We created this blog as a platform for discussing and debating the relationship between methodology and practice theory. In recent years, a growing number of scholars have embraced theories of practice – developing and extending conceptual resources and applying these to a wide range of empirical cases and disciplines including sociology, history, social anthropology, political science, organisational studies, and geography. While there are diverse approaches and conceptual vocabularies within the broad ‘family’ of theories, in contrast to individualist or normativist positions, this work conceives of the social as practices that are performed in, and constitutive of, time and space (e.g. Schatzki 1996, 2002). It is concerned with overcoming traditional dualisms like the separation between society and the individual, culture and the material or thinking and acting. It therefore rejects essentialist beliefs and instead advocates for a view of the social world in which contextual relations are crucial to understanding. Practice theory argues that the social needs to be reproduced and constantly maintained by participants and recognises that embodied dispositions, competences and tacit knowledge – not merely conscious reflection – affect understandings of situations and performances of actions.
Though a range of useful theoretical and empirical contributions have been made, discussions of methodology and the use of methods have been comparatively lacking. Yet important questions remain as to both whether the methodological ‘status quo’ in social scientific disciplines suffices for those engaging with practice theory, and how methodological innovation or experimentation might inspire further theoretical and empirical contributions. In order to facilitate engagement around topics such as these, we have put together a selection of propositions as a starting point for discussion. We encourage researchers to develop, critique, refute and change these propositions, or to reflect upon how they align or diverge from experiences of methodologies-in-use. Please contact us if you would like to contribute to this blog. Existing contributions can be browsed by date (on the home page and the monthly archive listing at the bottom of it) or by the proposition(s) or method(s) they refer to (in the top menus).
DEMAND Research Centre and Sociology, Lancaster University, UK
Cultural Sociology, Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder), Germany