Organisational Dilemmas, Gender and Ethnicity: A Video Ethnographic Approach to Talk and Gestures in Homeless Shelter Consultations

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Most qualitative research in organisations is based on interviews. Interview studies can illuminate the experience of the people studied. However, interviewees retelling and restructuring their narratives in accordance with the agenda of the researcher may not be the most appropriate means of understanding why and how people act the way they do. This chapter demonstrates how video recordings of real-time interactions between homeless individuals and service providers can illuminate the many organisational dilemmas that affect the relationship between professionals and clients. Video recordings demonstrate the way professionals and clients actually interact – and manage the dilemmas – in specific situations. Their body language, such as expressions of anger, leaning towards a person, being silent, etc. adds to their verbal expressions and qualifies the analysis. The chapter’s analysis reveals that it is difficult to reconcile the role of male clients’ weakness (being homeless) with stereotypical perceptions of masculinity and strength. The chapter pays particular attention to caring, parent-child relationships, and other ambivalent relations and positions that challenge both clients and professionals. For instance, clients with a background in Greater Middle East are particularly challenged, as they find it more difficult than their Danish counterparts to accept the passivity, care, and the childish role attached to their position as homeless. Even though social workers emphasise that clients should take responsibility and have control over their situation, they often reproduce a practice that takes the clients’ lack of responsibility for granted. The analysis thus demonstrates one of the greatest forces of ethnography, namely why people actively reproduce the practices from which they explicitly distance themselves.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Anthropology and Business
EditorsRaza Mir, Anne-Laure Fayard
Number of pages19
Place of PublicationNew York
Publication date2020
ISBN (Print)9781138496422
ISBN (Electronic)9781003052456
Publication statusPublished - 2020
SeriesRoutledge Companions in Business, Management and Marketing

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