What Makes Resilience? An Ethnographic Study of the Work of Prison Officers

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In this chapter, we show the potential of sensory organizational ethnography as it relates to future resilience research and theorizing, suggesting a wider use of sensory approaches for the study of similar, complex organizational phenomena. Based on a close ethnographic study of how resilience is made and negotiated in the work practices and work relationships of prison officers within a Danish prison setting, we unfold how resilience may be captured empirically. Using interviews, autophotography and involving our own emotional and sensory capacity as part of the knowledge production (Lee-Treweek 2000; Pink 2015; Warren 2002), we identify two distinct positive resources in prison work pivotal to the resilience of prison officers: ‘Relations with inmates’ and ‘Belonging to the officer group’. These positive resources, however, do not simply act as ‘protective factors’; they have a flip side to them, thus calling for a more ambiguous conceptualization of resilience. We conclude that to engage as researchers in sensory ethnography allows for a study of resilience beyond trait-and-factor thinking, as resilience is shown to be a highly contextual and ambiguous accomplishment. Besides contributing new insights into the resilience field, our chapter serves to inspire a wider use of sensory methods and emotional engagement on the part of the researcher, especially when it comes to complex psychosocial phenomena such as stress or well-being that, like resilience, are inseparable to the social, physical and emotional orders of the specific work setting.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to Anthropology and Business
EditorsRaza Mir, Anne-Laure Fayard
Number of pages21
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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