Accepted Paper:

Collaboration and reflexivity in state organisations: the method of 'research traineeship'  


Maria Schiller (Max Planck Institute)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the roles and relations developed as an ethnographer in a field, which for long was a no-go area for most anthropologists: that of state organisations. Drawing on my experiences with the method of 'research traineeship', it identifies criteria for collaborating with officials.

Paper long abstract:

The ethnographic methodology has a long-standing tradition in the discipline of anthropology and it has been adopted by a number of adjacent social science disciplines, such as organisation studies. In order to gain an understanding of contemporary organisations, the methodology of ethnography was useful for many organisation scholars. However, to date little was said about what we can learn from studies of organisations for conducting ethnographies in the contemporary world. How is the role of researcher and researched defined in ethnographies of organisations? How are their relationships configured? Conducting ethnographies in contemporary organisations allows us to re-think what we mean by reflexivity and engage with new opportunities of collaboration.

Drawing on my experiences of conducting fieldwork in municipal organisations in Amsterdam, Antwerp and Leeds and using some of my own fieldwork notes, I argue that the role of the researcher and his/her relationships with research subjects is taking new forms in ethnographies of contemporary organisations. Yet, this has not changed the fundamental issues of dealing with emotions and power in the fieldwork situation.

Panel IP05
Ethnography as collaboration/experiment