Abstract

Edwards’ paper, ‘Categories are for talking’ (1991), is a critical dissection of the static role of categories as conceived in traditional Cognitive Psychology and the then-recent work of Lakoff’s Women, Fire and Dangerous Things (1987) through the use of Harvey Sacks’ (1974; 1992) work on membership categorisation. Edwards uses Sacks to take aim at the prominent theoretical and methodological trends at the time, seeking to liberate members’ category work from ironically external conceptions of a shrouded realm located inside the head. However, while the focus for Edwards was on psychology, his detailed under – standing of Sacks’ work served to open a conceptual space for those working in discursive psychology to engage with members categorisation work as fundamental to the epistemological and methodological repertoires of Discursive Psychology (DP) in ways that ally with the emergence of Membership Categorisation Analysis (MCA: Eglin and Hester, 1992; Watson,1994; Hester and Francis, 1994).

In the discussion below we focus on how the paper shows three areas of intersection in the emergence of DP and MCA. First, we outline how the initial use of Sacks’ category work in the paper was directed towards psychological topics at a time when his ideas were largely confined to the sociological fields of ethnomethodology and conversation analysis. Second, we trace Edwards’ work to embed Sacks’ categorial work as an analytic method for DP while running parallel to the emergence and development of MCA. Finally, we situate the contemporary influence of Edwards’ paper and use of Sacks’ work in the creation of a rich confluence and openness to ideas that have become a hallmark of the contemporary DP approach – an approach that not only incorporates a deep understanding of Sacks’ categorisation work but, in turn, contributes significantly to the further development of MCA.