Peter McHugh: A Memoir of the Passion of Theorizing


This paper is a personal and theoretic commemoration of Peter McHugh’s life and commitment through the prism of the writer’s discovery of, and involvement in, the effort from the late 1960s to diagnose and respond to “the failure of positivism” in sociology. Peter’s work (with that of Alan Blum) formed a central component of that effort. I trace the genealogy of Peter’s teaching and conversational practice, to his roots in ethnomethodology and his involvement with Harold Garfinkel. This is followed by an account of how Peter developed and transformed the ethnomethodological impulse, from the “uninterestingly” enforceable towards the invitation to share in the discovery and reconstruction of interest. The paper concludes by situating the time that is its focus, acknowledging the depth of Peter’s impact, and opening for future engagement the subsequent development of his work, in the context of various debates and questions (briefly alluded to) that form a part of the life of theorizing in the early twenty-first century.

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Correspondence to Patrick Colfer.

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Colfer, P. Peter McHugh: A Memoir of the Passion of Theorizing. Hum Stud 33, 281–286 (2010).

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  • Ethnomethodology
  • Formation of community
  • Formulation, the “sayable”
  • Interest/the uninteresting
  • Reflexivity of community
  • Measure, moderation/immoderation
  • Spirited discourse, spiritedness
  • Theory, theoretic, theorizing, the theoretic life