Human Studies

, Volume 42, Issue 4, pp 695–716 | Cite as

“Hearability” Versus “Hearership”: Comparing Garfinkel’s and Schegloff’s Accounts of the Summoning Phone

  • Dušan BjelićEmail author
Empirical Study / Analysis


This paper compares Harold Garfinkel’s phenomenologically informed “radical” ethnomethodology and Emanuel Schegloff’s “classical” Conversation Analysis, by focusing on their treatments of a ringing telephone as a summons. In their diverging accounts, Garfinkel and Schegloff use similar yet different terminologies in relation to the action of hearing. Garfinkel speaks of the “hearability” of the ringing phone, while Schegloff speaks of a recipient’s “hearership”. This lexical distinction is not irrelevant. “Hearership” stresses the obligations of parties to a phone call to speak and listen to each other while co-producing conversation. In contrast, for Garfinkel an analysis limited only to the parties’ work of speaking and listening to each other from within the hearable world glosses over the pervasive presence of the “hearability-structures” of the ordinary world. His “radical” version is predicated on the claim that the ordinary world is a hearable world. Accordingly, a phone summons is a familiar sound in which “hearability” is inseparable from the “hearability-structures” endogenous to the Lebenswelt.


Ethnomethodology Conversation analysis Phenomenology Phone-summons Hearship Hearability-structures 



I would like to thank Michael Lynch for his generous help in editing this paper and for his constructive suggestions.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Southern MainePortlandUSA

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