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The impostor syndrome: language barriers in organizational ethnography

The impostor syndrome: language barriers in organizational ethnography The use of organizational ethnography has grown significantly during the past decades. While language is an important component of ethnographic research, the challenges associated with language barriers are rarely discussed in the literature. The purpose of this paper is to open up a discussion on language barriers in organizational ethnography.Design/methodology/approachThe author draws on her experience as a PhD student doing an organizational ethnography of an emergency department in a country where she initially did not speak the local language.FindingsThe paper examines the author's research process, from access negotiation to presentation of findings, illustrating the language barriers encountered doing an ethnography in parallel to learning the local language in Sweden.Research limitations/implicationsThis paper calls for awareness of the influence of the ethnographer's language skills and shows the importance of discussing this in relation to how we teach and learn ethnography, research practice and diversity in academia.Originality/valueThe paper makes three contributions to organizational ethnography. First, it contributes to the insider/outsider debate by nuancing the ethnographer's experience. Second, it answers calls for transparency by presenting a personal ethnographic account. Third, it contributes to developing the methodology by offering tips to deal with language barriers in doing ethnography abroad. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Organizational Ethnography Emerald Publishing

The impostor syndrome: language barriers in organizational ethnography

Journal of Organizational Ethnography , Volume 10 (2): 18 – Jul 29, 2021

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Publisher
Emerald Publishing
Copyright
© Emerald Publishing Limited
ISSN
2046-6749
DOI
10.1108/joe-01-2021-0003
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

The use of organizational ethnography has grown significantly during the past decades. While language is an important component of ethnographic research, the challenges associated with language barriers are rarely discussed in the literature. The purpose of this paper is to open up a discussion on language barriers in organizational ethnography.Design/methodology/approachThe author draws on her experience as a PhD student doing an organizational ethnography of an emergency department in a country where she initially did not speak the local language.FindingsThe paper examines the author's research process, from access negotiation to presentation of findings, illustrating the language barriers encountered doing an ethnography in parallel to learning the local language in Sweden.Research limitations/implicationsThis paper calls for awareness of the influence of the ethnographer's language skills and shows the importance of discussing this in relation to how we teach and learn ethnography, research practice and diversity in academia.Originality/valueThe paper makes three contributions to organizational ethnography. First, it contributes to the insider/outsider debate by nuancing the ethnographer's experience. Second, it answers calls for transparency by presenting a personal ethnographic account. Third, it contributes to developing the methodology by offering tips to deal with language barriers in doing ethnography abroad.

Journal

Journal of Organizational EthnographyEmerald Publishing

Published: Jul 29, 2021

Keywords: Ethnography abroad; Fieldwork; Language barrier; Outsider; Foreign; Cross-language research

References