Call for papers: New Directions in Workplace Ethnography

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

The workplace has long been a central venue for ethnographic studies, reflecting the centrality of work in people’s lives. Workplace ethnographies have generated deep insights into the different work life experiences among which organizational structure, managerial and employee behaviour, workplace conflicts, power relations and workplace culture. However, the changing nature of employment, and the demands placed upon employees in a post-bureaucratic and service-focused economy requires a shift of focus to topics such as workplace identities, and managerial practices of cultural control and its underlying technologies. Calling for papers that explore this shift, this special issue will reflect on ways in which ethnographic sensibilities and sensitivities are especially relevant to current workplace relations and experiences.

As the interests of ethnographers in the era of globalization turn to new forms of organizing (such as social networking, open innovation, open organising, digitisation, data sharing), conventional fieldwork may no longer be adequate. Fieldwork in multiple, transnational and virtual settings, or under duress of a global pandemic, may require researchers to exchange their once territorially bounded field-site for a mobile and digital approach. This special issue calls for papers that will discuss new approaches in workplace ethnography, such as multi-sited fieldwork, virtual ethnography, autoethnography and visual methodology and the ways in which these approaches contribute to solve the challenge of geographical distances, multiple spaces or imposed immobility of mandatory lockdowns during a global pandemic.

Whilst interventionist approaches motivated early workplace ethnographies, organizational ethnographers have taken a critical stance towards active interference in organisations. However, as the rules of engagement with organisations have changed and definitions of academic respectability have shifted towards a more pronounced role of academics in organisational change and social transition, ethnographers have come to engage in consultative roles in the corporate/business world and government bodies where ethnography is increasingly used as a tool to underpin strategy. Particularly equipped for co-producing knowledge with local stakeholders, ethnographic research has a role to play in identifying problems and proposing alternatives (or alternative futures) in long-term policy and planning.

Ethnographic research is likely to reveal underlying tensions and conflict that may affect development and can help avoid ill-conceived schemes. As the full potential of ethnographic research methods for policy-making and planning has yet to be developed, this special issue makes a pioneering contribution by inviting case studies of interventionist ethnographies sparking the discussion on the benefits and challenges, strengths and weaknesses of such approaches. 

List of topic areas:

•     -Studying entrepreneurial/workplace identities in the context of social inequality
 -Workplace politics, frictions and fissions between staff and management in the context of organisational culture change;
 -Ethnographic research strategies at the workplace under COVID lockdown rules;
 -Workplace ethnography as a tool and intervention strategy; 
 -New approaches in workplace ethnography such as: autoethnography, digital/virtual ethnography, multi-sited fieldwork, visual ethnography.   

For more information, see the CALL.

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