Making culture visible

reflections on corporate ethnography

Anne-Laure Fayard, John Van Maanen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to describe and reflect on the experience as corporate ethnographers working in (and for) a large, multinational company with a remit to study and articulate “the culture of the firm.” Design/methodology/approach – The research relied heavily on interviews and some (participant) observation carried out periodically – in North America, Europe and Asia – over an eight-year period. Findings – The authors discuss how the studies were produced, received, and occasionally acted on in the firm and the realization over time of the performativity of the work as both expressive and constitutive of firm’s culture. Research limitations/implications – The increasing entanglement in the organization raises questions regarding emic and etic perspectives and the possibility (or impossibility) of “enduring detachment” or “going native” and the associated, often unintended consequences of being both outsiders and insiders. Practical implications – The authors start with the premise that ethnography is about producing a written text and conclude by arguing that ethnography is not fully realized until the writing is read. Social implications – The ethnographic reports, when read by those in the company, made visible a version of Trifecta culture that was interpreted, framed and otherwise responded to in multiple ways by members of the organization. Originality/value – Corporate ethnography is a growing pursuit undertaken by those inside and outside firms. This paper focusses on how and in what ways corporate ethnography sponsored by and written for those in the company shifts the positioning of the ethnographer in the field, the kinds of texts they produce, and the meanings that readers take away from such texts.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)4-27
    Number of pages24
    JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
    Volume4
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Mar 9 2015

    Fingerprint

    ethnography
    firm
    organization
    participant observation
    Ethnography
    methodology
    interview
    Values
    experience

    Keywords

    • Corporate ethnography
    • Organization culture
    • Performativity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Anthropology
    • Cultural Studies
    • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
    • Strategy and Management

    Cite this

    Making culture visible : reflections on corporate ethnography. / Fayard, Anne-Laure; Van Maanen, John.

    In: Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 4, No. 1, 09.03.2015, p. 4-27.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Fayard, Anne-Laure ; Van Maanen, John. / Making culture visible : reflections on corporate ethnography. In: Journal of Organizational Ethnography. 2015 ; Vol. 4, No. 1. pp. 4-27.
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