Membership Categorization in Action

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Elizabeth Reddington


Guys, girls, mothers, sisters, pastors, real estate agents… What roles do these seemingly mundane labels for referring to people play in social interaction? When and why are such categories invoked by participants, how are they oriented to, and what do they accomplish? These are key questions for membership categorization analysis (MCA), which seeks to uncover the “methodical practices” that members use “in describing the world, and displaying their understanding of the world and of the commonsense routine workings of society” (Fitzgerald, Housley, & Butler, 2009, p. 47).

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