Sub-theme 22: New Forms of Organizational Ethnography

Linda Rouleau
Dept. of Management, HEC Montréal, Canada
Mark de Rond
Judge Business School, Cambridge University, UK
Geneviève Musca
Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, France

Call for Papers


Organizational activities have today become increasingly complex, fragmented and dispersed throughout both the temporal and spatial spectrum. The actors involved in these activities often move quickly from one geographic spot to another. In this context, research design, particularly when it relates to longitudinal research with reliance on ethnographic approaches (Rasche & Chia, 2009; Van Maanen, 2011; Yanow, 2009; Czarniawska, 2007), has to be reconsidered. How can action be effectively observed when it gets dispersed in time and space, and if it arises unexpectedly? How is it possible to reconcile the need to "be there", for a period long enough to assess the practices, norms and values of a community (Watson, 2011), with the practical difficulties encountered when collecting data in these new settings? Moreover, how can multiple levels of mediated artefacts be used to explore over time the multiple ways of organizing in a contemporary economy?

A considerable body of ethnography-based research has until now been associated with extended immersion in a single bound community, face-to-face interactions and interviews (Yanow, 2009). While such efforts have produced a substantial amount of organizational knowledge, we can actually identify a preference for renewing the design of such methodological approaches. As the contemporary environment becomes more fragmented, complex and uncertain, the field of ethnography proves to be less confined to bound, single-site studies, as new settings, methods and techniques are gaining prominence (Van Maanen, 2011).

Some ethnographers tend to work with settings beyond the scope of standard organizations, for the purpose of investigating new organizational phenomena or showcasing classical phenomena. For example, Benoit-Barné and Cooren (2009) followed a "Médecins Sans Frontières" (Doctors without Borders) team in the Congo in 2005, while Rix-Lièvre and Lièvre (2010) conducted studies during a series of polar expeditions. Other researchers have focused on complex phenomena and pursued "multi-site" evaluations (Marcus, 1998; Nippert-Eng, 1995). Whether the object is a jazz orchestra, artists' "squats", a sports team or the boundaries existing between home and work, researchers are required to develop innovative methods and techniques in order to practise ethnography and, in so doing, some have gone on to propose new forms of organizational ethnography (Van Maanen, 2006).

This sub-theme will explore a number of these new forms of organizational ethnography (OE). More specifically, we are interested in ethnographic experiences in unusual settings and pluralistic contexts, such as artistic scenes, non-profit organizations, virtual communities, sports teams, and so on. We are also intent on examining new ways of collecting and analyzing ethnographic data. Some ethnographic researchers have suggested updating their research methodology through the use of photographs, films and even the latest social media, such as Skype and email exchanges; still others have proposed developing multi-sited ethnography in claiming that ethnography is not restricted to case studies. New forms of organizational ethnography must also reassess the myriad ways of presenting and disseminating research results in academia and/or various forums.

As part of this sub-theme, we are interested in exploring such new forms of OE and invite contributions on the following topics, which are by no means exhaustive:

New forms of OE:

  • New settings, new actors, new topics (tools, bodies, texts, etc.)
  • New design, data collection and analysis
  • Implications for the research process


  • How can new forms of ethnography contribute to contemporary organizational studies?
  • What are the interests and limitations of these new forms of ethnography?


  • Redesign of access to this field
  • Roles of emotion and power in OT
  • New ways of presenting and disseminating results
  • Ethical decisions
  • Self-reflexivity of researchers


Benoît-Barné, C. & F. Cooren (2009): "The accomplishment of authority through presentification: how authority is distributed among and negociated by organizational members." Management Communication Quarterly, 23 (1), 5–31
Czarniawska, B. (2007): Shadowing and Other Techniques for Doing Fieldwork in Modern Societies. Copenhagen: Liber, CBS Press
Rix-Lièvre, G. & P. Lièvre (2010): "An Innovative Observatory of Polar Expedition Projects: An Investigation of Organizing." Project Management Journal, 41 (3), 91–98
Marcus, G.E. (1998): Ethnography Through Thick and Thin. Princeton: J. Princeton University Press
Nippert‐Eng, C.E. (1995): Home and Work: Negotiating Boundaries Through Everyday Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Rasche, A. & R. Chia (2009): "Researching Strategy Practices: A Genealogical Social Theory Perspective." Organization Studies, 30 (7), 713–734
Van Maanen, J. (2006): "Ethnography then and now." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 1 (1), 13–21
Van Maanen, J. (2011): "Ethnography as Work: Some Rules of Engagement." Journal of Management Studies, 48 (1), 218–234
Watson, T.J. (2011): "Ethnography, reality and truth: the vital need for studies of 'how things work' in organisations and management." Journal of Management Studies, 48 (1), 202–217
Yanow, D. (2009): "Organizational ethnography and methodological angst: myths and challenges in the field." Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 4 (2), 186–199


Linda Rouleau Linda Rouleau is a Professor with the Department of Management at HEC Montreal. She teaches strategic management and organizational theories. Her research work focuses on micro-strategy and strategizing techniques through drawing upon qualitative research methodology. Among other ongoing projects, Linda is working with narratives of practice and is a member of the Darwin Expedition's research team. Over the past few years, she has published in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Human Relations, Journal of Management Inquiry and Strategic Organization. Linda is one of the leaders of GéPS (Study Group in Strategy-as-Practice, HEC Montreal) and a research member of CRIMT (a Canadian research center on globalization and labor).
Mark de Rond Mark de Rond is Reader (Associate Professor) in Strategy and Organization at Judge Business School, Cambridge University. His book “Strategic Alliances as Social Facts: Business, Biotechnology & Intellectual History” received the 2005 George R Terry Book Award from the Academy of Management. His ethnographic account of the Cambridge University Boat Club ( The Last Amateurs) was selected by the Financial Times as one of 12 Best Business Books of 2008, and by BBC Sport as one of 10 Best Sporting Reads of 2008. It was also included in JP Morgan’s 10th Summer Reading list (as one of 10 books out of 500 submissions), and was the basis for the 2009 Imagination Lab Award. Mark is currently involved in an ethnographic study of military surgeons deployed at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan.
Geneviève Musca Geneviève Musca is an Associate Professor of Strategic Management and Organizational Studies with the Department of Management at Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense (France). She has previously held management positions in private sector organizations (telecom industry, the media). Her research interests focus on competences and capability dynamics, sensemaking and team management in uncertain and fast-changing environments, as well as on issues related to qualitative research methods. Geneviève is currently acting as coordinator of the "Darwin" research project sponsored by France's National Research Agency (an in situ, real-time study of a climbing expedition across the Cordillera Darwin range in Patagonia).