Relating Performative and Ostensive Management Accounting Research: Reflections on Case Study Methodology

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose – The methodological debate relating to accounting research using actor-network theory (ANT) has primarily focused on how ANT generates performative studies that significantly differ from ostensive studies. These discussions have in many ways (and for good reasons) distanced performative from ostensive research. Recently, however, several scholars have emphasized the interdependencies between ostensive and performative aspects when it comes to knowledge development, thereby underlining the need to coordinate ostensive and performative studies and bring them closer together. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the methodological opportunities and limitations for ANT researchers who seek to move closer to ostensive research.

Design/methodology/approach – The basis for exploring the opportunities and threats stemming from integration at the methodological level is a comparison of performative and ostensive case study methodologies as they have been presented in research. Robert K. Yin's case study methodology is chosen to represent an ostensive view whereas performative case study methodology is represented by the methodological reflections of Bruno Latour, John Law, and Michel Callon.

Findings – The paper illustrates how the process is a balancing act. On the one hand, it requires performative researchers to relate more closely to aspects decisive for ostensive researchers; yet, on the other, they need to preserve the distinctiveness of the performative approach.

Originality/value – This paper exemplifies these issues with reference to management accounting research and contributes by clarifying the methodological implications of moving performative research closer to ostensive research.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Accounting and Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)108-138
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Case Studies
  • Methodology
  • Actor-netvork Theory
  • Management Accounting Research
  • Performative and Ostensive Research
  • Research Methods

Cite this