This essay considers practices of observation and description in postwar microsociology as a model for contemporary practices of reading. Returning to the work of Gilbert Ryle and Clifford Geertz, Heather Love contends that the dominance of thick description in both the humanities and social sciences has obscured the value of thin description as a method. Focusing on the work of Erving Goffman as well as large-scale collaborative projects such as the Natural History of an Interview, Love suggests that microanalyses of observed behavior provide a model for reading across disciplines.
Close Reading and Thin Description
Heather Love is the R. Jean Brownlee Term Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (2007) and the editor of a special issue of the journal GLQ on Gayle Rubin, “Rethinking Sex” (2011). She is currently working on a book on reading methods in postwar social science.
Heather Love; Close Reading and Thin Description. Public Culture 1 September 2013; 25 (3 (71)): 401–434. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-2144688
Download citation file: