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Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographies

Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographies

Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographies
    Book Description:

    Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographiespresents a selection of essays highlighting the ethnographic investigation of how texts coordinate and organize people's activities across space and time.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6708-2
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Exhibits
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Permissions
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. 3-14)

    Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographiescollects examples of how institutional ethnographers have introduced observations of texts in action into their ethnographic practice. Working from the writings of Dorothy Smith and others who have used the approach known as institutional ethnography for over thirty years, the selected examples illustrate diverse fieldwork-based investigations into how texts coordinate and concert people’s activities across time and place. The book presents research models, each with distinctive ethnographic strategies appropriate to the researcher’s project and the institutional sphere being explored. The selection emphasizes the variety and difference among possible ethnographic practices that bring texts into view,...

  8. Part 1: Institutional Circuits

    • 1 Policing the Gay Community: An Inquiry into Textually-Mediated Social Relations
      (pp. 17-40)

      Gay steam baths can be found in most major cities of First World countries, especially in North America. Steam baths in Canada were originally a feature of turn-of-the-century European immigrant communities. As these communities assimilated and residential plumbing improved, these baths catered more and more to gay men. During the 1970s, gay-owned baths supplanted these European saunas, offering not simply a steam bath, but a variety of facilities including weight rooms, swimming pools, lounges with cafeterias and televisions, professional massage areas, tanning equipment, sun decks, and whirlpools. Most importantly, these clubs provide gay and bisexual men with a venue for...

    • 2 Regulating the Alternative: Certifying Organic Farming on Vancouver Island, British Columbia
      (pp. 41-63)

      In buying and eating food produced and distributed within our contemporary food system, people place trust in what Dorothy Smith (1987, 2001) has called “ruling relations.” The abstracted relations associated with conventional food production and distribution, in turn, rely on texts essential to the organization of social life across geographic sites. Turning to small-scale farmers who are trying to work with the ecological system, trying to localize food production and distribution to make social relations just and known to people, we are looking at a way of farming that exists within the contemporary global capitalist system and that is challenging...

    • 3 Negotiating UN Policy: Activating Texts in Policy Deliberations
      (pp. 64-90)

      As institutional ethnographers have become interested in investigating the ways in which texts organize institutional actions, a fruitful point of analysis becomes the moment when texts are activated within an organizational setting. As practitioners engage with texts in work settings, researchers can gain insights into how it is that texts work within organizations. This chapter describes a particular sort of text–reader interaction, one in which policy texts are generated and worked on by knowledgeable practitioners. DeVault (2008) writes that institutional ethnographers “follow texts in order to explore and analyse the social relations that connect people across the myriad sites...

  9. Part 2: Diverse Textual Technologies

    • 4 Producing “What the Deans Know”: Cost Accounting and the Restructuring of Post-Secondary Education
      (pp. 93-119)

      The centrality of documentary forms of knowledge in contemporary relations of ruling is a major theme in the work of Dorothy Smith (1987, 1990). Smith uses the term in a broad way, a way that encompasses the varied and interconnected practices of management, administration, government, law, finance, education, business, and the professions (1987: 3). Smith invites us to see these practices of ruling as the coordinated actions of large numbers of people spread across diverse sites and to recognize the prominent role played by texts in this coordination (think of case files, report cards, labour force statistics, international trade agreements,...

    • 5 Text in Performance: The Making of a Haydn Concerto
      (pp. 120-146)

      This is a study of the work of an amateur orchestra creating a concert performance of Haydn’s Concerto in C Major for Violoncello and Orchestra (Hob. VIIb:1). It considers how that work is organized by the text that is the centrepiece of collective effort, the musical score. By this I do not mean that the score is an authoritative statement of the composer’s intent which any single performance can only approach. The overriding goal of the method of inquiry which places the text in the centre of our attention is to explore how the surrounding social relations and discourses are...

    • 6 “Three in a Bed”: Nurses and Technologies of Bed Utilization in a Hospital
      (pp. 147-170)

      In acute care hospitals there is an inevitable uncertainty about patient admissions, because illness and accidents are unplanned. Emergency admissions account for 50 to 70 per cent of all hospital admissions (Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians 2001) and cannot be booked in advance. This uncertainty complicates the job of hospital administrators and their new public management (NPM) strategies that “re-conceiv[e] and, to some extent reorganiz[e], many if not all organizational activities (support and administration as well as production or service) as work processes involving identifiable inputs, outputs and customers” (McCoy 1999: 9). Managing waiting lists² and determining who should be...

  10. Part 3: Experiential Ethnography

    • 7 Doing Child Protection Work
      (pp. 173-194)

      As the intake social worker responsible for handling all child enquiries for my small community, on a Thursday afternoon, I received a phone call from the caretaker of an apartment building, who complained,

      Donna Trout is drunk again. She smashed her fist through the god-damned kitchen window. Last I saw her she went staggering off, swearing, saying she was going to go the hospital. She’s left one hell of a mess. She’s left her kid alone in the apartment, and sure as hell I’m not going to take care of it. You guys had better do something about that woman....

  11. Part 4: Text–Reader Conversations

    • 8 Reading Practices in Decision Processes
      (pp. 197-224)

      This chapter analyses data from an earlier study in order to treat afresh how different “readings” of a site-plan diagram of a development project operated in a decision-making sequence of action. The readings examined are integral to what took place in a public municipal council meeting. In addition, the chapter also tries out ways of analysing and describing the distinctive procedural forms in which institutional texts – words and images in a definite and replicable material form – organize and regulate diverse local reading practices, talk–text interactions, and sequences of action. Decision processes have been a focus for my...

    • 9 Discourse as Social Relations: Sociological Theory and the Dialogic of Sociology
      (pp. 225-252)

      If as sociologists we begin as ourselves, active in the local settings of our living, we know sociology as we live it, as its readers, writers, speakers, and hearers. We are in the middle of it, in our reading in a library, in an office, at home. Our reading is active, responsive, attentive to possible uses, reactive to what we identify as error, anger sometimes, pleasure sometimes. Though we rarely if ever attend to sociological discourse in this way, it is always in practice being discovered as an actual course of action projecting into what comes next – teaching, writing,...

  12. Part 5: Extended Institutional Ethnography

    • 10 Standardizing Child-Rearing through Housing
      (pp. 255-304)

      “Normal family life cannot exist apart from a normal home,” the noted housing reformer Edith Elmer Wood proclaimed (1931: 7). Later she added,

      American authorities agree with the British and a majority of Continentals that a single-family detached house with a garden all around it forms the ideal setting for the life of growing children … The only excuse for apartments is for celibates, childless couples, and elderly people whose children have grown up and scattered. Newly married couples, especially where the husband and wife are both working, will naturally turn to them. And herein lies the danger, if they...

  13. Afterword
    (pp. 305-308)

    Our purpose in this book has been to gather together and make available some of the finest institutional ethnographies in which texts appear “in action.” To write of texts as “in action” doesn’t mean that texts somehow operate on their own. In institutional ethnography, texts are always seen and explored as they enter and are brought into people’s actual courses of action; texts are not taken up in or for themselves. For institutional ethnographers, people are always there as texts come into play in coordinating our doings – whether the text is being produced or being taken up and activated...

  14. References
    (pp. 309-320)
  15. Contributors
    (pp. 321-324)