Guest Blog: the 11th EMCA Doctoral Network – Manchester, May 2019

The Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (EM/CA) Doctoral Network is now an established part of the UK postgraduate scene, and highly prized by the students who attend its biannual meetings. I’m delighted that Yumei Gan, from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (and a visiting research student at University of York)  sent in this lively report of the most recent event.

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Yumei Gan; Video Analysis, Science, and Technology (VAST) Research Group; The Chinese University of Hong Kong

I first heard about the EMCA Doctoral Network through Facebook, on the recommendation of my supervisor Christian Greiffenhagen. For a long time, I only treated this ‘network’ as a virtual ‘network’, I never really thought that there would be the possibility of physically meeting other doctoral students doing EMCA research. In May 2018, when Jon Hindmarsh visited Hong Kong, he mentioned that he was preparing the 10th EMCA Doctoral Network in London. That was the first time when I knew this ‘network’ is not virtual, but can be and is actually ‘face-to-face’.

This year was the 11thEMCA Doctoral Network meeting, held at the University of Manchester and organized by Michael Mair and Alex Holder from the University of Liverpool. As Alex said, Manchester was both a more convenient location for participants, and, more importantly, has a long ethnomethodological history.

The meeting ran for two pleasant and sunny days, which certainly did not fit with the stereotype of Manchester being a grey and rainy city. The meeting welcomed 17 Doctoral students from different universities (e.g. Westminster, Manchester, Edinburgh, Ulster, Liverpool, Sheffield, York, Hong Kong) as well as ethnomethodologists from Manchester and Liverpool, such as Phillip Brooker, Phil Hutchinson, Paul Smith. The event comprised of five activities over the two days: presentations, reading group, data sessions, keynote talks and meals (of course, the very important one!)


There were a range of diverse and interesting presentations. Juliette Angot (University of Manchester) presented her initial analysis of the use of ‘Je crois’  (I believe), ‘je pense’ (I think) and ‘je trouve’ (I think/believe) in French conversations. Yang Du (Newcastle University) showed data on learning in a Self-Organized Learning Environment (SOLE), demonstrating  how students use computers to search for study-relevant information. Simin Ren (Newcastle University) presented her project on a “cooking-while-learning-a-foreign-language” on Linguacuisine. Reihaneh Saleh (University of York) presented on mock violence in everyday family interaction in Persian, showing the various ways that people “do mock violence” in everyday life. Caroline Bolam (University of Westminster) presented an ethnomethodological study on performance and practice in higher education. Caroline also kindly shared her experience of working in the perspective of EM as part-time PhD student, and how she was fascinated by Lawrence Weider’s work Language and Social Reality. I also presented a paper on accounts (and lack of accounts) for temporary leavings in family video calls (co-authored with Darcey Searles).

Reading group

The reading group continued the long tradition of Manchester Ethnomethodologists’ Reading Group, which regularly happens on Fridays. It’s pretty self-explanatory, one person hosts it and brings a reading (distributed to everyone in advance). The group then offers observations, critiques, and questions. I enjoyed the reading group immensely- it offers a nice and relaxing forum to discuss different perspectives of the same work. For this group, Yarong Xie (University of Edinburgh) brought an article on race trouble in interaction by Durrheim, Greener, & Whitehead (2015) from The British Journal of Social Psychology.

Data session

Four students have brought a piece of video/audio data which is related to their doctoral research. Nicola Malley presented video recording on family communication between people with Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Isabel Windeatt presented video data on friend chats with people with Aphasia. Tilly Flint presented audio data on resistance in family interactions. Paula Greenlees brought data on a BBC interview to explore how a high-control religious group deal with moral issues in interaction.


Prof. Wes Sharrock delivered his keynote in the unique way- as a reading group. He hosted a reading group on “Reading Sacks”. He brought two Lectures: “Lecture 5: Proffering identifications; the Navy pilot; Slots; Paired objects; Adequate complete utterances” and “Lecture 6: Omni-relevant devices; Cover identifications”. The two lectures prompted a lot of discussion around Membership Categorization Analysis, and omni-relevant devices in multi-party conversations. Wes also responded to questions such as “why is it important to read Sacks today?” I personally benefited a lot from how Wes describes Sacks’ work as “genius”. The keynote was a clear reminder that I need to read more Sacks!


Wes Sharrock (right , in dark shirt) delivers his keynote as a reading group

Dr Patrick Watson delivered a keynote on “Video as radical phenomenon”. He started with talking about the radical move in Ethnomethodology. He puts ‘radicalism’ in a simple way, “radicalism can be summarized as a rejection of the idea that the analyst has a privileged position from which to appraise the circumstances of the research subject”. Furthermore, he showed that video can be used as a window into the phenomenon rather than using video as a vehicle for delivering positive or conventional ideas. Finding evidence from the video is a way to examine the endogenous community of practice. He also revisited Sacks, and mentioned that, of course video is not the complete data, but surely there cannot be totally complete data. As researcher, it would be good for us to concentrate on what the data can tell us, and what we can find from the data itself.

Eating together

Apart from academic discussion, we were well treated with refreshments, coffee, tea and wine. We went out for a group dinner at the lovely Indian restaurant Mowgli.

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EM/CA meeting participants enjoy a good dinner

In sum, it was a fantastic opportunity to be able to attend the EMCA Doctoral Network in Manchester. I benefitted immensely from the gathering and the ideas that emerged during the discussion on my presentation. I only hope that such events would happen in Asia as well, especially in Hong Kong and China, where I study and where I come from. EMCA researchers are one community. It is wonderful to see what other doctoral students are working on, what challenges they meet in their studies, and how experts in the field provide advice and suggestions for them.

Gratitude to Michael Mair and Alex Holder again, for their hard and amazing work to make this event possible! And Thanks for David Edmonds for proof reading this write-up.