Committees & Awards

2017 Awards

At the ASA 2017 Annual Conference in Montreal our Section presented the inaugural Garfinkel-Sacks Award for Distinguished Scholarship, the EMCA Distinguished Book Award, the EMCA Graduate Student Paper Award and the Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology.


Garfinkel-Sacks Award for Distinguished Scholarship

Anita Pomerantz
Professor Emerita, Department of Communication, University at Albany, New York

Professor Pomerantz holds an MA in Sociology from UCLA, and a PhD in Social Sciences from the University of California, Irvine. She was a leading figure among Harvey Sacks’s first generation of graduate students, and one of a very few who achieved a doctorate before his untimely death in 1975. Anita has published approximately 50 single or co-authored papers over the course of her career, and given many conference and invited presentations at conferences on talk and social interaction around the world. Her best known paper is, “Agreeing and disagreeing with assessments: Some features of preferred/dispreferred turn shapes,” published in 1984 and cited an astonishing 3500-plus times.

Other papers of hers have also been very influential — “Extreme case formulations: A way of legitimizing claims” (1986), “Compliment responses: Notes on the co-operation of multiple constraints” (1978); “Telling my side: ‘Limited access’ as a ‘fishing’ device” (1980), as well as major expository papers. These papers are true classics in that contemporary CA research as well as earlier work in the field uses her terminology and findings over and over again. Her phrasings and the phenomena to which they refer form a virtual lexicon in the CA field: ‘agreeing/disagreeing with assessments’, ‘candidate answers’, ‘giving a source or basis’, ‘giving evidence’, ‘extreme case formulations’, etc. These papers set standards of scholarship that many in the field aspire to (and some occasionally achieve).

Anita also has written many papers or chapters about the field, and is one of a few experts in CA on what is known as “preference organization.” Her work ranges across a spectrum of topics from “ordinary conversation,” to interaction in the fields of medicine, educational, legal and organizational environments.

In sum, Anita Pomerantz is a very distinguished practitioner in the fields of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, and someone whom we commend to our community with the utmost enthusiasm.

EMCA Distinguished Book Award

Gail Jefferson

Talking about Troubles in Conversation (edited by Paul Drew, John Heritage, Gene Lerner, and Anita Pomerantz). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2015.

In making this choice, we were mindful of the fact that Jefferson’s book had a distinctive genesis. As a collection of previously-published articles, enough time had passed for its insights to enter and exert influence on the EMCA field. Did this accident of history give the book an unfair advantage? And had its insights, although at one time highly innovative, lost some of their initial luster? The committee concluded that, notwithstanding these issues, Jefferson’s book remains profoundly groundbreaking and analytically powerful in ways that make it a clear choice for this award. Jefferson’s troubles talk project was the first CA study to attempt the examination of what she called “big packages of talk” – longer interactional episodes beyond adjacency pairs, assessment sequences, and related exchanges. These “big packages” pose special analytic challenges, because they are rarely realized in their “ideal form” and can be disrupted by a variety of local contingencies. There was no previous model for dealing with such complexities, so Jefferson had to develop new methods for examining the data and organizing their analysis. To this day, we know of no other study that can match this one in successfully mapping so complex a pattern of activity, and anatomizing its sequential components and their interrelations with such specificity and detail.

Equally innovative was Jefferson’s conceptualization of the form of organization that underlies the empirical diversity of troubles-telling episodes. Rejecting the idea that such episodes are intrinsically messy, she defended their robustness while identifying recurrent local contingencies that can disrupt any particular episode. In the process, Jefferson pioneered the concept of activity contamination, and noted the disruptive potential of advice giving in the context of troubles talk. These concepts have proven to be extremely useful to those studying interaction in clinical settings, 911 emergency, and other people-processing institutions.

Finally, we note that Jefferson’s project was also among the first within CA to address the dynamics of interpersonal distance and closeness, and the expression of intense emotions within interaction - issues of broad interest within and beyond the EMCA field.


EMCA Graduate Student Paper Award

Martina Kolanoski
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin
Goethe-Universität, Institut für Soziologie

“Undoing the Legal Capacities of a Military Object: A Case Study on the (In)Visibility of Civilians”. Law & Social Inquiry (Online, 2017)

In the article, Martina draws on ethnomethodology and conversation analysis to study a civil court case brought against the German military for their lead role in directing a bombing raid in the Afghan province of Kunduz which led to the deaths of a large number of civilians. Her analysis is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted during the court hearings, video data and written evidence examined by the court, as well as transcripts of the court’s rulings. The paper focusses on disputes around the categories of ‘civilian’ and ‘combatant’ in the course of proceedings and uses the court as a ‘perspicuous setting’ (Garfinkel) for categorical work: legal counsel for both sides explicitly topicalised, and so made visible, the work of categorisation in situations of war. More specifically, legal counsel had to study, and formulate, what might be involved in seeing combatants as opposed to civilians and the possible bases for making discriminations either way, as required by International Humanitarian Law. Through a focus on this aspect of the court hearing, Martina is able to examine categorisation work as a member’s practice, indeed, as different kinds of practices, something reminiscent of Garfinkel’s work on the coroner too (1967: 18).

In terms of its subject matter, approach and aim to bring ethnomethodology and conversation analysis to wider disciplinary audiences, we felt this was a very strong piece of work by a scholar still in the early phases of her doctoral studies and we look forward to seeing how her inquiries develop from this point on. Martina is well placed to make innovative contributions given her role, along with Thomas Scheffer and others, as part of a research group in Germany that is using the concept of ‘trans-sequential analysis’ to develop its own distinctive ways of doing EMCA work – an important emerging body of scholarship to which this article belongs.


Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology

Götz Hoeppe
Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Undergraduate Studies
Department of Anthropology
University of Waterloo

“Working Data Together: The Accountability and Reflexivity of Digital Astronomical Practice”. Social Studies of Science 44: 243-70, 2014.

As chair of the Pollner Prize Committee, I am pleased to announce the winner of this year’s award: Götz Hoeppe, for his excellent article, “Working Data Together: The Accountability and Reflexivity of Digital Astronomical Practice.” This is a meticulous and illuminating study of how observational astronomers reconcile diverse data sources, and how, at the same time, scientists-in-training are inducted into a paradigm which guides their interpretation of what counts as trustworthy data and reportable findings. Far from passively trusting their instruments, the article shows how astronomers constantly scrutinize their data for implausible findings and work to reconcile recent discoveries with previous findings that have stabilized into the benchmark truth.

In addition to its many independent merits, the article resonates with Pollner’s fundamental concern with mundane reasoning, grappling with the question of how reality is buttressed as a collective act. For both reasons, the committee’s members were unanimous in their selection of this article for the Pollner Prize.



2016 Awards

At the ASA 2016 Annual Conference in Seattle our Section presented the EMCA Distinguished Paper Award, and the Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology.


Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology

Michael DeLand "Basketball in the Key of Law: The Significance of Disputing
in Pick-Up Basketball." 2013 Law & Society Review. 47(3):653-85.

From the committee: In this essay DeLand masterfully shows howdisputing rule violations in pick up basketball serves to frame the game as a serious competition in which players hold a genuine stake. As he notes, disputes over rule violations in the context pick up basketball present a number of fascinating analytic opportunities for those interested in the rule of law as a mundane practical achievement-a topic Mel Pollner made famous through his ethnographic investigations in traffic courts. Drawing on Pollner's concept of "reality disjunctures," DeLand highlights how competing versions of what happened in the game (and whether what happened constitutes a rule violation) are adjudicated in the absence of unequivocal legal authorities. The essay makes a compelling contribution to the Pollnerian legacy.


EMCA Distinguished Paper Award 

Coopmans, Catelijne & Button, Graham (2014) “Eyeballing Expertise”, Social Studies of Science,
44(5): 758-785.

From the committee: This paper offers an ethnomethodological study of the job of classifying eyes, in view of detecting ‘diabetic retinopathy’, at the Singapore Advanced Imaging Laboratory for Ocular Research. The study does not only develop a highly perceptive analysis of diagnostic work at this medical facility, but it does also offer an exemplary demonstration of ‘ethnomethodological respecification’ in and for the field of science and technology studies (STS). It does so by offering an empirical reappraisal of H. Collins’ recent ‘theory of expertise’. Instead of classifying different kinds of possible expertise urbi et orbi (as Collins, in collaboration with R. Evans, does), the paper homes in on how a distinctive set of procedural skills (or ‘technical expertise’) is actually drawn upon in situ. This empirical reappraisal of Collins’ theory – to our knowledge, the first of its kind – is of analytic import for the social study of ‘tacit knowledge’ in EM, STS and beyond. It notably demonstrates the heuristic interest of the shift from a broad theory of ‘ubiquitous expertises’ (sic) and their classification (‘what is expertise?’, ‘who can possess it?’, ‘how should it be classified?’, etc.) to a subtle description of enacted expertise as an ethnomethodological phenomenon, including classification as a constitutive part of a distinctively technical, yet plainly observable practice (‘expert eye grading, in action and interaction’).

Thereby, the paper dissolves some of the ‘puzzles’ of Collins’ (and Evans’) ‘normative theory of expertise’, puzzles that appear as technical artifacts of their ‘philosophically oriented social science’ (Collins, Evans 2007:7). In marrying descriptive analysis and conceptual critique, Coopmans' and Button's respecification offers an insightful articulation of different strands of ethnomethodological inquiry, which may thus also have paradigmatic implications for related fields, including not only STS but also systems and interface design, if not the social sciences at large.


EMCA Lifetime Achievement Award - John Heritage, UCLA.

From the committee: In his letter supporting 2015 winner Jeff Coulter’s (Boston) nomination of John Heritage (UCLA) for the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award, Paul Drew (Loughborough) writes: “John is a scholar of the highest distinction, having made – and continuing to make – an outstandingly original contribution to theory and research in ethnomethodology/conversation analysis. Moreover his special achievement is to have demonstrated the theoretical and empirical relevance of EM/CA to sociology and social science disciplines more widely, and indeed to have made it accessible to a very wide social science audience.”

Drew cites Heritage’s contribution in three areas: in sociological theory Garfinkel and Ethnomethodology, especially, involves “a quite fundamental reconceptualisation of the theory of action and the sociology of knowledge;” in the empirical analysis of social action in conversation Structures of Social Action, with Max Atkinson, is, in particular, “a definitive collection of empirical studies in CA;” in the study of institutional discourse and interaction, notably in the mass media (including innovative work with Steven Clayman) and in medical care settings (including with Doug Maynard), 30 of his 62 publications since 1998 comprise “a stunning contribution to the field of medical interaction, [one that is] innovative, imaginative, deeply scholarly and equally deeply ‘practical’.” These qualities are reflected in calls from around the world to teach EMCA, and to present at international conferences.


2015 Awards

At the ASA 2015 Annual Conference in Chicago our Section presented the EMCA Distinguished Book Award, the EMCA Lifetime Achievement Award, and the EMCA Graduate Student Paper Award.


EMCA Distinguished Book Award - Kenneth Liberman, University of Oregon. 

More Studies in Ethnomethodology (2013). Albany: SUNY Press.

Based on more than thirty years of teaching ethnomethodology, Kenneth Liberman—himself a student of Garfinkel’s—provides an up-to-date introduction through a series of classroom-based studies. Each chapter focuses on a routine experience in which people collaborate to make sense of and coordinate an unscripted activity: organizing the coherence of the rules of a game, describing the objective taste of a cup of gourmet coffee, making sense of intercultural conversation, reading a vague map, and finding order amidst chaotic traffic flow. Detailed descriptions of the kinds of ironies that naturally arise in these and other ordinary affairs breathe new life into phenomenological theorizing and sociological understanding.


EMCA Lifetime Achievement Award - Jeff Coulter, Boston University.

From the committee: "Jeff Coulter has distinguished himself on many fronts as a very serious and very productive scholar for over forty years, during which time he has contributed tremendously to the production and dissemination of ethnomethodological and conversation analytic scholarship... [He] was a central figure in the development of ethnomethodological and conversation-analytic scholarship around Manchester and Boston for forty years or more, in developments which had great relevance for the entire international community of ethnomethodological and conversation analytic scholars. Both directly and indirectly, alone and with others, Jeff Coulter has made tremendous contributions to our scholarly community and our record of scholarship and is highly deserving of a lifetime achievement award from our section."


EMCA Graduate Student Paper Award - Elliott Hoey, Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, The Netherlands.

"Lapse management and lapse resolution in incipient and sustained states of talk."

From the committee: This paper offers a remarkably elegant expression of conversation
analysis, where the structure of the paper goes hand in hand with the development of its
analysis, and where the latter brings together a systematic analysis of single instances, a
clear command of previous and current literature, and an original “point” of (potentially)
groundbreaking relevance for further EMCA research. Written by a graduate student, it
displays not only clarity and concision as a formal achievement, but also an insightful,
systematic and subtle analysis with important implications for EMCA as research domain,
in and beyond sociology.

2014 Award Information

At the ASA 2014 Annual Conference in San Francisco our Section presented the EMCA Graduate Student Paper Award and the EMCA Best Paper Award.

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Graduate Student Paper Award

The ASA EMCA Section's Graduate Student Paper Award was presented to Clara Bergen (UCLA) for her paper "Doing make-believe: Embodied action in children's imaginary character play".

The committee was chaired by Galina Bolden (Rutgers).

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Best Paper Award
The ASA EMCA Section’s Best Paper Award to Christian Greiffenhagen (University of Loughborough) and Wes Sharrock (University of Manchester) for their paper Does  mathematics look certain in the front, but fallible in the back?” (Social Studies of Science, 2011, 41[6]: 839-866.). 

The committee was chaired by Morana Alac (San Diego).

Call for 2014 Awards

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Graduate Student Paper Award
This award recognizes an outstanding paper written by a graduate student. Submitted papers should address ethnomethodological and/or conversation analytic topics and literature and should read well as a stand-alone paper. Maximum length is 10,000 words (excluding references). We seek to support graduate students’ original and best work, so we will consider unpublished papers or articles published in any journal or book. Co-authored papers are only acceptable if all authors are students. Only scholarly essays completed/published between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2013 will be considered for the award that will be presented at the ASA 2014 EMCA section’s business meeting in San Francisco. All nominees must be dues-paying members of the EMCA section (which requires ASA membership) for the year 2014. The Graduate Best Paper Award winner will receive $300 travel reimbursement for the ASA annual meeting in San Francisco.  Submission deadline: March 31, 2014.  The award committee will be chaired by Galina Bolden (Associate Professor, Department of Communication, Rutgers University).
To ensure the anonymity of the process, please send 2 versions of the paper, one anonymized, with subject
to: Dirk vom Lehn ( )

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Best Paper Award
The ASA EMCA Best Paper award recognizes an outstanding journal article contributing to the field(s) of Ethnomethodology and/or Conversation Analysis.  Eligible articles must be published between September 1, 2012 and March 31, 2014, and will be presented at the ASA 2014 EMCA section’s business meeting in San Francisco.
This year the award committee will be chaired by Morana Alac, (Associate Professor in Communication and Science Studies, UC San Diego).
Please send submissions to Morana Alac (
Deadline: April 4th, 2013

2013 Award Information

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Lifetime Achievement Award.

This award recognizes those who have made distinguished lifetime
career contributions to the fields of ethnomethodology and/or
conversation analysis. To nominate an individual for this award,
please submit the following: 1) A letter detailing the nominee’s
contributions to EMCA; 2) Relevant supporting materials, including a
list of the nominee’s publications; and 3) At least two additional
external letters speaking to the person’s contributions and impact on
the field(s). Nominations should be submitted by March 1, 2013 to: Tim
Berard, Department of Sociology, 215 Merrill Hall, PO Box 5190, Kent,
Ohio 44242 or emailed to (email preferred).

Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Graduate Student Paper

This award recognizes an outstanding paper written by a graduate
student. Submitted papers should address ethnomethodological and/or
conversation analytic topics and literature and should read well as
stand-alone papers. Maximum length is 10,000 words (excluding
references). We seek to support graduate students’ original and best
work, so we will consider unpublished papers or articles published in
any journal or book. Co-authored papers are only acceptable if all
authors are students. Only scholarly essays completed/published
between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012 will be considered for
awards made in August 2013. All nominees must be dues-paying members
of the EMCA section (which requires ASA membership) for the year 2013.
The Graduate Best Paper Award winner will receive $300 travel
reimbursement for the ASA annual meeting in New York.  Submission
deadline: March 29, 2013.  The award committee is led by Jon Hindmarsh
(King’s College London). But to ensure the anonymity of the process,
please send submissions to:

Jon Hindmarsh (King's College)
Tim Halkowski, University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point (US)
Eric Laurier, University of Edinburgh (UK)

Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology [CHANGED DEADLINE]
The ASA Ethnomethodology and Conversation Analysis Section solicits
nominations for the Melvin Pollner Prize in Ethnomethodology. This
$1000 award honors the intellectual spirit and memory of Melvin
Pollner and will be given to an outstanding book, article, or chapter
published between 2008-2012 that addresses issues relating to
ethnomethodology in the inclusive sense reflected in Pollner’s
intellectual and research concerns. Nominations should be submitted no
later than March 29, 2013 and should include 1) full bibliographic
information on the nominated publication; 2) a link to a web site
where articles and/or chapters can be downloaded, a PDF copy of the
manuscript, or a hard copy of the manuscript (copies of books need not
be submitted with the initial nomination), and 3) a brief description
of the publication’s special contribution and how it reflects the
spirit of the award.  Please submit nominations to John Heritage,
Dept. of Sociology, University of California at Los Angeles, 264
Haines Hall, P.O. Box 951551, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1551 USA,

John Heritage - Chair (University of California, Los Angeles)
Paul Drew (University of York)
Doug Maynard  (University of Wisconsin)

Book Award

The book award recognizes an outstanding book (monograph or edited
volume) contributing to Ethnomethodology and/or Conversation Analysis.
 Eligible works must be published in 2011-2012. The deadline for
submissions is March 1, 2013.

Patrick Watson (University of Waterloo)
Christian Greiffenhagen (University of Nottingham)
Michael Lynch (Cornell University)

2012 Award Winners
Comments by Robert Dingwall

Graduate Paper Award 2012 - Trevor Benjamin

The panel were unanimous in deciding that the award for best graduate student paper should
be awarded to Trevor Benjamin for his paper ‘When problems pass us by: Using “You
mean” to help locate the source of trouble”. This investigates other-initiated repairs to
interactional problems. An analysis of understanding checks marked by ‘you mean’ explores
the preference organization for repair, for contiguity over non-contiguity, and the work that
is done when this does not occur in the default position. The judges commended the way
in which the paper showed wide knowledge of relevant literature in the field and built on
this in a systematic fashion to identify and define a previously unremarked phenomenon.
This original observation was carefully documented through skilful analysis of a range of
materials. It establishes a foundation for a promising line of further investigations into
the preference for contiguity, which seems to characterize a number of actions in talk, in
English and related languages. It is a mature and sophisticated analysis by any standards and
particularly commendable in a scholar at the beginning of their career.

Best Paper Award - John Heritage

The best paper award had a strong field and each entrant had some support from at least one of the judges.  However, there was no dispute among them that John Heritage’s paper, ‘Epistemics in action: Action formation and territories of knowledge’, stood out as a landmark paper.  In effect, it redefines and reasserts Sacks’s original programme to create a systematic science of social action through the analysis of conversation.  As Heritage notes, CA has since tended to shy away from some of the radical implications of that call, partly to avoid some of the problems that arose with the grammatical approach of speech act theory.  First actions became neglected in favour of studying second and subsequent actions, leaving open the question of how interactions got going at all.  The key to this is epistemic status, which is prior to morphosyntactical features in establishing how an interaction comes to happen and to unfold in a particular direction.  Turn design and epistemic status combine to generate action.  The paper challenges conventional thinking in CA, as well as in sociology more generally and in cognate disciplines including linguistics, anthropology and psychology.  Heritage hints at a future engagement with the reductionist accounts of neuroscience.  This is a profound and profoundly original paper and a worthy winner of the award in any year.

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