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Institutional Ethnography

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Brief Overview

Institutional Ethnography refers to the sociology initially developed by Dorothy Smith. It involves an exploration of the actualities of everyday/night life and how those actualities came to be/happen.

Formal Definition

Dorothy Smith wished to avoid orthodoxy in the practice of Institutional Ethnography in order to maintain its commitment to inquiry and discovery. Broadly defined, it is a sociology that examines "how things are actually put together", "how it works" (Smith, 2006). In so doing, the research discovers "the social" as the indexical coordinating of people's activities.

Detailed Description

Different research strategies have developed as researchers approach their own projects. What is common is beginning with people's experience. Methodologies have included but are not limited to focus groups, interviews, case studies, surveys, participant observation. The researcher then examines that experience as embedded in an institution or other social relation. The process involves a generous notion of work/labour, analysis of ideological procedures and social relations analysis (Smith, 1987).

Recommended Reading

Smith, DE. 1987. The Everyday World as Problematic: A Feminist Sociology. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Smith, DE. 1990. Texts, Facts, and Femininity: Exploring the Relations of Ruling. New York: Routledge.

Smith, DE. 2001. Texts and the Ontology of Organizations and Institutions. Culture and Organization; 7(2): 159-198.

Smith, DE. 2006. Institutional Ethnography as Practice. Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield.


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