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Small places, big stakes : “meetings” as moments of ethnographic momentum
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Social Anthropology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Stockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE).
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Ethnographic fieldwork in organizations – such as corporations, state agencies, and international organizations – often entails that the ethnographer has to rely to a large extent on meetings as the primary point of access. Oftentimes, this involves doing fieldwork in workshops, at ceremonies, and at other staged, formal events. In addition, such fieldwork tends to be both multilocal, mobile, and discontinuous. It may not provide as much of a flavour of the different local sites and a sense of ‘being there' as one would wish for. The tendency in anthropology to favour the informal, the ‘genuine' or ‘authentic' as well as the spontaneous, may leave one with a lingering feeling of having to make do with second-rate material, i.e. the formal, the superficial, and the organized. To a large extent, the staged character of the social events that are accessible to the ethnographer suggests that s/he has been left of much of ‘what is really going on', and ‘what people are really up to.' Meetings, however, as organized and ritualized social events, may provide the ethnographer with a loupe through which key tenets of larger social groups and organizations, and big issues, may be carefully observed. In formal meetings, political priorities, economic values, and social priorities are often condensed, played out and negotiated, turning meetings into strategic sites from which to observe the organization at large. The paper is based on experiences from fieldwork in corporations, think thanks, and international organizations.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
Meeting ethnography, seclusion, transparency, global studies
National Category
Social Anthropology
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-110304OAI: diva2:770527
113th AAA Annual Meeting Call for Papers Producing Anthropology Washington DC, December 3–7, 2014
Improving the State of the World: World Economic Forum and the Politics of Economy
Swedish Research Council, 2010-1848
Available from: 2014-12-10 Created: 2014-12-10 Last updated: 2015-02-11Bibliographically approved

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Garsten, ChristinaSörbom, Adrienne
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Department of Social AnthropologyStockholm Centre for Organizational Research (SCORE)
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