Am I now, or have I ever been, a Symbolic Interactionist? Autobiographical reflections

Hammersley, Martyn (2012). Am I now, or have I ever been, a Symbolic Interactionist? Autobiographical reflections. In: Denzin, Norman ed. Blue Ribbon Papers: Behind the Professional Mask: The Autobiographies of Leading Symbolic Interactionists. Studies in Symbolic Interaction (38). Bingley: Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 153–174.




Assigning or claiming identities can be a dangerous business. Labels carry conflicting meanings and, even more importantly, what is a laudatory term to some will be grounds for condemnation by others. My immediate response to the invitation to write this piece about becoming a symbolic interactionist, aside from the pleasure of being asked, was that I was not sure that I could claim, or even that I would want to claim, this label. I have a visceral dislike of theoretical-cum-methodological camps, not least because over the years I have been accused of belonging to a variety of these, from positivism to post-modernism. Reflecting a little more on the invitation, however, I realized that I could not reasonably deny that in the past, particularly in the 1970s, I regarded myself and was seen by others as an interactionist. Moreover, while my ideas about sociological work are now somewhat different from what they were then, and the direction of travel might be viewed as ‘un-interactionist’, in fact much of my work is still focused on issues coming out of the interactionist tradition: notably, Blumer's views about methodology, Becker's arguments about ‘Whose side are we on?’, and the notion of analytic induction.

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