The shadow in organizational ethnography: moving beyond shadowing to spect‐acting

Rebecca Gill (Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Publication date: 23 August 2011



The purpose of this paper is to explore the methodological practice of shadowing and its implications for ethnographic fieldwork. Furthermore, the paper challenges the label of “shadowing” and suggests a new label of “spect‐acting.”


This paper is based in a feminist and interpretive‐qualitative approach to methods, and uses the author's experience with shadowing as a case study. The author argues that fieldwork is always intersubjective and as such, the research site emerges out of the co‐construction of the relationship between researcher and participant.


The author argues that reflexivity is a required but neglected aspect of shadowing, and that spect‐acting as a new term would require the researcher to take reflexivity more seriously, thereby opening up emancipatory possibilities in the field.

Research limitations/implications

Findings are based on a limited time span of shadowing.


The paper is original in that it imports “spect‐acting” from performance studies into the organizational methods lexicon. The value of the paper is that it provides reflection and discussion of one‐on‐one ethnography, which is a relatively underutilized method in research on organizations and management (but beginning to grow in popularity).



Gill, R. (2011), "The shadow in organizational ethnography: moving beyond shadowing to spect‐acting", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 6 No. 2, pp. 115-133.

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Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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