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Awkward encounters and ethnography


Koning, J and Ooi, CS, Awkward encounters and ethnography, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, 8, (1) pp. 16-32. ISSN 1746-5648 (2013) [Refereed Article]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 Emerald Group Publishing Limited

DOI: doi:10.1108/17465641311327496


Purpose: Researchers rarely present accounts of their awkward encounters in ethnographies. Awkwardness, however, does matter and affects the ethnographic accounts we write and our understanding of social situations. The purpose is to bring these hidden sides of organizational ethnography to the fore, to discuss the consequences of ignoring awkward encounters, and to improve our understanding of organizational realities.

Design/methodology/approach: This paper presents awkward ethnographic encounters in the field: encounters with evangelizing ethnic Chinese business people in Indonesia (Koning), and visiting an artist village in China (Ooi). Based on analysing their awkwardness, and in the context of a critical assessment of the reflexive turn in ethnography, the authors propose a more inclusive reflexivity. The paper ends with formulating several points supportive of reaching inclusive reflexivity.

Findings: By investigating awkward encounters, the authors show that these experiences have been left out for political (publishing culture in academia, unwritten rules of ethnography), as well as personal (feelings of failure, unwelcome self‐revelations) reasons, while there is much to discover from these encounters. Un‐paralyzing reflexivity means to include the awkward, the emotional, and admit the non‐rational aspects of our ethnographic experiences; such inclusive reflexivity is incredibly insightful.

Research limitations/implications: Inclusive reflexivity not only allows room for the imperfectness of the researcher, but also enables a fuller and deeper representation of the groups and communities we aim to understand and, thus, will enhance the trustworthiness and quality of our ethnographic work.

Originality/value: Awkwardness is rarely acknowledged, not to mention discussed, in organizational ethnography.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:Art worlds, China, Awkwardness, Emotions, Ethnic Chinese businesses, Indonesia, Ethnography, Inclusive reflexivity, Reflexive turn
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Cultural studies
Research Field:Cultural studies not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Culture and Society
Objective Group:Other culture and society
Objective Field:Other culture and society not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:Ooi, CS (Professor Can Seng Ooi)
ID Code:117627
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:Office of the School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2017-06-22
Last Modified:2018-03-13

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