Mar 16, 2016

DeVault, M. L. (2006). Introduction: What is institutional ethnography?. SOCIAL PROBLEMS-NEW YORK-, 53(3), 294.

Pages: 5

Selected Quotes: "'Institutional ethnography' is the label that has come to be used for an approach to investigation of the social that focuses on “textually-mediated social organization” (Smith 1990b). Developed and named by Canadian sociologist Dorothy E. Smith (1987) in the early 1980s, institutional ethnography has matured over the past several decades and spread not only internationally in sociology but through a number of other fields such as nursing, education, social work, planning, and so on."

Marjorie_DeVault"Institutional ethnographies are built from the examination of work processes and study of how they are coordinated, typically through texts and discourses of various sorts. Work activities are taken as the fundamental grounding of social life, and an institutional ethnography generally takes some particular experience (and associated work processes) as a “point of entry.” The work involved could be part of a paid job; it might fall into the broader field of unpaid or invisible work, as so much of women’s work does; or it might comprise the activities of some “client” group. In any case, there is recognition that institutional ideologies typically acknowledge some kinds of work and not others. Thus, the investigator attends to all of the work that’s done in the setting, and also notes which activities are recognized and accounted institutionally and which are not. Analysis proceeds by way of tracing the social relations people are drawn into through their work (with the term “social relations” taken in its Marxist sense to mean not relationships but connections among work processes). The point is to show how people in one place are aligning their activities with relevances produced elsewhere, in order to illuminate the forces that shape experience at the point of entry. Many institutional ethnographers have adopted a rhetoric of “mapping” to highlight the analytic goal of explication rather than theory building; the analysis is meant to be “usable” in the way that a map can be used to find one’s way."

"In organizational studies textual coordination may be quite focused—relatively easy to see—and institutional ethnographies of organizational work often focus on specific texts such as policy documents (Eastwood 2005; Ng 1995; Stooke 2003), funding proposals and planning documents (Grahame 1998; Turner 2001), the accounting records of bureaucratic workplaces (McCoy 1998; Mykhalovskiy 2001), or the charts and records of professional-client relations in health care, social work, and educational settings (AndrĂ©-Bechely 2005; Parada 2002; Rankin 2001). Life outside of these formal organizational sites—in households and family groupings, for example—is more diffusely and unevenly coordinated through texts and discourses (indeed, the closer alignment of some individuals or households than others with the coordinative logics of other institutions may be a primary mechanism for the reproduction of inequalities)."


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