Gary Alan Fine: - From small groups to peopled ethnography

This chapter considers the work of Gary Alan Fine, probably the most prolific contemporary cultural ethnographer and one of the key contributors to the sociology of small groups. In the chapter, Fine's intellectual journey is explored, from his earlier studies on the Baseball little league to his recent research on 'futurework' and the way prevision is culturally and organizationally structured. While Fine's perspective is interdisciplinary (with anthropology (in particular the American tradition related to folklore and language studies), social psychology and sociology being the key elements, theoretically he has developed the symbolic interactionist tradition. He thus highlights the constructed nature of social worlds by emphasizing the set of meanings through which social actors define such worlds and their limits, and in particular identifies the small group, and its internal verbal interaction, as the foundation of his approach. Our daily lives are conceived as archipelagos of small groups. As we travel by, we shape the map they are located in and through which we recognize ourselves. Considering his whole career, the relationship between expressive culture (forms of talk and codes of feelings) and social structure may be said to be the main focus of Fine's empirical and theoretical work. His approach remains evidently linked to interaction, from which he refrains to detach and to which he tries to bring back discourse, or indeed people's accounts as expressed the cultural whisperings that swells up into rumors and gossip. Fine is perhaps the most prolific and versatile ethnographer in contemporary sociology. And a sociologist focused on interaction - both as a methodological and as an ontological element - must start from being on the spot. Fine's importance, I reckon, lays on his ability of finding places where, by speaking of small fragments of reality, it becomes possible to speak of broad cultural borders - thus the culture of mushroom collectors enables us to focus on the border between culture and nature, while the work of weather forecasters brings us to think about the relationship between present and future. His originality undoubtedly lies on his ability to recognize the external reality of social structure as it is translated into specific cultural forms anchored to small group culture. The chapter closes with an overall appreciation of Fine's contribution to the symbolic interactionist tradition, focusing in particular on his furthering of our understanding of the emotional and the cognitive aspects of interaction.

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Bassetti C.
Sassatelli R.
The Interactionist Imagination. Meaning, Situation and Micro-Social Order, pp. 409–434, 2017
info:cnr-pdr/source/autori:Bassetti C.; Sassatelli R./titolo:Gary Alan Fine: - From small groups to peopled ethnography/titolo_volume:The Interactionist Imagination. Meaning, Situation and Micro-Social Order/curatori_volume:/editore:/anno:2017
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