Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work

Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work

Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work

Inside Organizations: Anthropologists at Work

Synopsis

Most of us work in or for one, but there are surprisingly few sustained analyses of the problems and peculiarities of organizations. Anthropologists are increasingly turning their attention to the study of western organizations, and this timely collection addresses the pleasures and pitfalls of ethnographic research undertaken across a range of organizational contexts. From museums to laboratories, health clinics, and multinational businesses, leading anthropologists discuss their fieldwork experiences, the problems they encountered, and the solutions they came up with.This book highlights the practical, political and ethical dimensions of research in organizations. Among issues vividly described are the relations between gender and politics in organizational hierarchies. How are sexual politics played out and experienced in health clinics? How does a business manager's personal biography affect the relationships within the organization as a whole? How are language and metaphor used to refigure the way people think about and act in organizations? Institutions often have well-defined procedures for bringing in visitors and guests. When is the anthropologist an insider to the organization, and when an outsider? What ethical issues arise when researchers are caught between observing organizations and participating in their work?In answering these and other questions the authors consider both the current status and future prospects for organizational ethnography. Comprehensive and varied, the book represents an invaluable aid to anyone interested in the politics and complexities of working life.

Excerpt

This chapter aims to illustrate the possibilities and problems of conducting an ethnographic study within a laboratory. the first section introduces the grounds for thinking of the laboratory as an organization open to ethnographic study. the rest of the chapter then focuses on the study which I conducted within a mousegenetics laboratory, first introducing the project of which the study formed a part, then describing the role which I adopted, before introducing a brief summary of the methods which I used and the results which I gained. the final section of the chapter maps the work in sociology of scientific knowledge which forms the basis for the approach taken in this study and draws together some issues arising from the study which might be relevant in other studies of organizations where knowledge and expertise are highly specialized.

Laboratories and Organizations

This collection of articles is about ethnography in organizations. At first glance, a laboratory might seem quite an esoteric field site for an organizational ethnography. It therefore seems appropriate to consider first what is special about the particular type of organization discussed in this chapter, the laboratory. That laboratories are organizations might not be apparent at first sight, looking from within a culture which gives a very special status to science. the work of scientists is often treated with a deference that suggests it is far too complex for outsiders to understand, and ethnographers might well be deterred from trying to enter a laboratory on the grounds that they would not understand what was going on. It might also seem that the work of scientists offered little for an ethnographer to study. We tend not to think about the work of scientists and the facts that they produce as being cultural artefacts. We generally think of science when it is done properly as being objective, by which we mean outside culture. At the end of the chapter I return to the background which supports a view of science as a thoroughly social practice. For now, it is probably sufficient to say that there is much to be gained by suspending . . .

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