Studying What Doesn’t Happen in Meetings

This paper belongs to Thematic Session 2 of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Kathleen Blee, University of Pittsburgh (Sociology)

We have good ways to study what happens in meetings, but few ways to notice or understand what does not happen. This is a problem for research on meetings since their direction can be significantly shaped by implicit collective understandings of what is appropriate or plausible to consider. This paper draws on a three year ethnographic study of meetings by 60+ new and emerging activist groups in Pittsburgh that traced both what groups considered in their discussions, and what they could have considered (based on prior meetings or discussions in similar activist groups) but did not. I explain the method I used to capture meeting discussions that did not take place, and open a discussion of better ways that scholars can capture absences in social life.

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