Plenary talk by Eric Laurier

Eric Laurier | University of Edinburgh

Eric Laurier is Reader in Geography & Interaction at the University of Edinburgh. Currently he is inquiring into the maintenance and transformation of human relationships as a shared ordinary concern. Relationships have a nearness to one another perhaps not best understood as knowledge. His more longstanding interests have been around the visual and spatial aspects of practical reasoning. Like many other members of the EMCA community he has drawn upon ordinary language philosophy’s conceptualisation of criteria, human practices and human encounters. Over his research career he has undertaken projects on interaction in the car; work and sociability in cafes; editorial work in video production; the valuation of secondhand goods; playing videogames; wayfinding with paper and digital maps; human-animal joint action; family mealtimes and arts collaboration. Trained as a cultural geographer, he was warned by one of his PhD supervisors to stay away from ethnomethodologists because ‘they study things like kung fu and tyre-fitting’.

When the breaching was over: Praxiologies of personal relationships
On the close of his acting-like-a-boarder-in-your-own-home exercise and of his assume-hidden-motives-in-others exercise, Garfinkel briefly describes what happens when his students restore the situation to normal appearances. Families, intimates and friends are usually ‘not amused’ nor do they find the events ‘instructive’. From the annoyance and disapproval generated by the procedures he shows the moral and enforceable character of compliance with maintaining everyday appearances. Garfinkel hints at something more though in the restoration vignettes: for some families and in some marriages the situation could not be restored. For one student, her husband has a ‘residue of uneasy feelings’ and it is in reflecting on that ‘residue’ that we see the deeper and more enduring trouble that Garfinkel’s procedures could bring to personal relationships. In disrupting what Garfinkel and his students took to be common sense, what the procedures also threatened was the understanding that is shared by and constitutive of each particular sets of persons’ relationship (e.g. as mother and son, husband and wife, friends). In my talk, I aim to consider a realm of practice where actions are trying to modify, revise or transform personal relationships and where, then, the joint of joint-actions thereby itself can no longer be assumed. This is most obvious when relationships break-up but inhabits the emergence of friendships and families. It is not a realm of scientific practice, nor workplaces, nor everyday life, nor mind and yet members’ concern with relationships infuses conversation analysis from its outset.