Smithing Queer Empiricism: Engaging Ethnomethodology for a Queer Social Science

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Abstract

Is queer social science possible? Early queer theorists disparaged empiricism as a normalizing, modernist discourse. Nonetheless, LGBTQI+ social scientists have applied queer concepts in empirical projects. Rather than seek a queer method, we ask, Is there an empirical perspective that (ontologically) envisions social relations more queerly—attending to discursive and materialist productions of reality? Dorothy Smith’s work foregrounds people’s activities of engaging texts and satisfies Black queer studies’ and new materialisms’ critiques of early queer theory. Underutilized and often misread, especially its ethnomethodological sensibilities and its vision of actors as relational, practical actors, her work shows how my race is not mine, it is ours; your sexual orientation is not yours, it is ours; their gender is not theirs, it is ours. Smith offers an ontology without essence, grand theory, or normativity, facilitating a range of queer, interpretive projects—from the intersectional to the transnational to the embodied.

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Crawley, S. L., Whitlock, M. C., & Earles, J. (2021). Smithing Queer Empiricism: Engaging Ethnomethodology for a Queer Social Science. Sociological Theory, 39(3), 127–152. https://doi.org/10.1177/07352751211026357

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