Affective Ethnography: Reflections on the Application of “Useful” Research on Workplace Diversity

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Abstract

Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to critically reflect on the affective entanglement of both researcher and practitioners in a study of workplace diversity with a transformative agenda.
Design/methodology/approach: Events and experiences related to interventions in a municipal center are presented. The study is embedded in critical diversity research and applies engaged ethnographic methods.
Findings: The researcher reflects on how interventions designed to challenge the status quo faced difficulties while considering the impact of the research entry point, efforts to mobilize organizational members in favor of a diversity agenda and the micro-politics of doing intervention-based research.
Practical implications: The study reflects on how “useful” research with an allegedly emancipatory agenda might not be considered favorable to neither majority nor minority employees. The notion of affectivity is applied to deal with the organizational members’ multi-voiced response to the change efforts, as well as how the researcher’s position as researcher-change agent critically shaped the fieldwork experiences and their interpretation.
Originality/value: Few critical diversity scholars engage with practitioners to produce “useful” research with practical implications. In doing so, this paper contributes to critical diversity methods by exploring why presumably emancipatory initiatives apparently did not succeed, despite organizational goodwill. This involves questioning the implied assumption of the inherent “good” of emancipation, as well as notions of “useful research.”
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management
Volume13
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)218-234
Number of pages17
ISSN1746-5648
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • Micro-politics
  • Affect
  • Critical diversity
  • Intervention-based etnography
  • Researcher and change agent
  • Useful research

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