The development of institutional ethnography as a research tradition has been characterised by an effort to create and explicate boundaries for the kind of research that is institutional ethnography and the research that is not. This has resulted in institutional ethnography becoming its own niche within sociology, an approach only used by the «initiated few». This encapsulation of institutional ethnography contributes to both concealing the value of the approach and isolates it from theoretical development.
The work of combining a Nordic, pragmatic sociological tradition with a formalistic understanding of institutional ethnography gives rise to, essentially, two challenges: to make sense of what separates institutional ethnography from «normal» problem-oriented sociology, and to make use of formalistic instructions for how to do institutional ethnography «the right way».
In this paper, we depart from our own empirical research and add to the emerging practice of a Nordic institutional ethnography by discussing the possibilities of institutional ethnography in sociological knowledge development. We employ perspectives from institutional ethnography to describe our work of making sense of and making use of institutional ethnography in a Nordic context.
We have done this work in two different ways: one of us uses concepts from institutional ethnography as sensitising concepts in the analysis, and the other employs institutional ethnography in the initial analytical work.
We further describe how the social co-ordination of research influences this analytical work and discuss how using an abductive research strategy may contribute to opening up institutional ethnography to theory development in two new ways:
- the active use of institutional ethnography to reconstruct other sociological theory
- to have empirical findings serve as anomalies to concepts from institutional ethnography
The use of institutional ethnography as an abductive strategy may thus actively contribute to sociological knowledge and theory development.
Mathiesen, I. H., & Volckmar-Eeg, M. G. (2022). En abduktiv tilnærming til institusjonell etnografi – et bidrag til sosiologisk kunnskapsutvikling. Norsk sosiologisk tidsskrift, 6(1), 9–23. https://doi.org/10.18261/nost.6.1.2