Ethnography beyond the tribe: from immersion to “committed localism” in the study of relational work

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Abstract

Purpose – The purpose of the paper is to propose a shift from the ideal of immersion to a practice of “committed localism” in the ethnographic study of relational work in the post-bureaucratic and service-based economy.
Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork following management consultancy projects in a hospital and a manufacturing company in Denmark. The approach was predicated on committed attention to the everyday of consultancy work activities and associated relational dynamics. This involved being present at the client sites, observing and listening in concrete situations of interaction and engaging in conversations with the multiple actors involved, both external consultants and members of client organisations.
Findings – The paper shows how “committed localism” was practiced in the ethnographic study of management consultancy as it is relationally accomplished in and through concrete situations of interaction between consultants and different actors in client organizations and the associated meaning production of the involved actors.
Originality/value – The paper develops the notion of “committed localism”, originally introduced by George Marcus, into a methodological concept to challenge the conventional ideal of immersion as the hallmark of “proper” ethnography. Such a shift is particularly pertinent for the ethnographic study of relational processes involving multiple actors occupying different positions in the temporary social spaces of contemporary workplaces.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Early online date23 Feb 2024
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Feb 2024

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