Methodology: From Paradigms to Paradox

  • Tom Vine


This chapter conceptualises as paradoxes ten common challenges to the ethnographer. These include the apparent impossibility of internalising an ‘exotic’ culture while simultaneously maintaining professional distance as well as the expectation for ethnographers to concurrently convey to their subjects both empathy and honesty. Although similar concerns have been extensively debated under the rubric of ethics, this is not the intention for this discussion. Rather, the emphasis here is on both justifying and bolstering the quality and reliability of ethnographic data. To this end, it is argued that paradox must be celebrated rather than concealed or maligned since it is, for the most part, representative of social interaction itself.


  1. Agar, M. (1986). Speaking of Ethnographies. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alvesson, M., & Deetz, S. (2000). Doing Critical Management Research. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Atkinson, P., & Hammersley, M. (1994). Ethnography and Participant Observation. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Methods. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. BBC. (2016). Retrieved January 27, 2017, from
  5. Becker, H. (1967). Whose Side Are We On? Social Problems, 14(3), 239–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell, E. (1999). The Negotiation of a Working Role in Organizational Ethnography. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 2(1), 17–37.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bochner, A., & Ellis, C. (2016). Evocative Autoethnography: Writing Lives and Telling Stories. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  8. Bowie, M. (1979). Jacques Lacan. In J. Sturrock (Ed.), Structuralism and Since: From Levi-Strauss to Derrida. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Bryman, A., & Bell, E. (2011). Business Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Burrell, G., & Morgan, G. (1979). Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis: Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life. London: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  11. Cooper, R., & Law, J. (1995). Organization: Distal and Proximal Views. Research in the Sociology of Organizations: A Research Annual, 13, 237–274.Google Scholar
  12. Crang, M., & Cook, I. (2007). Doing Ethnographies. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Dale, K., & Burrell, G. (2011). Disturbing Structure: Reading the Ruins. Culture and Organization, 17(2), 107–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Delamont, S. (2007). Arguments Against Auto-Ethnography. Paper presented at the British Educational Research Association Annual Conference, Institute of Education, University of London, September 5–8.Google Scholar
  15. Deloria, V. (1969). Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
  16. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (1994). Introduction: Entering the Field of Qualitative Research. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Eco U. (1984). The Name of the Rose. New York: Harcourt Inc.Google Scholar
  18. Einstein A. (1916). Relativity: The Special and General Theory, (Translation 1920). New York: H. Holt and Company.Google Scholar
  19. European Group of Organizational Studies (EGOS). (2014). Subtheme 15: (SWG) Organizational Ethnography: The Theoretical Challenge, Rotterdam.Google Scholar
  20. Fine, G., & Shulman, D. (2009). Lies From the Field: Ethical Issues in Organizational Ethnography. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, & F. Kamsteeg (Eds.), Organizational Ethnography: Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Ganga, D., & Scott, S. (2006). Cultural “Insiders” and the Issue of Positionality in Qualitative Migration Research: Moving “Across” and Moving “Along” Researcher-Participant Divides. Forum: Qualitative Research, 7(3), Article 7.Google Scholar
  22. Gelsthorpe, L. (1992). Response to Martyn Hammersley’s Paper “On Feminist Methodology”. Sociology, 26(2), 213–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gephart, R. (1978). Status Degradation and Organizational Succession: An Ethnomethodological Approach. Administrative Science Quarterly, 4(23), 553–581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hammersley, M. (1992). What’s Wrong with Ethnography? Methodological Explorations. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  25. Hammersley, M., & Atkinson, P. (2007). Ethnography: Principles in Practice (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  26. Harari, Y. (2011). Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. London: Vintage.Google Scholar
  27. Harvey, J. (1988). The Abilene Paradox and Other Meditations on Management. Oxford: Maxwell Macmillan.Google Scholar
  28. Holliday, R. (1995). Investigating Small Firms: Nice Work? London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  29. Humphries, M., & Watson, T. (2009). Ethnographic Practices: From ‘Writing-up Ethnographic Research’ to ‘Writing Ethnography’. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, & F. Kamsteeg (Eds.), Organizational Ethnography: Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  30. Jackson, N., & Carter, P. (1985). The Ergonomics of Desire. Personnel Review, 14(3), 20–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Janis, I. L. (1972). Victims of Groupthink. New York: Houghton Mifflin.Google Scholar
  32. Learmonth, M., & Humphries, M. (2012). Autoethnography and Academic Identity: Glimpsing Business School Doppelgängers. Organization, 19(1), 99–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liamputtong, P. (2009). Qualitative Research Methods (3rd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  34. Marsden, R. (1993). The Politics of Organizational Analysis. Organization Studies, 14(1), 93–124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Mascarenhas-Keyes, S. (1987). The Native Anthropologist: Constraints and Strategies in Research. In A. Jackson (Ed.), Anthropology at Home. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  36. Mintzberg, H. (1973). The Nature of Managerial Work. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  37. Mintzberg, H. (1979). An Emerging Strategy of “Direct” Research. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 582–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mosley, N. (2009). Paradoxes of Peace. London: Dalkey Archive Press.Google Scholar
  39. Nietzsche, F. (1989[1887]). On the Genealogy of Morals. New York: Vintage.Google Scholar
  40. Oliver, M. (1983). Social Work and Disabled People. Basingstoke: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Powell, A., Dainty, A., & Bagilhole, B. (2010). Achieving Gender Equality in the Construction Professions: Lessons from the Career Decisions of Women Construction Students in the UK. Retrieved May 17, 2013, from
  42. Powers, J. (1982). Philosophy and the New Physics. London: Methuen.Google Scholar
  43. Prince, R., & Riches, D. (2000). The New Age in Glastonbury: The Construction of Religious Movements. Oxford: Berghahn.Google Scholar
  44. Punch, K. (2005). Introduction to Social Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  45. Punch, K. (2014). Introduction to Social Research: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  46. Rose, D. (1990). Living the Ethnographic Life. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Rousseau, D. (1998). Why Workers Still Identity with Organizations. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 19(3), 217–233.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Silverman, D. (2007). A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book About Qualitative Research. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  49. Singer, I. (2009). Philosophy of Love: A Partial Summing-up. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  50. Stanley, L., & Wise, S. (1993). Breaking Out: Feminist Consciousness and Feminist Research. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.Google Scholar
  51. Starobinski, J. (1975). The Inside and the Outside. The Hudson Review, 28, 333–351.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stent, G. (1978). Paradoxes of Progress. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman & Co.Google Scholar
  53. Rappaport, J. (1981). In Praise of Paradox: A Social Policy of Empowerment Over Prevention. American Journal of Community Psychology, 9, 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Toffler, A. (1970). Future Shock. London: Pan Books.Google Scholar
  55. Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the Field. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  56. Vine, T. (2010). Book Review: Organizational Ethnography – Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels, & F. Kamsteeg (Eds.) London: Sage (2009). Organization 17(5), 645–649.Google Scholar
  57. Yanow, D. (2010). Review Essay. Organization Studies, 31(9 & 10), 1397–1410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tom Vine
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SuffolkIpswichUK

Personalised recommendations