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Methods and Meaning

Lecturer: prof. dr. D. Yanow (Part I, Methods and Meaning, ONLY)

Code: Use in TIS code 703711

Course description/literature: http://www.studiegids.vu.nl

Period: 31 August 2009 to 31 January 2010, whole course; Part I ends 27 October 2009

Day classes: Tuesday 15.30-17.15*, Room 01A-05 (Main Building), Part I ONLY
*Note: We will actually meet without a break, from 15.30 17.00.

Registration for the course

Students have to register for this subject using the VU's registration system TIS.


Part I. Methods and Meaning (September 1 October 13)

This is an advanced course in ethnographic research methods and the interpretive methodological
grounding underlying them. It draws on lectures, in-class discussions, and field exercises, as well as
readings and two papers.

We will engage such questions as:

Is observing a passive activity or an active construction of meaning?

Why should a researcher be reflexive?
What happens to "objectivity" in interpretive research?

In addition to weekly course readings, students will choose one book from the growing canon of
organizational ethnographic research (perhaps selected for its links to a possible Master's thesis). The
final course paper (due 19 October) provides an opportunity to explore the methodological issues we
take up in the weekly class meetings and in readings, to see how they are worked out in a single,
book-length research report. Students will analyze the methods section of the selected book and its
authors uses of methods inductively to see what makes for research in organizational ethnography.

Part II. Thematic Reading (November-January)

Under direction of their thesis supervisor, students will read two books (500 pages) about the research
topic and/or the research area of their thesis. This literature should contribute insight into the
academic area within which thesis research will be conducted. More information will be available from
the thesis supervisor in the Thesis Workgroup. Also, the first meeting of the course will be devoted to
an overview of the MA program and the thesis process.

Part III. Research Proposal (November-January)

Guided by their thesis supervisor, students will write a research proposal. The proposal will need to be
accepted by the supervisor before the student can start his/her field research. More information will be
provided by the thesis supervisor.

Course grading: In order to proceed to Parts II and III of the course, you need to have completed
Part I. For this reason, there is no re-sit for the Part I course paper. You will receive a grade for each
of the three parts of the Fieldwork Preparation course. Your final grade for the whole semester-long
course will be an average of these three partial grades. Please note: Professor Yanow is responsible
ONLY for the grade for the first 1/3 of this course! For Parts II and III, you will need a grade from your
thesis supervisor!
Part I. Methods and Meaning
I. Readings
A. For this course (i.e., Part I)

Dvora Yanow and Peregrine Schwartz-Shea, eds., Interpretation and method: Empirical
research methods and the interpretive turn. Armonk, NY: M E Sharpe, 2006. [YSS in syllabus]

For the final paper: One book from a book list to be provided at the beginning of the course.

Additional articles or book chapters, as noted. [* marks papers that will be uploaded to the
course Blackboard page; you are responsible for locating the others via the VU library e-
journal links using the publication information provided here; the library has been asked to put
books on reserve]

Thesis guidelines for COM Masters students (on-line and also on Blackboard). These include
FSWs Rules and Regulations for thesis procedures in re. student and advisor responsibilities.

B. Background readings in 1) Ethnographic Methods and 2) Organizational Studies

1. Methods and Meaning is not an introductory course. If you have never taken a course in
ethnographic or qualitative methods, you should read one or more of the following (listed in
descending order of preference), ideally before class starts in September:

David Silverman, Interpreting qualitative data, 3rd ed. London: Sage, 2006 (or earlier edns.)
John Lofland and Lyn H. Lofland, Analyzing social settings, 3 ed. Wadsworth, 1994 (earlier
editions are also good)

Bonnie S. Sunstein and Elizabeth Chiseri-Strater, FieldWorking: Reading and writing

research. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2002 (excellent text; Dr. Nencel uses this in her
classes, so the VU bookstore may have copies; or The American Bookstore/Het Spui, online)

Harry F. Wolcott, The art of fieldwork. London: AltaMira Press, 1995.

Kathleen M. DeWalt and Billie R. DeWalt, Participant observation: A guide for fieldworkers.
Oxford: AltaMira Press, 2002.

Carol A. Bailey, A guide to field research. London: Pine Forge Press, 1996. (short, basic)

Kees van der Waal, Getting going: Organizing ethnographic fieldwork. In S. Ybema, D.
Yanow, H. Wels, and F. Kamsteeg, eds., Organizational ethnography: Studying the
complexities of everyday organizational life. London: Sage, 2009, ch. 1 (this book came out
too late to order it for class this year; all COM students may find interesting topics here,
although other than this chapter, it is not an introductory text)

2. If you have never taken a course in organizational studies, you should read one or more of the
following, all of which take a multi-perspectival approach to theorizing:
Jay M. Shafritz and J. Steven Ott, eds., Classics in organizational theory, 4 or later ed.
London: Wadsworth, 1996. (this is a compilation of original writings; several editions are out;
all are good, although I would recommend any from the 4th edition on)
Lee G. Bolman and Terrence E. Deal, Reframing organizations, 4 ed. San Francisco:
Jossey Bass, 2008. (earlier editions ok)

Gareth Morgan, Images of organization. Sage. (any edition)

Mary Jo Hatch, Organization theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (2nd ed. is by Hatch
and Ann Cunliffe try for that one; this is more of a classic textbook than the other books in
this list)

This multi-perspectival approach is encapsulated in Dvora Yanow, 1987. "Ontological and interpretive
logics in organizational studies." Methods 1, 73-89 (a copy is on the course Blackboard page)

3. All students should be familiar with:

Clifford Geertz, The interpretation of cultures (Basic Books, 1973), especially chapter 1.
Gideon Kunda, Engineering culture (Temple University Press, 1992; 2 . ed., 2006)

II. Background assignment

If you have never done an ethnographic or other field research project (e.g., you took your B.A. in
psychology and are familiar with experimental and/or statistical analyses), this pre-class exercise
should help you understand the issues we will be engaging in the course. Do it before the 2 class.

Go to a public space (e.g., the Central Station; the entrance to the VU Main Building; Dam
Square), find a comfortable place to park yourself for half an hour, and observe the setting, the
objects (physical artifacts) in it, the people who are in and/or move through it and their actions
and interactions. Attend to the sounds of the place.

At some point, go up to someone and strike up a conversation about something relevant to the
setting or that person that you are curious about. Repeat this 2 or 3 times.

Take notes on your observations, including of these conversations. Do you see patterns of
activity emerging? Describe them. Begin to categorize the people, objects, sounds, other
sights, language. Think about building a theory of this setting and/or activity from your noted
observations. Consider: How does this research work differ from experimental research?
from statistical analysis?

III. Mode of assessment: Participation in weekly discussions + Final paper, written in English (for
Methods and Meaning) = 1/3 of final grade for Fieldwork Preparation (whole course).

IV. Expectations and Policies

1. Class will meet from 15.30 to 17.15 (formally), except as otherwise announced. We will meet
without a break (so take care of your food, coffee/juice, and other needs beforehand!), and we will
therefore end 15 minutes early (at 17.00). I expect you to arrive in class on time and stay until class is
dismissed. If attendance is a problem for you, I suggest you consider taking the class some other

2. I expect you to be courteous to your fellow students and me. This means no extended "side
conversations" during lectures. If this occurs, I will feel free to call on you to share your remarks with
the class as a whole or, if necessary, I will ask you to leave.

3. You are expected to come prepared to class. This means, primarily, having completed the
assigned readings and/or field assignments before the lecture so that you have the necessary
background and vocabulary to comprehend the lecture and in-class discussion. In some cases, this
will mean coming prepared to discuss particular readings in an informed and thoughtful manner.

4. You are responsible for your absences. Please do not ask me to give you permission to be absent;
that is your choice (although I appreciate it when you let me know ahead of time, in person; i.e.,
please do not email me about your absence, unless it is an emergency). I do not make my lecture
notes available.

5. You are expected to hand in written work when it is due. That way, we can both get our work done
in a timely fashion! There is no exam for this course, nor is there a make-up (2 sitting) date for the
paper. The final paper is due by 17.00 on 19 October, as marked in the syllabus. For every half
hour the paper is late, your grade will drop by one point, and a late paper will in any event earn no
more than an 8.
V. Lecture and Reading Schedule
Note: Assigned literature is to be read in advance of that days class meeting.

Week Date Subject Assignments

1 1 September Overview of the 1 semester program Begin course reading
and of the Masters thesis process
Do Assignment #1 (due: next week).
Dr. Ida Sabelis


2 8 September What is organizational ethnography?
Ethnography as tools (method), text
(writing), and sensibility (being there!)

Think: Where does meaning come from? How do we make sense of what we observe? What
distinguishes ethnographic research from other forms of research into organizational life? What makes
organizational ethnographies different from other forms of ethnographic research? Are there special
characteristics of ethnographic writing that distinguish it from other genres of research writing?

YSS, ch. 8 (Pader); Introduction, chs. 21 (Pachirat), 22 (Schwartz-Shea and Yanow), 1 (Yanow), 2
*Dvora Yanow.1987. Ontological and interpretive logics in organizational studies. Methods 1, 73-89.
*Dvora Yanow. 2009. Organizational ethnography and methodological angst: Myths and challenges
in the field. Qualitative Research in Organisations and Management (forthcoming).
YSS, chs. 6 (Soss), 7 (Schaffer), 9 (McHenry), 10 (Weldes), 20 (Yanow)
*Merlijn J. van Hulst. 2008. Quite an experience: Using ethnography to study local government.
Critical Policy Analysis 2/2: 143-59.

Gareth Morgan, Images of organization. Sage. (any edition)
Gibson Burrell and Gareth Morgan.1979. Sociological paradigms and organizational analysis. London:
Anshuman Prasad and Pushkala Prasad. 2002. The coming of age of interpretive organizational
research. Organizational Research Methods 5/1: 4-11.

Choose: Book to read and analyze for final paper. See separate assignment sheet.

Bring to class: Notes from Assignment #1.

3 15 Knowing/doing/interpreting: From Think: Where do these ideas come from? Why are they important beyond the realm of research
September God/church/man to science to design? What kinds of ontological and epistemological presuppositions or claims do ethnographic
humanistic thought again methods rest on? How are these different from other sorts of presuppositions?

YSS, ch. 1 (Yanow), 2 (Hawkesworth)

Part II. How do you know?

4 22 Research design: The logic of

September abductive logic
Think: How do you know something? How do you plan a research project to find out about something?
Note: The discussion about what goes into How does one think about crafting a research proposal? The field is different from what I expected
a manuscript (versus a proposal) is central now what do I do? Is ethnography done via recipe, or do I have choices to make?
to the final paper assignment.
*Michael Agar. 2009. On the ethnographic part of the mix. Organizational Research Methods
Locke, Karen, Golden-Biddle, Karen, and Feldman, Martha S. 2008. Making doubt generative:
Rethinking the role of doubt in the research process. Organization Science 19/6: 907-918.
Van Maanen, John, Srensen, Jesper B., and Mitchell, Terence R. 2007. The interplay between theory
and method. Academy of Management Review 32/4: 11451154.
YSS, ch. 5 (Schwartz-Shea).
*Yanow, Dvora. 2009 (in press). Dear author, dear reader: The third hermeneutic in writing and
reviewing ethnography. In Edward Schatz, ed., Political ethnography: What immersion brings to the
study of power, ch. 13. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
*Schwartz-Shea, Peregrine and Yanow, Dvora. 2009 (in press). Reading and writing as method: In
search of trustworthy texts. In Sierk Ybema, Dvora Yanow, Harry Wels, and Frans Kamsteeg, eds.,
Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexity of everyday life. London: Sage, ch. 3.

Due via email: Choice of book for final assignment, plus writing partners names.
5 29 Issues in organizational ethnography I:
September But I thought we were friends???!!!
On research relationships and ethics

Think: What is involved in accessing the research field? How does one manage ones own identity, in
all its aspects, in the field? What is entailed in being a researcher at the same time that one is an
observer (with whatever degree of participation)? How do I get insider (emic) knowledge from my
informants and is that using people as means toward my ends? Should organizational ethnographers
just study organizations, or should they also be involved in helping organizations improve? Is this still
Feldman, Martha S., Bell, Jeannine, and Berger, Michele Tracy, eds. 2003. Gaining access. Walnut
Creek, CA: Altamira. Introduction; skim the rest.
*Gans, Herbert. 1976. Personal journal: B. On the methods used in this study. In The Research
Experience, ed. M. Patricia Golden, 4959. Itasca, IL: F.E. Peacock.
*Beech, Nic, Hibbert, Paul, MacIntosh, Robert, and McInnes, Peter. 2009 (in press). But I thought we
were friends? Life cycles in engaged research. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, and F. Kamsteeg,
eds., Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexities of everyday organizational life. London:
Sage, ch. 10.
*Down, Simon and Hughes, Michael. 2009 (in press). When the subject and the researcher speak
together: Co-producing organizational ethnography. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, and F.
Kamsteeg, eds., Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexities of everyday organizational
life. London: Sage, ch. 4.
*Sykes, Chris and Treleaven, Lesley. 2009 (in press). Critical action research and organizational
ethnography. In Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexity of everyday life, eds. Sierk
Ybema, Dvora Yanow, Harry Wels, and Frans Kamsteeg. London: Sage, ch. 11.
*Ghorashi, Halleh and Wels, Harry. 2009 (in press). Beyond complicity: The case for engaged
ethnography. In Organizational ethnography: Studying the complexity of everyday life, eds. Sierk
Ybema, Dvora Yanow, Harry Wels, and Frans Kamsteeg. London: Sage, ch. 12.

Bell, Diane, Caplan, Pat, and Karim, Wazir Kahan, eds. 1993. Gendered fields: Women, men and
ethnography. NY: Routledge.
Cesara, Manda. 1982. Reflections of a woman anthropologist: No hiding place. New York: Academic
Golde, Peggy, ed. 1986. Women in the field, 2 ed. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Lewin, Ellen and Leap, William L., eds. 1996. Out in the field: Reflections of lesbian and gay
anthropologists. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Rosaldo, Michele and Lamphere, Louise. 1974. Woman, culture, and Society. Stanford: Stanford
University Press.
Warren, Carol A. B. 1988. Gender issues in field research. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Mosse, David. 2004. Cultivating development: An ethnography of aid policy and practice. UK: Pluto
Greenwood, Davydd and Levin, Morten. 2006. Introduction to action research, 2 ed. London: Sage.

Part III. How would you know if you were wrong?

6 6 October Issues in organizational ethnography II: Think: What does it mean to be objective? What does objectivity require? Can we make that happen
Positionality, reflexivity, & truth claims in organizational ethnography? How does researcher knowledge and background shape what we
observe? What and how we interpret? If we cant attain objectivity, how can we support our truth
claims? Does researcher power affect what we do? Is there a political character to our research?
YSS, ch. 4 (Yanow), ch. 13 (Shehata)
*Timothy Pachirat, 2009 (in press). The Political in political ethnography: Reflections from an
industrialized slaughterhouse on perspective, power, and sight. In Edward Schatz, ed., Political
ethnography: What immersion contributes to the study of power. Chicago: University of Chicago
*Wilkinson, Claire. 2008. Positioning security and securing ones position: The researchers role in
investigating security in Kyrgyzstan. In Caleb R. L. Wall and Peter P. Mollinga, eds., Fieldwork in
difficult environments: Methodology as boundary work in development research, 43-67. Berlin: Lit
*Zirakzadeh, Cyrus Ernesto. 2009 (in press). When nationalists are not separatists: Discarding and
recovering academic theories while doing fieldwork in the Basque region of Spain. In Edward Schatz,
ed., Political ethnography: What immersion contributes to the study of power. Chicago: University of
Chicago Press.
Cohn, Carol. 2006. Motives and methods: Using multi-sited ethnography to study US national security
discourses. In Brooke Ackerly, Maria Stern, and Jacquie True, eds., Feminist methodologies for
international relations, 91-107. NY: Cambridge University Press.
*Lorraine Nencel and Dvora Yanow, 2008. On methodological relics: Etic outsiders, emic insiders, and
fieldwork relationships. Prepared for presentation at the European Association of Social
Anthropologists (Ljubljana, 26-30 August).

Pushkala Prasad and Anshuman Prasad. 2002. Casting the native subject: Ethnographic practice and
the (re)production of difference. In Barbara Czarniawska and Heather Hpfl, eds., Casting the other:
The production and maintenance of inequalities in work organizations. London: Routledge, ch. 10.
7 13 October Thick research and thick writing:
Trustworthiness, evaluative criteria, &
written texts
Think: What makes ethnographic (and other forms of interpretive) research trustworthy? What is the
In class bring these 2 papers with you! relationship between the characteristics of ethnographic writing and the trustworthiness of the
researchers claims?
Anat Rafaeli, Jane Dutton, Celia V.
Harquail, and Stephanie Mackie-Lewis. Read:
1997. Navigating by attire: The use of YSS, ch. 5 (Schwartz-Shea).
dress by female administrative employees. Golden-Biddle, Karen and Locke, Karen. 1993. Appealing work: An investigation in how ethnographic
Academy of Management Journal 40/1: 9- texts convince. Organization Science 4: 595616.
45. Richardson, Laurel. 1994. Writing: A method of inquiry. In Handbook of qualitative research, ed.
Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, 51629. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
*Ybema, Sierk. 2008. Temporal identity *Auntie Dvoras Guide to Writing. Ms.
talk: Time and collective identity change.
Manuscript under review. Do: Look over the 2 articles listed to the left. Analyze them in light of the 2 reading below. Bring
copies to class! We will analyze them together.
8 19 October Lecture free period Final paper due by 17.00; see grading policy above (unless you have an emergency, in which case
you need to speak with me in person to discuss an alternate due date).
9 26 October Exam period No exam in this course!

10 1 November Part II, Thematic Reading, under Read: Books and articles suggested by thesis supervisor
31 January direction of thesis supervisor.

10 1 November Part III, Research Proposal, under Write: The proposal for the ethnographic field research you wish to conduct.
31 January direction of thesis supervisor.