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Charles Goodwin
In Memoriam

Charles Goodwin

Professor Emeritus of Communication

UC Los Angeles
Charles (Chuck) Goodwin died on March 31, 2018, in Los Angeles, the city where he was born on October 9, 1943, and where he returned in 1996 when he was hired at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the Department of Applied Linguistics. In 2017 he retired as Distinguished Professor of Communication.

From an early age Goodwin showed an aptitude and passion for photography, a medium that he later combined with video and computer technology to capture and represent the unfolding semiotics of talk, gestures, and tool-use. After graduating from Holy Cross, where he studied English literature, and a year spent at the New York University School of Law, Goodwin went to the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania. There, he was exposed to cybernetics by his advisor, Klaus Krippendorff, and to the study of face-to-face communication through his job as a research associate and filmmaker in the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic where Gregory Bateson’s “systems theory” was being applied to family therapy. During this time Professor Goodwin also met his future wife Marjorie (Candy) Harness, whose advisor was Erving Goffman, and he began to attend the latter’s courses, which were also attended by Gail Jefferson and William Labov.

In 1976, Charles and Candy Goodwin joined the department of anthropology at the University of South Carolina. Marjorie was completing her dissertation on Black children’s verbal virtuosity and argumentation, which debunked popular stereotypes of the difference between boys and girls’ speaking styles.  The turn-by-turn analysis made possible by her data played a crucial role in the Goodwins embracing conversation analysis, which Chuck revolutionized by demonstrating the importance of visual access to the interactive construction of speakers’ turns and utterances in his 1977 dissertation.

Chuck Goodwin was an extraordinarily prolific scholar, whose many publications include his 1994 article “Professional Vision,” the most cited article published to date in the American Anthropologist. Goodwin’s international fame as an original scholar and gifted lecturer was evidenced by countless invitations to be a plenary speaker at conferences around the world and by two degrees of doctor of philosophy honoris causa from Linköping University and Aalbord University.

His remarkable 2018 book Co-operative Action brings together a lifetime body of research and provides an empirically informed theory on human interaction as the systematic, creative reuse of what was just performed by other co-participants.

One of the universally recognized qualities of Goodwin’s character as a scholar was his openness to other people’s ideas and research interests. His world-renowned weekly “lab” welcomed graduate students, colleagues from a variety of departments, and a steady flow of international visitors who were eager to submit their audio-visual data to Goodwin’s “professional vision.”

On March 20, Chuck Goodwin received the news that he was the winner of the 2018 Garfinkel-Sacks Award for Distinguished Scholarship from the American Sociological Association, a well-deserved recognition of his exceptional contributions to ethnomethodology and conversation analysis, two of the many fields impacted by his creative genius.

Alessandro Duranti