Social Identities in the Field: How Fluctuating Fieldworker Identities Shape Our Research

Anna Kirkebæk Johansson Gosovic

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

349 Downloads (Pure)


The purpose of this paper is to contribute to developing the understanding and practice of fieldwork in familiar settings by expanding the literature on fieldworker identities.
Based on ethnographic fieldwork in a multinational biopharmaceutical corporation, and drawing on anthropological theory of social identities, the paper demonstrates the multiple and fluid identities that we as organizational ethnographers purposefully take on, accidentally acquire, unintentionally are ascribed with and experience during ethnographic fieldwork in familiar settings.
Building on these insights, and by expanding the literature on researcher identities, the paper develops a critique of the spatial and temporal notions often attached to fieldwork in familiar settings by demonstrating how outsider identities are ascribed even “at home” and how insider identities can be experienced when away. It further reflects on the ways in which these identities shape the data generation and interpretation process.
This paper argues that to properly grasp the multiple identity processes involved in a fieldwork, we must escape the spatial and temporal conceptualization of being either an insider or an outsider. Instead, the paper argues for a relational and situational perspective on being an insider and an outsider in the field and proposes to conceptualize “insider” and “outsider” as ascribed, changing and sometimes volatile social identities.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)186-198
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Positioning
  • Fieldwork
  • Ethnography
  • Identity
  • Qualitative techniques

Cite this