CONROY: Culturally Doped or Not?

Culturally `doped’ or not?: On ethnomethodology, critical theory and the exegesis of everyday life practices

Tom Conroy

Lehman College—CUNY

      By “cultural dope,” I refer to the man-in-the-sociologist’s society who produces the stable features of the society by acting in compliance with preestablished and legitimate alternatives of action that the common culture provides. The “psychological dope” is the man-in-the-psychologist’s-society who produces the stable features of the society by choices among alternative courses of actions that are compelled on the grounds of psychiatric biography, conditioning history, and the variables of mental functioning. The common features of these “models of man” is the fact that courses of common sense rationalities of judgment which involve the person’s use of common sense knowledge of social structures over the temporal “succession” of here and now situations  are treated as epiphenomenal.
—Harold Garfinkel (1967:68)

ABSTRACT:  Everyday life as a sociological/philosophical concept is widely considered to be both a familiar and yet taken-for-granted subject matter for analytic investigation. In considering the works of three leading scholars, Michel de Certeau, Harold Garfinkel and John Fiske, one can look toward possible referents to this term. Starting with Certeau’s critical semiotics of the everyday, with its emphasis on such distinctions as place and space as well as strategies and tactics, the everyday can be theorized in terms of contrasts between discourse and practice. Similarly, with Garfinkel’s ethnomethodological emphasis on the practical actor, and Fiske’s ethnographic and cultural studies emphasis on local meaning, the everyday can be conceptualized in terms of distinctions between lived order and a theorized version of the everyday. examining the approaches of these three scholars as well as drawing upon a visual examination of everyday urban scenes, the paper concludes with an affirmation of a multi-conceptual and methodological approach to the everyday and with a recognition of the everyday as a signifier, loaded with a multitude of possibly overlapping meanings.


Sociologists and social theorists have long topicalized a somewhat elusive concept, that of everyday life. As with other widely used but not fully understood concepts inside and outside of our disciplines, everyday life is simultaneously familiar and yet taken for granted, and also mysterious. I wish then to take a closer look at some arguments about this concept, with a particular focus on the meaning of space/place.
In this article, I thus consider a series of scholarly/theoretical perspectives on the topics of “everyday life” and its practices. In particular, I draw upon three key texts: Michel de Certeau’s book The Practice of Everyday Life, Harold Garfinkel’s Studies in Ethnomethodology, specifically its second chapter, “Studies of the routine grounds of everyday activities,” and John Fiske’s paper “Cultural studies and the culture of everyday life, with each work orienting, in its own way, to practice, or practical action. In examining these texts, the reader might be struck by how they appear to all share yet another key commonality, namely the notion of a gap between the everyday and its theorized versions. In addition, I draw upon a series of visual images of settings and events that capture key theorized aspects of the everyday.
What perhaps accounts for such a gap is the realization that the expression “everyday life” is, like that of “reality,’ something of a glass term, standing in for a wide range of phenomena. Many books that have been published drawing upon this expression traverse over a considerable set of sub-topics, ranging from such examples as Theories and Practices From Surrealism to the Present, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, and A Poetics of Vernacular Practices, to The Psychology of Engagement with Everyday Life, Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life, and The Economics of Everyday Life. What these appear to have in common is a chosen preference for ordinary and taken-for-granted examples of practices and features of social and psychological existence. They are akin to documentarians stumbling upon a seen but unnoticed subject matter in an act of subverting “official reality,” or of 20th century modern artists forming new works upon scraps of existing materials of upon “found” objects, thereby transforming their meanings.

Certeau – Place and Space, Strategy and Tactic

I begin with the investigations of Certeau, which offer an explicitly critical theory approach, one informed by such sources as Marxism, existentialism, structuralism, and psychoanalysis. Here, the “everyday” as a topic of study is one which connects individuals to structures through a variety of experientially based practices. For Certeau, specifically, the culture (or the social environment) operates externally on and in the individual, who then, nevertheless, finds ways of navigating the environment for him/herself. Along with other contemporaries on the left, Certeau was especially interested in ordinary, repetitive practices, as well as in their possible ruptures, and thus oriented to a potential praxis regarding such a dialectical pairing. In short, Certeau was concerned with the social, historical order as a lived order. Furthermore, he recognized and highlighted the likely gaps between the lived order and the discourse about the lived order.
Certeau’s own everyday life experiences reflected both secular and sacred[1] influences, ranging from Freud to Christian theology to life at several universities. Living as an intellectual in several countries, he showed an orientation to an eclectic form of theorizing about cultural practice and consciousness as well as the subconscious. His eclecticism drew on such scholarly sources as Kant, Wittgenstein, Freud, Merleau-Ponty, Bourdieu, and Foucault; it is this eclecticism that no doubt helps to explain part of Certeau’s contemporary appeal.
Focusing specifically on everyday life as his topic of reflection in The Practice of Everyday Life, Certeau sharply differentiates between discourse, i.e., a knowledge of ordinary culture, versus the practice of ordinary culture. Focusing on the latter of this pair, that is, on practice, he considers in a variety of examples how ordinary, everyday individuals are active in the use of the elements of their society and their culture, engaged in such practices as “pedestrian speech acts.” One such example might be how urbanites use the limited amount of public space, such as a sidewalk transformed into makeshift marketplace and gathering spot. I took a photo (see Figure 1) of such a location in the Fordham section of the Bronx, NY.

Figure 1: Fordham Road Vendors (Photo by Tom Conroy)

In this instance, the large umbrella and the plastic merchandise containers are simultaneously utilitarian, serving a concrete purpose for the benefit of the merchants, as well as semiotic, offering a visual signal to the crowd so to draw them in as potential customers, and thus providing a colorful contrast to the otherwise drab urban concreteness of this scene. Certeau refers, for example, to the “symbolizing kernels” (1984,105) that comprise street life. The example reiterates Certeau’s observation about the distinction between the consumerist spaces of commodity capitalism—near this makeshift marketplace are large numbers of established businesses—and the creative subversion of such spaces. It illustrates further his distinction between place—an organized product of the dominant order, and space—i.e., a practiced (and arguably) liberated space, “produced by the creativity of the people using the resources of the other.”[2] As John Fiske says in his reading of Certeau,

“So cities are places built to organize and control the lives and movements of their “city subjects” in the interests of the dominant. So, too, supermarkets, apartment blocks and universities are places. But within and against them, the various formations of the people construct their spaces by the practices of living” (Fiske, 1992, 160).

Figure 2: Bronx Rooftop Graffiti (Photo by Tom Conroy)

Certeau’s thinking suggests that society is structurally organized into, essentially, power holding, strategically oriented institutions, which aim to regulate how everyday life is organized, such as, through repetition, and ordinary individuals, who act “tactically” and creatively in response to the culture, such as by appropriating elements of it for their own use.
Thus, while the everyday may appear to be something perhaps hidden or even invisible, for Certeau, it only appears so because of attempts to represent the everyday. In other words, as is shown in the previous two images, there are a wide variety of small details, that is, a lived order , within the urban setting that become part of the very fabric of everyday life. Being rendered as either insignificant or as something of a nuisance feature, they thus tend to get swept away from or watered down in standard or official accounts. Rooftop graffiti, for instance, widely found throughout the Bronx and in other cities around the world, marks its territory in a unique way and is thus in need of much deeper study(c.f., Ganz, 2004).
Again, a Bronx example, that of a spray painted graffiti mural, can help illustrate these points.

Figure 3: Bronx Wall Graffiti (Photo by Tom Conroy)

The image here refers to both the locale, with the street signs for the location (“Morris Ave. and Kingsbridge Road”) being a part of the image, as well as to the perhaps more remote. It also offers contrasts of the various elements, such as the blonde haired, blue eyed woman, the tiger, and other, random scrawls, with the art thus as a whole coming across as rather postmodern. And perhaps not so easily readable in this particular image, the text box to the right of the woman contains such presumably relevant names, or tags, as: “Jimmy Ha Ha, Moe, Binky, Double E, and Masso Picasso.” But the specifics of what these elements may refer to are arguably less significant than the very facticity of this mural—a local cultural object—and many others like it throughout the Bronx, and elsewhere, particularly in urban arenas inhabited by marginalized and disadvantaged populations. Again, this image dramatically represents the reappropriation of space in the urban setting. It expresses, to use Certeau’s analysis, a tactic by those responsible for producing and maintaining this image, in response to the strategies of businesses, real estate interests, police and other government agencies all geared toward control over space.            
Or, if one prefers a more explicitly political example of the reclaiming of space, in the form of a political protest burlesque[3], one can point to such cases as the following image, taken from an anti Iraq War protest in Washington, DC. The image shows a protestor using such ordinary objects as a George W. Bush mask, an inflated “globe” beach ball, and a dollar bill tactically placed in the protestor’s jacket pocket so as to lampoon the Bush regime’s militarism. We thus see here an appropriation of signifiers within a larger appropriation of space by protestors; of course, critical theorists such as Certeau might suggest that the planned, lawful, officially sanctioned nature of such events ultimately reinforce power structure. Nonetheless, the image shown is an example of a break from the ordinary everyday conditions of Washington, DC’s streets; large scale protests do not occur on a daily basis there, after all. Certeau would also be undoubtedly struck by how this moment represents a complex variety of language practices, with this representing a major one of his preoccupations. Organized protest events are, by their very nature, about an attempted reframing of the official discourse about an issue. Also, the fact that the example shows the protestor’s use of satire as a possible political weapon is a vivid realization of Certeau’s insights regarding how historicity can be understood; George W. Bush, as depicted in pantomime by a performer walking in a protest march, raising motioning with the globe, thus, showing Bush as the representation of America’s geopower for a bemused and allied audience of his fellow protest actors, is  rendered a symbol; this symbolic representation is perhaps not matched in much discourse, save that of some rather pointed editorial cartoonists.

Figure 4: Antiwar Protestors (Photo by Tom Conroy)

However, in returning to place as topic, we return to some of Certeau’s primary themes. He writes, for example, about what can be found within what he terms stratified places.

“[B]eneath the fabricating and universal writing of technology, opaque and stubborn places remain. The revolutions of history, economic mutations, demographic mixtures lie in layers within it, and remain there, hidden in customs, rites and special practices. The legible discourses that formerly articulated them have disappeared, or left only fragments in language. This place, on its surface, seems to be a collage. In reality, in its depth it is ubiquitous. A piling up of heterogeneous places. Each one, like a deteriorating page of a book, refers to a different mode of territorial unity, of socioeconomic distribution, of political conflicts and of identifying symbolism” (Certeau 1984, 201).

Here, Certeau’s historical awareness is brought, in a sense, to the surface of his analysis, but with history hidden and in opaque layers. History, and its accomplishments and its constraints, lie, for Certeau, hidden away, and are arguably also emergent within “customs, rites and special practices,” including discursive practices.
Certeau’s analytic interpretation of the everyday is well summarized by Highmore who writes:

“De  Certeau’s poetics of the everyday is built around acts of appropriation and reappropriation that actualize culture and can’t be confined by its dominant meanings. The everyday constitutes the singularity of actual moments (poesis) while a poetics of everyday life generalizes about the forms that such actualization take. Here the way cultural material is appropriated and reappropriated. The cunning, stubborn and hidden forms of such appropriation characterize everyday ways of operating” (Highmore 2006, 107).

However Highmore also goes out to point out that readings of Certeau have tended to privilege “moments of visible cunning over ‘obscure stubborn life’” (2006, 112). Clearly, the everyday contains its share of both elements, that is, a variety of “temporalities.”

Garfinkel - Cultural Dopes and Commonsense Actors

From Garfinkel, the social actor is front and center of ethnomethodology’s investigations as are the “organized artful practices of everyday life” (1967,11). Combining Alfred Schutz’s concern for the rational properties of common sense action with Talcott Parson’s sociological model building toward macro and micro linkages of actors to systems, Garfinkel wound up moving toward what he considered to be mainstream sociology’s “left over and left out” subject matter, and this subject matter, as with the French critical theorists, centered on the ordinary, specifically, ordinary action. Yet from Garfinkel, there is an insistent rejection of a view of what he terms the “cultural dope,” which, for Garfinkel/ethnomethodology, is simply a version of the social actor, i.e., a (literary/conceptual) construct. The cultural dope[4], for Garfinkel, is a conceptualization, one that treats the actor as producing society’s “stable features” via an accommodation to the “common culture’s pre-established and legitimate alternatives of action.” It might also be conceptualized as a bi-product of those sociological methodologies that Garfinkel himself employed in part so as to suggest an alternate program. Garfinkel’s rejection of this was so as to open up for investigation the potentially wide parameters of what ordinary actors might actually do, that is, to problematize the seen-but-unnoticed, taken-for-granted background expectancies of everyday life practices. And it is noticeable that while this critique is directed specifically toward the Parsonian paradigm (or, as he calls it, mainstream sociology) it might just as easily be directed toward critical theory, which remains tied, dualistically to such categorical pairings as action/structure and rulers/ruled. Thus, Garfinkel and Certeau, while appearing to be moving in parallel directions, would part company, based on disparate underlying assumptions from each thinker.
Garfinkel thus refers to the “awesome mystery” of the Kantian conception of moral order within (as well as to the “technical mystery” for sociologists of the moral order without), that is, to the elusiveness of everyday life; for Garfinkel, at the same time, everyday life well consists of societal members’ “perceivedly normal courses of action—familiar scenes of everyday affairs, the world of daily life known in common with others, and with others taken for granted.” While Garfinkel does certainly acknowledge social institutions (such as police agencies, workplaces,  suicide prevention centers) as well as such places as the streets and the home (which is, presumably, of the category of “the familiar”), i.e., acknowledges society in all of this, he is primarily concerned with practical action. For Garfinkel, the practical actor operates as a type of lay sociologist.

“Members of society are concerned as a matter of course and necessarily with these matters both as features and for the socially managed production of their everyday affairs. the study of common sense knowledge and common sense activities consist of treating as problematic phenomena the actual methods  whereby members of a society, doing sociology, lay or professional, make the social structure of everyday activities observable” (Garfinkel 1967, 75).

However, practical action aside, for the moment, we might ask the following: what exactly, according to Garfinkel, is everyday life, and how might it be described or characterized, particularly in terms of its experientiality? is there some essence to it? And, does Garfinkel have anything to say about repetition and boredom, these quite prominent in the critical theory approaches? Garfinkel links “everyday life” to “common sense words” but are both of these the same, or necessarily linked in all instances? While asking these questions knowing full well that Garfinkel and ethnomethodology have no real interest in critical theory’s concerns, and would likely dismiss treating everyday life as something separate and apart from practical actions within it, I am nevertheless curious about theorizing and thematazing everyday life so as to find potentially explorable intersecting points for both programs. Thus, for instance, I am struck by such phenomenologically informed observations, by Garfinkel, that, for example, “familiar scenes of everyday activities, treated by members as the `natural facts of life’ … furnish the `fix,’ the `this is it’ to which the waking state returns one, and are the points of departure and return for every modification of the world of everyday life” (1967, 35). Everyday life is thus both “scenic” and also “familiar” (and presumably repetitively so). Scenes are also described by him as a “texture” (i.e., of  relevant events for local parties, 1967, 45). And Garfinkel does get at boredom, and other negative emotions such as anxiety, guilt, and shame. Yet he does so in the context of an analysis and discussion of the breaching of common understandings and any resulting negative social effects. However, unlike with critical theory, Garfinkel avoids theorizing these conditions as a byproduct of socially structured arrangements. He is also disinterested in altering or correcting such arrangements.
Garfinkel’s chapter, as I read it, is thus something of a three way dialogue involving the Parsonian macro-theoretical framework as representative of the professional sociology discipline as a whole, along with the Schutzian/phenomenological alternative to Parsons, which is the approach that Garfinkel seems to most fully embrace here. Also part of the dialogue, and last, but certainly not least, Garfinkel invokes the Wittgensteinian distinction between rules and rule-following.[5] Through a series of demonstrations and dialogic examples, Garfinkel illustrates a tacit, textured orderliness of members’ practices. We might fully acknowledge this, while also acknowledging Garfinkel’s aims regarding focusing so exclusively on members’ practices, and yet we might also allow some degree of room for the more critical interpretation that Certeau provides. There are, it must be acknowledged, moments in everyday life when the ordinary actor, caught up in and at least semi-aware of his/her own routine practices, is nevertheless fatigued or frustrated by these practices, and by how the everyday world constrains these practices and is perhaps less interested in making meaning about the everyday than in knowing what might be done. There is also in social life the pulsating work of order produced by holders of power and there are disordering acts by those subject to power.
However following Garfinkel, then, one might turn to such categories as “race” or “gender” so as to examine them as variable patterns of action. A “genderized dope,” for example, would focus upon the structuring of gender, and also upon a gendered explanation of action. A gendered explanation, for example, of the gendering of social interaction is one that highlights gender difference in interactive and communicative styles between and across different incumbents of gender categories. Yet what might remain, as an open question, is how specific practices of gendering might be made relevant – by actors, in situ – for a variety of purpose, many of which might be unknowable in advance. Hence, “place,” for Garfinkel is likely not, outside of practices (or “scenes”) to be found within it, to be of any analytic interest; Garfinkel wishes to avoid treating setting/practice as an analytic duality. However, John Fiske, in pointed contrast, wants to explore this very sort of duality.

Fiske – The Ethnography of Everyday Life

Following up on both Garfinkel and Certeau, and turning to the cultural turn in sociology, a turn which recognizes and acknowledges Garfinkel’s challenge to social theorizing (c.f. Miettinen et al, 2009), I want to consider Fiske’s paper as representative of an approach that while praxis oriented and perhaps more in line with a view of oppressed social actors in need of emancipation, carries with it the sort of dualistic approach that ethnomethodology would be inclined to reject. Fiske, furthermore, links the everyday to culture. There are, ultimately, however points of compatibility between the approaches of Fiske and Garfinkel to the everyday.
Fiske’s paper, meant to offer guidance toward the empirical study of the everyday, followed on and contributed to the explosion of interest in the new hybrid field of cultural studies in the 1990s. It draws on a variety of sources, including Certeau, Jean Lave, Michel Foucault, Mikhail Bakhtin and in particular, Pierre Bourdieu, whose concept of the habitus Fiske treats as central to his analysis. Fiske explicitly claims to focus on the “everyday culture of the people in capitalist societies.” Society is thus specifically described using this categorical modifier, which differentiated, perhaps, Fiske from the two other authors thus far considered. Toward this aim, Fiske wishes to employ cultural studies and to use this discipline in service of examining and restructuring the relationship between dominant and subordinate cultures and entities within this context. As with Certeau, Fiske clearly makes use of the place/space distinction, though he also uses the ethnographic/empiricist term “setting” to refer to the local/everyday/familiar.
Presenting an argument about “distance” and its use to mark a distinction between high and low culture, Fiske wants to treat distance as multidimensional and to acknowledge the culture of everyday life of ordinary segments of society as multilayered and textured. He does this in part via a description of some empirical research, such as that of Brett Williams’ account of working class African-Americans living in tenement housing and of Odina Leal’s study of household décor by Brazilian peasants, so as to characterize how everyday life is, indeed textural. For example, the following account of Leal’s work is quite evocative.
“a densely textured symbolic environment through which they life … a mini-environment or ‘entourage’ constructed from objects placed around the TV set. Around the TV set were plastic flowers, a religious picture, a false gold vase, family photographs, a broken laboratory glass and a old broken radio. Williams finds the culture in the density itself, but Leal interprets this texture. Her analysis shows how these people live meaningfully within the contradiction between the city and the country, urban sophistication and rural peasantry, science and magic, the future and the past.” (Fiske, 1992)

Hence, space, or setting, in these interpretive examples and as in Certeau’s analytic arguments, is appropriated and meaningfully controlled by ordinary actors. Using the concept of texture – which literally refers to closely interwoven elements, as in a woven cloth – Fiske sees the everyday as textured in the uses of elements by ordinary, everyday social actors, as, for example in decorating a room or growing a backyard garden. Fiske then goes on to further incorporate Bourdieu’s habitus concept, noting, for example that the concept allows for a consideration of such aspects as the “material practices of everyday culture” as well as the symbolic and the historical. In discussing Bourdieu, Fiske makes a semiotic point about meaning’s complexity, a point not entirely incompatible with Garfinkel’s views. Garfinkel, for example, acknowledges semiotic analysis, though also sees its limitations, noting that “available theories have many important things to say about such sign functions as marks and indications, but they are silent on such overwhelmingly more common functions as glosses, synechdoche, documented representation, euphemism, irony, and double entendre” (1967,71).[6] He also dismisses, as a sort of gloss, a mere analytic pairing of “appearances and intended objects,” that is ‘sign’ and ‘referent’ which he argues represent a “procedural description” that neglects “the judgmental work of the user” (1976, 71). Yet, as Fiske argues, following Bourdieu, “practices can circulate and reproduce culture without their meanings passing through discourse or consciousness.” Their solution is to study practice by bringing it to the level of discourse, even at the risk of altering practice’s ontological status. Fiske continues here by advocating that “cultural theorists follow the example of some feminists, for example, in using  their personal experience of living and practicing culture as a key element in the production of a theoretical discourse and its more distanced and generalized explanations of the world”[7] (1992, 159).
While Fiske’s view would allow for Garfinkel’s appropriation of phenomenology to be put to further use, this would likely be a use that Garfinkel would reject, however, given a disinterest in treating social structure theoretically.  With Fiske, and with such sources of his as Pierre Bourdieu, we are back to the duality of historically determined culture on the one hand, and everyday life on the other, and we are in a theoretical place of concern for such a context as “capitalist modernity.” We are also with Fiske at a point of incorporating both critical theory, and the contemporary program of cultural studies, which critical theory, starting with Kant and continuing with Marx,  and later both Gramsci and the various Frankfurt School theorists, directly informs. I offer one more visual image of street hawkers, but in this case in Seattle in 1994. This is meant to highlight possible points of compatibility for all three approached discussed in this paper.

Figure 5: Seattle Street Vendors (Photo by Tom Conroy)

As is typical of most large cities, that is, complex commercial centers, around the world some forms of commerce take place informally and more or less out in the streets. Street vendors (c.f., Duneier, 2000), also known as hawkers, such as those shown here in the downtown of Seattle, offer cheap/used/handcrafted items for sale. They very often operate without venders permits; they are thus unofficial commercial agents. They simply set up shop wherever and however they can. As practical actors, hawkers clearly employ a common sense knowledge of social structure, and do so on a daily basis. Garfinkel, following his discussions of the taken-for-granted nature of social order, would likely point to the practice of price negotiations in the exchanges of hawkers and buyers, though one could also consider the ethnomethodological features of how a hawker negotiates and manages his/her place on the street location. In some instances, hawkers may coordinate with one another so as to maintain space relatively collectively.
At the same time, the hawker’s vendor space remains a cultural mix, perhaps a mix of the high and the low, or the mundane with the idiosyncratic. Clearly, there is considerably less distance in this context between buyer and seller than there might be in more established and less transient marketplaces. In the meantime, the space of the hawker is embedded in a larger space, one in which everyday culture gets enacted as crowds appear, disappear, and reappear and participate in a variety of practices (such as sitting around in the urban square).
Ultimately, this example, as with many others, while reflecting the every day, does not specifically offer a self-interpretation. Rather, it can be made subject to interpretation based upon the realization of a multiple layering of analytic contexts and tie-ins to both social and theoretical structures.


Thus, in considering the emergence of this cultural turn, in focusing upon its points of breakage from the socially programmed, and in being reminded, via Garfinkel, of the active nature of social actors in constructing meaning and an in situ way, might continue to treat the “everyday” as one of sociology’s, and social theory’s, more loaded terms; it is a term that automatically invokes debate regarding relative weights given to the individual actor and his/her environment, as well as to the question of whether we are, indeed, cultural dopes, there to be interpreted as particular courses of action using standard methods of inquiry.
As examined, the everyday is, as a signifier, loaded with a multitude of possibly overlapping meanings. It is, indeed, familiar and yet mysterious. In wanting to follow and to unravel its meanings, we are presented with a variety of analytic choices, each of which lead us to perhaps differing emphases if not outright conclusions. For Certeau, the everyday (or “everyday life”) is itself a practice; for Garfinkel as for Fiske, it is more of a type of context for various practices. When theorizing the everyday, a methodological combination of semiotic, ethnomethodological and ethnographic approaches would likely offer a rich array of descriptive insights into the everyday’s meanings. I am thus advocating a methodological eclecticism. I suggest this knowing that the term the everyday is a gloss term, or perhaps even a reification. However, in the context of other conceptual or disciplinary understandings, the everyday is less of a reification and more of a reminder of the lush, textured ordinariness of social practices.
Visually speaking, the everyday thus shows up indirectly as a context for, or as the interpretive framework, for (particularly urban) social practices and the uses of spaces and places. When a theorist or ethnographer (or even a tourist with a camera) walks around an urban setting, rich in textural elements, capturing the setting photographically, s/he is inherently pointing to the ordinary and the everyday, which manages, somehow, to make its presence felt. If one looks carefully and with some methodological sensitivity to the systematic of practical action, one is able to find and to visually display the production of local order.
Regarding urban space, the various theorists and analysts of everyday life are there to remind us of the continuous need for attentiveness to the spontaneous, the unplanned, the contingent, the unofficial, and even the politically resistant. We are, indeed, reminded, that practical, social action, particularly of a political or artistic bent, can be willfully violative of existing normative expectations. 
So, are social actors, ultimately, cultural (or political) dopes (or culturally doped)? While Garfinkel clearly says that they are not, and asserts this for methodological reasons, and while critical or cultural theorists are perhaps much more split, the examples of John Fiske, Pierre Bourdieu, and Michel Certeau lean in the direction of actors, if ever doped/duped, being able to emerge from this “stupor” so as to act, if not always in their own self-interest, at least in creative and culturally meaningful ways. Perhaps, though, this is more of an ethical and even aesthetic judgment than a purely methodological one.


Bailyn, S.J. 2002. “Who makes the rules? Using Wittgenstein in social theory” Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior. 32:3. 311-329
Certeau, Michel de. 1984. The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. S. Rendell/ Berkeley, CA: University of California Press
Duneier, Mitch. 2000. Sidewalk. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Fiske, John 1992. “Cultural studies and the culture of everyday life.” in Cultural Studies. Eds. L. Grossberg, C. Nelson, and P. Treacher . New York: Routledge
Ganz, Nicholas. 2004 .Graffiti World: Street Art from Five Continents. New York. Harry Abrams
Garfinkel, Harold 1967. Studies in Ethnomethodology. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall
Highmore, Ben 2006. Michel Certeau: Analzying Culture. London: Continuum
Kelly, Terrence. 2000. “The Unhappy Liberal: Critical Theory without Cultural DopesConstellations: An International Journal of Critical & Democratic Theory. Sep2000, Vol. 7 Issue 3, p372-381
Lee, John. 1991. “Language and culture: The linguistic analysis of culture.” In Ethnomethodology and the Human Sciences. Ed. G. Button   Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Miettinen, Reijo, Dalvir Samra-Fredericks, and Dvora Yanow, 2009.Re-Turn to Practice: An Introductory Essay.” Organization Studies, Vol. 30, No. 12, 1309-1327
Smith, Dorothy 1990. The Conceptual Practices of Power: A Feminist Sociology of Knowledge. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press


[1].    Certeau was an ordained Jesuit priest with a doctorate in theology.
[2].    Fiske, p. 160
3.  St. John, examining the uses of street theater in political protest, notes that While new social movement theorists have recognized the
significance of movement cultural politics, new approaches are needed to understand the festal and “carnivalesque” character of the contemporary activism.

4.   Kelly makes use of the concept  of the cultural dope within the context of a critical theory account of  the relationship of social and political agents within the space of liberal, post-ideological social spheres. What is noteworthy of Kelly’s analysis is his linking of Garfinkel’s concept to the concept of ideology, in a neo-Marxian sense of this concept.
[5]. Bailyn makes the argument that Wittgenstein informs Garfinkel’s thinking here much more deeply than does Schutz
[6]. This of course was well before the field of Conversation Analysis (CA) was established and before scholars working on language and communication studies began to incorporate the insights of ethnomethodology into their investigations. C.f., Lee, 1991
[7]. Cf. Smith, D. 1990, who also tries to incorporate a phenomenological/ethnomethodological perspective into her work, which is largely influenced by feminism and Marxism.