Sub-theme 74: New Possibilities in Organizational Ethnographic Research: Multispecies and Experimental Subjects- --> MERGED with sub-theme 76

Oz Gore
University of Leicester, United Kingdom
Harry Wels
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Damian O'Doherty
University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Call for Papers

What can and what should ethnography do to contribute to the organization of an inclusive society? Who or what are legitimate members of a society? What experiments in theory and ethnographic method does this question of inclusivity entail? Scientific evidence nowadays leaves no doubt that humans differ from animals only in degree and not in kind (see among many others the many works of Frans de Waal, including his latest 2019 publication on the subject; the extensive work of Marc Bekoff, including his 2008 book; Safina, 2016; and many others). Human exclusivity and anthropocentrism therefore no longer hold, and hence non-human animals need to be included, and their absences and invisibilities problematized, in organization studies, and in organizational ethnography in particular because of its sense making sensibility (Wels, 2015).
With its roots in anthropology, ethnography as a ‘field science’ (Gupta & Ferguson, 1997; Ong & Collier, 2005) has a rich tradition of grappling with questions of inclusion and exclusion (Ahmed, 2012). However, ethnography’s current intellectual landscape has become very attentive to the exclusionary consequences of the modern western anthropological ‘gaze’ and has embarked on a series of ‘experiments’ in recent years that seek to develop new possibilities for ethnographic research including new beings, species, activities, and processes that extend the boundaries of conventional social and cultural analysis. These ethnographic experiments are particularly relevant today, when organizational scholarship is facing radically new inequalities as well as challenges from more-than-human encounters with ‘the technological’ and ‘the natural’, digital and mobile disruption, climate change, the onset of fragmented ‘new’ ways of working and organizing, and the changing structures of higher education within which academic research on organization takes place.
In this sub-theme we want to encourage contributions from researchers who are asking what (or who) is it possible to think and do ethnographically in organization studies today confronted by a wider crisis of ‘the social’. Contributors may be working on organization in ‘human domains’ such as social care, migration, populism, identity politics, modern slavery, climate emergency, digital and network technologies, big data and predictive algorithms. Or they be active in ‘non/more-than human’ domains where animals and other forms of life are recognized as important contributors to organization. Wherever their organizational work takes them researchers will have novel ethnographic tales to tell about how inclusion and society are currently being organized and conceptualized. We are specifically interested in research which has begun to explore the practice of ethnography in ways that avoid imposing abstracted intellectual or theoretical constructs onto its field of study. Moreover, we are interested in research that is working with concepts that are native or immanent to a field and where indigenous members of organization are found to be deploying the terms ‘inclusion’ and ‘society’.
This sub-theme wants to encourage all kinds of organizational ethnographies that extend across the various paradigms, from recent ethnographies of mundane organizing practices (Ehn et al., 2015) to those ethnographies that try to understand the problem of inclusivity from the perspective of ‘extreme ethnography’ that explores those experiences of ‘life-on-the-brink’ (Hällgren et al., 2018; McCann et al., 2013; Granter et al., 2019; Hyde et al., 2016; Bresnen et al., 2017; Ratner, 2019) and which place the very possibility of organization in jeopardy. How are these stories told of inclusion and exclusion told? How do these ethnographies persuade us of the meanings, motivations and mechanisms that navigate between inclusion and exclusion or between the human and non-human? How do organizational scholars today grapple with classical and still relevant reflexive issues of othering, representation and a proper inclusion of those we study, in general and in relation to other species? How must ethnography respond when the spaces of/in organizational ethnography are being redistributed across a range of human and non-human actors – climate, technology, knowledge, politics and societal struggle? How are we to partake in this happening? How can we experiment with this redistribution and what sort of experiments does this redistribution compel? Para-ethnography (Holmes & Marcus, 1986), lateral reason (Maurer, 2005), ontological turns (Mol, 2002; Holbraad & Pederson, 2017), ‘post-reflexive’ ethnography (Riles, 2002; Strathern, 1999), ‘after method’ (Law, 2004), and ‘infra-reflexivity’ (Latour, 1988) have been suggested by some as possible solutions to these dilemmas and questions.
Specialists in organization studies will also be developing their own responses and in this sub-theme we seek to share and encourage their advance. We invite papers that are interested in these questions and from authors who may still be doing fieldwork, those who have recently emerged from field research, or are planning to enter the field.

Themes to which contributors may wish to contribute include, but are not limited to:

  • Ethnographies that explore the organizational constitution and practices of inclusion/exclusion and role of objects, subjects and non-human entities within those.

  • Ethnographies that attempt to grapple with issues, or ‘grand challenges’, such as climate emergency and the technologies of ‘surveillance capitalism’ (Zuboff, 2019). How do these phenomena compel us to also change our ethnographic practices? How should non-human animals, species and agencies feature within these ethnographies? And what are their implications for organization studies?

  • Ethnographies that practice new experiments in organizational ethnography. These may address issues associated with reflexivity, post-reflexivity and conceptual-empirical innovation. What are the methodological challenges, for example, for including non-human animals in such studies? In particular, we ask how can ethnography become a site of methodological and conceptual innovation in management and organization studies?

  • Ethnographies that study emerging and changing conditions of organization, power and resistance. What are the new intensities, topologies, challenges and opportunities of/for ethnographic practices within the context of modern business schools or corporate organizations?

  • Insofar as we are becoming digital ethnographers of organization and/or clock up air miles as part of scholarship, in what sense does the production of organizational ethnography participate in a world of a new dark age? What are the ways out of this reflexive quandary (Marcus, 1994; 2001)?

  • What kind of research objects can ethnography help us enact through field encounters? How can we include such entities in oral narrative, in writing, in film, visually or with alternative academic or multispecies articulations?



  • Ahmed, S. (2012): On Being Included: Racism and Diversity in Institutional Life. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Bresnen, M., Hodgson, D., Bailey, S., Hyde, P., & Hassard, J. (2017): “Mobilizing management knowledge in healthcare: Institutional imperatives and professional and organizational mediating effects.” Management Learning, 48 (5), 597–614.
  • Clifford, J., & Marcus, G.E. (1986): Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • de Waal, F. (2019): Mama’s Last Hug: Animal Emotions and What They Tell Us About Ourselves. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Ehn, B., Löfgren, O., & Wilk, R. (2015): Exploring Everyday Life: Strategies for Ethnography and Cultural Analysis. Washington, D.C.: Rowman & Littlefield.
  • Fabian, J. (1983): Time and the Other. How Anthropology Makes Its Object. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Garsten, C., & Nyqvist, A. (2013): Organisational Anthropology: Doing Ethnography In and Among Organizations. London: Pluto Press.
  • Granter, E., Wankhade, P., McCann, L., Hassard, J., & Hyde, P. (2019): “Multiple dimensions of work intensity: Ambulance work as edgework.” Work, Employment and Society, 33 (2), 280–297.
  • Gupta, A., & Ferguson, J. (1997): Anthropological Locations: Boundaries and Grounds of a Field Science. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Hällgren, M., Rouleau, L., & de Rond, M. (2018): “A matter of life or death: How extreme context research matters for management and organization studies.” Academy of Management Annals, 12 (1), 111–153.
  • Holbraad, M., & Pedersen, M.A. (2017): The Ontological Turn: An Anthropological Exposition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Holmes, D.R., & Marcus, G.E. (2008): “Para-ethnography.” In: L.M. Given (ed.): The SAGE Encyclopaedia of Qualitative Research Methods. London: SAGE Publications, 26–27.
  • Hyde, P., Granter, E., Hassard, J., & McCann, L. (2016): Deconstructing the Welfare State: Managing Healthcare in the Age of Reform. London: Routledge.
  • Latour, B. (1988): “The politics of explanation: An alternative.” In: S. Woolgar (ed.): Knowledge and Reflexivity: New Frontiers in the Sociology of Knowledge. London: SAGE Publications, 155–176.
  • Law, J. (2004): After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. London: Routledge.
  • Marcus, G.E. (1994): “On ideologies of reflexivity in contemporary efforts to remake the human sciences.” Poetics Today, 15 (3), 383–404.
  • Marcus, G.E. (2001): “From rapport under erasure to theatres of complicit reflexivity.” Qualitative Inquiry, 7 (4), 519–528.
  • Marcus, G.E. (2016): Ethnography: Integration. Correspondences, Fieldsights,
  • Maurer, B. (2005): Mutual Life Limited: Islamic Banking, Alternative Currencies, Lateral Reason. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • McCann, L., Granter, E., Hyde, P., & Hassard, J. (2013): “Still blue-collar after all these years? An ethnography of the professionalization of emergency ambulance work.” Journal of Management Studies, 50 (5), 750–776.
  • Mol, A. (2002): The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Ong, A., & Collier, S.J. (2005): Global Assemblages: Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems. Malden: Blackwell.
  • Riles, A. (2002): The Network Inside Out. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
  • Ratner, H. (2019): “Topologies of organization: Space in continuous deformation.” Organization Studies, first published online on October 14, 2019,
  • Safina, C. (2016): Beyond Words: What Animals Think and Feel. New York: Picador.
  • Strathern, M. (1999): Property, Substance and Effect: Anthropological Essays on Persons and Things. London: Athlone Press.
  • Wels, H. (2015): “’Animals like us’: Revisiting organizational ethnography and research.” Journal of Organizational Ethnography, 4 (3), 242–259.
  • Zuboff, S. (2019): The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight For a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. New York: Public Affairs.
Oz Gore is Assistant Professor/Lecturer at the University of Leicester School of Business, United Kingdom. He has a research interest in knowledge practices, public management, digital technologies, and ethnographic methods. Oz’ research has been published in leading academic journals such as ‘Public Administration’ and ‘Public Management Review’.
Harry Wels is an Associate Professor at the Department of Organization Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands. He is als co-founder and chairman of Wild White Lions Foundation. His research focuses mainly on structures of organisational cooperation in nature conservation in South and Southern Africa. His publications include, among others, “Conservative Philanthropists, Royalty and Business Elites in Nature Conservation in Southern Africa’ (2010, together with Marja Spierenberg) and “Sponsoring Nature. Environmental Philanthropy for Conservation” (2011, together with Maano Ramutsindela & Marja Spierenburg). Harry’s ‘animal turn’ is basically the topic of his 2015 article in the ‘Journal of Organizational Ethnography’ [see References above].
Damian O'Doherty is Professor of Management and Organization in the Alliance Manchester Business School in the University of Manchester, United Kingdom. Damian has published widely in top international journals dedicated to management and organization studies over the last twenty years and is currently Director of the Manchester Organizational Ethnography network centred in the Alliance Manchester Business School.