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Prof William Sharrock - personal details

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Role: Professor




I’ve been in Manchester since 1965  when I registered as a postgraduate student after completing my undergraduate degree at Leicester University where I was taught by a series of exceptional teachers – including such as A. Giddens, E. Dunning, P.S. Cohen  among several  others. Shortly afterward I was appointed as an assistant lecturer and have been here pretty continuously ever since. I came across sociology at Leicester (where it was a compulsory element in the first year of the social sciences course) and realised that it was about things I had been thinking about and arguing over since my early teens so I changed my intention to study economics. 

In 1965 sociology was in a joint department with social anthropology (which was then an outstanding representative of what was known as British Social Anthropology)  and, again, I had the good luck to be exposed to great teachers. My thought was to combine something like Max Weber’s idea of social action to anthropology’s fieldwork method, and thought that Erving Goffman’s then recent works were an impressive more in the right direction. An equally junior colleague, John Lee, who shared my guiding thought soon clued me in to the Wittgensteinian tradition  in philosophy. When Goffman visited the department as a Simon Fellow he  strongly commended the work of Harold Garfinkel, so when Garfinkel’s Studies in Ethnomethodology  was published in 1967 I realised that he had already gone much further with our guiding idea than we had. Wittgenstein and Garfinkel both pointed toward the fact that the practice of sociology is entirely  dependent in practice on the use of ordinary/natural language in ways that are not provided for in its explicit teaching and my various works, which have wandered across a wide range of issues and topics, have remained  (more or less directly) connected to that central idea. Some published and unpublished papers from 1975 to the present can be found at the Sharrock and Anderson Archive at