Recent Publications

“Ethnography, Interaction and Ordinary Trouble.” Forthcoming in Ethnography, 2009.

ABSTRACT: With the increased popularity and spread of sociological ethnography, one of the core elements of classic Chicago style fieldwork an abiding commitment to examine ongoing social interaction has sometimes slipped from sight. One fruitful way of increasing sensitivity to and insights into interactional processes is to look at ordinary, small troubles the often fleeting moments of upset and disruption that arise routinely in many interactions and that are often quickly resolved, leading only to small adjustments and changes in life circumstances. By way of example, this article analyzes the ordinary troubles that arise between college roommates, focusing on two distinctive interactional features of such troubles: the obscuring of action components in many trouble responses, leading to the appearance of passivity or “inaction”; and the varying and often shifting normative accents that can mark responses to ordinary troubles.

“Responding to Roommate Troubles: Reconsidering Informal Dyadic Control.” Law & Society Review 42:483-512 (2008).

ABSTRACT: Existing analyses of informal control within dyadic relations neglect the non-penal responses that characterize many such control efforts, and give minimal attention to the interactional and interpretive processes that characterize such responses. And while dispute transformation provides a well-developed model of the development of dyadic disputes, this model is limited in prespecifying “injury” as the starting point for these processes and in neglecting informal reactions other than “claiming.” Integrating theories of informal control and dispute transformation, this paper provides a case study analyzing the nature and processes of informal reactions to troubles involving college roommates, identifying three general categories of such response: Managerial reactions, which involve unilateral, non-confrontational efforts to manage the consequences or implications of the trouble or to change indirectly the troubling behavior; complaint-making reactions, where the troubled party attempts to get the other to change the disturbing behavior; and distancing and punitive reactions, which are relationally despairing responses marked by open confrontation and hostility.

“Reflections on the Study of Informal Social Control. Sociologisk Forskning nr1-2006:71-76 (2006).

“Introduction.” Pp. 8-13 in Elijah Anderson, Scott N. Brooks, Raymond Gunn and Nikki Jones, eds., Being Here and Being There: Fieldwork Encounters and Ethnographic Discoveries. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 595 (2004). Sage Publications.

“Working with ‘Key Incidents.’” Chapter 29 in Clive Seale, David Silverman, Jay Gubrium and Giampetro Gobo, eds., Inside Qualitative Research: Craft, Practice, Content (2003). Sage Publications.

ABSTRACT: One characteristic of ethnographic data is that it reflects a continuing "loyalty to the phenomenon" (Matza); concretely, this means that we often produce data -- literally, write it up in fieldnotes -- with no explicit, or at least articulated, notion of its immediate or future analytic import. One consequence is that in coding and analyzing field data we may come to recognize as "key incidents" fieldnote accounts that did not impress us as unusually striking or significant at the time we originally produced them. Or we may come to find new and different significance in such accounts at later points in time. In this chapter I will examine at least two such accounts as "key incidents," starting with the original fieldnotes and then examining the subsequent theoretical uses to which I put them. I will suggest that such "key incidents" share features in common with "negative cases" in analytic induction, but without the processes of formulating explicit hypotheses that marks the latter approach to qualitative theorizing.