Work-worlds colliding: self-reflexivity, power and emotion in organizational ethnography

Sarah Gilmore, Kate Kenny

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    While organizational ethnographers have embraced the concept of self-reflexivity, problems remain. In this article we argue that the prevalent assumption that self-reflexivity is the sole responsibility of the individual researcher limits its scope for understanding organizations. To address this, we propose an innovative method of collective reflection that is inspired by ideas from cultural and feminist anthropology. The value of this method is illustrated through an analysis of two ethnographic case studies, involving a ‘pair interview’ method. This collective approach surfaced self-reflexive accounts, in which aspects of the research encounter that still tend to be downplayed within organizational ethnographies, including emotion, intersubjectivity and the operation of power dynamics, were allowed to emerge. The approach also facilitated a second contribution through the conceptualization of organizational ethnography as a unique endeavour that represents a collision between one ‘world of work’: the university, with a second: the researched organization. We find that this ‘collision’ exacerbates the emotionality of ethnographic research, highlighting the refusal of ‘researched’ organizations to be domesticated by the specific norms of academia. Our article concludes by drawing out implications for the practice of self-reflexivity within organizational ethnography.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)55-78
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number1
    Early online date26 Jun 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


    • emotion
    • ethnography
    • methods
    • organization
    • self-reflexivity


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