In this paper the author aims to examine his own life and work in order to understand how an ethnographic sensibility emerges and develops.
The paper examines the personal and institutional context in which his book Engineering Culture: Commitment and Control in a High Tech Corporation was researched and written, from formative moments in his life that led him to the study, through the process of finding, entering and exploring his field, to the acts of interpretation and writing that culminated in the book.
The paper illustrates the institutional pressures that constrain conceptual and methodological freedom and undermine the logic of inquiry, and suggests ways of circumventing them. It also illustrates how interpretation is rooted in symbolic resources developed over a lifetime that are far beyond a grounding in social theory, and shows the intricate connections between question formulation, data collection, interpretation and writing that transcend the standard approaches to teaching and executing social research.
The paper offers a revealing behind‐the‐scenes view of the process of ethnographic inquiry, challenges the accepted view of the method and offers practical advice to researchers, teachers and students.
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