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Awkward encounters and ethnography

Awkward encounters and ethnography Purpose – Researchers rarely present accounts of their awkward encounters in ethnographies. Awkwardness, however, does matter and affects the ethnographic accounts we write and our understanding of social situations. The purpose is to bring these hidden sides of organizational ethnography to the fore, to discuss the consequences of ignoring awkward encounters, and to improve our understanding of organizational realities. Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents awkward ethnographic encounters in the field: encounters with evangelizing ethnic Chinese business people in Indonesia (Koning), and visiting an artist village in China (Ooi). Based on analysing their awkwardness, and in the context of a critical assessment of the reflexive turn in ethnography, the authors propose a more inclusive reflexivity. The paper ends with formulating several points supportive of reaching inclusive reflexivity. Findings – By investigating awkward encounters, the authors show that these experiences have been left out for political (publishing culture in academia, unwritten rules of ethnography), as well as personal (feelings of failure, unwelcome self‐revelations) reasons, while there is much to discover from these encounters. Un‐paralyzing reflexivity means to include the awkward, the emotional, and admit the non‐rational aspects of our ethnographic experiences; such inclusive reflexivity is incredibly insightful. Research limitations/implications – Inclusive reflexivity not only allows room for the imperfectness of the researcher, but also enables a fuller and deeper representation of the groups and communities we aim to understand and, thus, will enhance the trustworthiness and quality of our ethnographic work. Originality/value – Awkwardness is rarely acknowledged, not to mention discussed, in organizational ethnography. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal Emerald Publishing

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
Copyright © 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited. All rights reserved.
ISSN
1746-5648
DOI
10.1108/17465641311327496
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Purpose – Researchers rarely present accounts of their awkward encounters in ethnographies. Awkwardness, however, does matter and affects the ethnographic accounts we write and our understanding of social situations. The purpose is to bring these hidden sides of organizational ethnography to the fore, to discuss the consequences of ignoring awkward encounters, and to improve our understanding of organizational realities. Design/methodology/approach – This paper presents awkward ethnographic encounters in the field: encounters with evangelizing ethnic Chinese business people in Indonesia (Koning), and visiting an artist village in China (Ooi). Based on analysing their awkwardness, and in the context of a critical assessment of the reflexive turn in ethnography, the authors propose a more inclusive reflexivity. The paper ends with formulating several points supportive of reaching inclusive reflexivity. Findings – By investigating awkward encounters, the authors show that these experiences have been left out for political (publishing culture in academia, unwritten rules of ethnography), as well as personal (feelings of failure, unwelcome self‐revelations) reasons, while there is much to discover from these encounters. Un‐paralyzing reflexivity means to include the awkward, the emotional, and admit the non‐rational aspects of our ethnographic experiences; such inclusive reflexivity is incredibly insightful. Research limitations/implications – Inclusive reflexivity not only allows room for the imperfectness of the researcher, but also enables a fuller and deeper representation of the groups and communities we aim to understand and, thus, will enhance the trustworthiness and quality of our ethnographic work. Originality/value – Awkwardness is rarely acknowledged, not to mention discussed, in organizational ethnography.

Journal

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International JournalEmerald Publishing

Published: May 3, 2013

Keywords: Art worlds; China; Awkwardness; Emotions; Ethnic Chinese businesses; Indonesia; Ethnography; Inclusive reflexivity; Reflexive turn

References