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CAUT Bulletin Archives

December 2003

The Montreal Massacre: A Story of Membership Categorization Analysis

Peter Eglin & Stephen Hester, eds. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2003; 167 pp; paper $29.95 CA.
The Montreal Massacre: A Story of Membership Categorization Analysis adopts an ethnomethodological viewpoint to analyze how the murder of women by a lone gunman at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal was presented to the public via media publication over a two-week period in 1989. All that the public came to know and understand of the murders, the murderer and the victims was constituted in the description and commentaries produced by the media. What the murders became, therefore, was an expression of the methods used to describe and evaluate them, and central to these methods was membership category analysis - the human practice of perceiving people, places and events as "members" of "categories," and to use these to explain actions. As a contribution to sociology and as a demonstration of the significance of ethnomethodology for understanding social life, the book reveals the methodical and particularly categorial character of how sense is made of events such as the Montreal Massacre and how such methodical and categorial resources are central to human interaction.
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