The International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis began to develop in 1975 when Boston University first provided sponsorship for a Summer Session in which Harold Garfinkel and Harvey Sacks were invited to teach. The program was organized by George Psathas and Jeff Coulter who then decided to take advantage of the presence of these luminaries on the East Coast and hold a weekend conference to be called the Summer Institute. This first weekend conference was designed to invite scholars and researchers to come from other schools and research centers to present their work. Presentations were made by Max Atkinson, John Heritage, Rod Watson, Charles and Marjorie Goodwin, Mark Fishman and Jim Schenkein in addition to those persons already in Boston. The papers presented at the conference were later edited by George Psathas and published in Everyday Language: Studies in Ethnomethodology (Irvington Press, 1979).
Summer Sessions at Boston University were also held in 1976 and 1977 (featuring such persons as Emmanuel Schegloff, Melvin Pollner, Eric Livingston and James Schenkein), each of these years also having weekend Summer Institutes. Then, after the Summer Sessions were discontinued, summer conferences were organized in 1983, 1985 and 1987. (Out of some of these meetings came the book edited by D. Helm, T. Anderson, J. Meehan and A. Rawls, The Interactional Order: New Directions in the Study of Social Order (1989)).
At the Boston conference held in 1987 there was great interest expressed in developing some kind of continuing organization, with a Newsletter (which never materialized), that would support a publication series as well as conferences. An organizing committee of George Psathas, Jeff Coulter, Michael Lynch and David Goode was formed and all those on a mailing list of former presenters and attendees at Summer Institutes were invited to become associated with what would be called The International Institute for Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis (IIEMCA). All those who responded favorably were then included in a letterhead listing the names of persons associated with the Institute.
The Institute was formally established in 1989. In the following years it sponsored or co-sponsored several international conferences including those held at the University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 1991; Bentley College, Waltham, MA, 1992; and Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan 1997. Following the retirement of George Psathas from Boston University, the IIEMCA leadership was assumed by Steve Hester (University of Wales, Bangor) and Dave Francis (Manchester Metropolitan University). In 2001 and 2003, they organized the Manchester Conferences on Orders of Ordinary Action and Producing Local Order, respectively. The 2005 Conference of the Institute, in turn, was held in the United States, at Bentley College, Waltham, MA, and devoted to International Perspectives.
In 2011, at the 10th Conference of the IIEMCA held at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, the IIEMCA Steering Committee met to discuss the next steps for the organization, including the next conference. IIEMCA leadership passed from Steve Hester and Dave Francis to a board formed by Virginia Teas Gill (Illinois State University), Esther González-Martínez (University of Fribourg & HES-SO), Nozomi Ikeya (Keio University and PARC), Lorenza Mondada (University of Lyon), and Philippe Sormani (University of Vienna, coordinator). George Psathas retains the position of Honorary President.
The 11th conference of the IIEMCA took place from the 5th to the 8th of August 2013 at Wilfrid Laurier University and the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Peter Eglin, Patrick Watson, Kieran Bonner and Jeffrey Aguinaldo teamed up to host a memorable event. Incidentally, the Waterloo conference reinitiated a bi-annual rhythm for the IIEMCA conferences to take place. The most recent IIEMCA conference at the University of Southern Denmark in Kolding, held from the 4th to the 7th of August 2015, sustained that rhythm. Johannes Wagner and his organizing team made this exciting conference possible. Following the Kolding conference, Susan Danby (Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane) and Kristian Mortensen (University of Southern Denmark, Kolding) kindly agreed to join the board, notably to support the preparation and organization of the upcoming IIEMCA conference(s).