Book review: Improvising theory: process and temporality in ethnographic fieldwork

Hamid Foroughi

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article reviewpeer-review

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    Ethnographic research methods are now widely used in social sciences. In fact, the ethnographic experience itself has become a focal point of some recent research (Kenny, 2008; Roberts and Sanders, 2005), including the book under the review. This book review especially focuses on challenges faced by more inexperienced researchers in the field. Many doctorate students in management disciplines, for example, choose the ethnographic approach as their principal mode of inquiry, yet management programs often do not fully prepare the students for fieldwork. Indeed, unlike their peers in anthropology departments, they rarely benefit from extensive preparatory courses dedicated to ethnographic research. While there are several excellent methodology text books which provide insight into ethnographic research, these are often inadequate in guiding novice researchers in the field. Cerwonka and Malkki (2007) particularly shed light on the difficulty of teaching “how to do ethnography”. Their book offers an interesting account of the vulnerability of inexperienced ethnographers who find themselves “alone” in the field in charge of important decisions which inevitably influence their research while lacking the subtle intuition and confidence of an experienced ethnographer. The authors reflect on their own first-hand experience when Cerwonka, at the time a PhD student, was doing an ethnographic research under the supervision of Malkki, to show how these problems can be approached. The book entails a short introductory chapter written by Cerwonka, and a final concluding chapter written by Malkki. The middle chapter, which forms the central part of the book (120 pages out of 187), includes the details of their year-long correspondence, reproduced in its original format, with a few notes from each author at the end of different sections of this correspondence.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)291-294
    Number of pages4
    JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2014


    • ethnography
    • improvisation
    • theory building
    • emotion
    • research method training


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