into the mysteries of ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis. I’m glad to say that Sophia Fiedler & Søren Sandager Sørensen have sent in this insider’s report….

Søren Sandager Sørensen, Aarhus
Sophia Fiedler, Neuchâtel 

When you travel to Denmark, your luggage so full of text by Garfinkel, Schegloff and Jefferson that you’ve struggled to get your clothes into your suitcase; when the only geographical clue you have about your exact location in Denmark is the fact that you are not far from the sea; when – additionally – there are only linguists (and a few sociologists) in the house where you will stay for 5 days…

…then you are at the EMCA Bootcamp of the University of Southern Denmark organised by Johannes Wagner and Dennis Day, in cooperation with the Research Unit “PIPE” (Professional Interaction and Practice).

Bring your swimming costume

Of course, in advance you get some information and advice of all kinds: bring your linen, discover your inner Paul Bocuse, read your Latour, your Foucault, try to understand Garfinkel (!), transcribe a conversation between two Americans including a mock-Japanese accent, and bring your bathing suit (which we thought was a joke … well, it wasn’t!). You would never expect that these five days would be such an instructive and enriching event, more than the extensive reading list, before trying it yourself. The fact that a group of 15 PhD students all share the same passion in one way or another – conversation analysis and ethnomethodology (what else?!) – which we discovered within a very short time as we discussed until midnight various issues, such as in what way EM and CA are a micro or macroanalysis (Hilbert), how queues can be immortal (Livingston) or, trying to find out which social practice might be hidden in a collection of 42 transcripts of compliments.

Not only lectures including those from Dennis Day (Intro to Ethnomethodology), Simona Pekarek Doehler (Grammar, epistemics and the body: je sais pas ‘I don’t know’ in French interaction) and Søren Wind Eskildsen (A longitudinal perspective on embodied L2 learning) made the week’s program so rich and instructive. Carefully thought-out collection exercises (Jakob Steensig and Johannes Wagner) gave us the possibility to use immediately the methodological ideas behind the texts or lectures we read and heard. In addition, a sensitization to the basic terminology of social action, interaction etc. by Gitte Rasmussen and for a “challenging environment” by Rineke Brouwer augmented the degree of reflection on the vocabulary used every day by linguists. Kristian Mortensen also directed our attention to shared spaces by making us analyse traffic as interaction!

The Turkish dinner on Thursday evening

Doing things together

Interaction did not only occur in what was presented at data sessions – which included various kinds of data – but also between us, thanks to group activities such as cooking together, collection exercises and text discussions in rather deviant-case-settings (not only around a table but also in the sauna or while having a swim). Moreover, the organisers’ presence during data sessions, lunch, dinner and sometimes even the lectures helped, relaxed and enriched the conversations. This created a motivated, productive and very convivial atmosphere, which made working and discussing a really inspiring experience. 

Language acquisition wasn’t only present theoretically: we learned the Finnish word for “steam” in a sauna

The icing on the cake was, of course, the traditional EMCA-song sung at the very end, in order to interiorise all the external stimuli of the past 4 days and in order to make a practice out of something that might have been – until now – only a phenomenon.  

And when you get home, after 5 days of intense work, laughter, enlightening encounters and discussions you might even miss a little bit this bootcamp-atmosphere (yes, indeed!) replete with allusions to “nerdy” EMCA-terms or data collections about compliments, but with many new ideas and perspectives to follow up on.

We would like to thank the organisers for making such an event possible.