Revisiting the past once more: on methodological appendices and the reflexivity of the researcher

Manuela Nocker (Essex Business School, University of Essex, Southend-on-Sea, UK)
Mike Rowe (School of Management, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, UK)
Matthew Brannan (Keele Management School, Keele University, Keele, UK)

Journal of Organizational Ethnography

ISSN: 2046-6749

Publication date: 9 March 2015


Nocker, M., Rowe, M. and Brannan, M. (2015), "Revisiting the past once more: on methodological appendices and the reflexivity of the researcher", Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Vol. 4 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Revisiting the past once more: on methodological appendices and the reflexivity of the researcher

Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Organizational Ethnography, Volume 4, Issue 1.

As already stressed in the Editorial in Vol. 3 No. 1, this journal embraces wide-ranging contributions to celebrate stimulating ethnographic work. At times, for editors this means becoming more experimental and allowing for the possibility of a “road not yet taken” when it comes to work that we may deem of interest and we may envisage could spark off contributions in the same direction by different authors.

After some discussion on the approach proposed, we therefore welcomed a new kind of paper in this issue by Simon Down who deepens reflections on his past research practice via a critical look at the methodological appendix to his book Narratives of Enterprise. Hence, his contribution is presented as a methodological reflection on what had been inscribed in text at the time rather than being in relation to a new piece of research to be published here. Down’s paper can thus be seen as a kind of “travelling back in time” when thinking of enacted preferences and implemented choices and how these may appear, or indeed appeal (or not) to a researcher in the light of present experience and knowledge.

Whilst the notion of reflexivity of the researcher is (almost) taken for granted nowadays in our research community, it remains a difficult challenge both in writing and in the actual lived experience of ethnographers. It is about what we may like or have the courage to express and espouse as much as our own “blind spots” and level of awareness as persons, researchers and authors. To what extent do we “lean over the fence” or silence ourselves? Where do we gloss over issues, our emotions and experience, and those of others? Why may we at times be far more open to acknowledge our strengths, vulnerabilities and the range of external and internal influences on our writing whilst pushing them aside in other moments?

In publishing this particular contribution by Simon Down, we invite others to revisit the past that informs current research practice and methodological stances. Too often the so-called “reflexivity” turns out to be no more than a rationalised attempt as a writer to tell a coherent story of our ethnographic selves that thus remain largely unquestioned. The proposal, however, is not without potential pitfalls. Revisiting our own published work after a long(er) time may not be attractive at a personal level and in the wider research climate and pressures to “speed up” and multiply research outputs. It is fraught with the potential for both disappointment about unavoidable limitations of our own views and competence punctuated in time as much as the joyous re-discovery of the paths taken. In every case, this kind of looking back will not necessarily “mirror back” without distortions who we were at the time, how we experienced our research, how we were changed by engaging in relationships or even unique events and fleeting moments, and how we “fixed it all” in a version of text. We may easily try to connect causes to effects in an attempt to confirm to ourselves that we have become the ethnographer that we think we are or, at least, hope to project to an audience today. Memory is an active process inextricably tied to interpretation, relations and the situation and so, entirely fluid in nature. Despite the possible daunting questions arising in re-visiting the paths taken, it holds the potential within to shed new light on our research practice as much as our ethnographic selves, giving us yet another vantage point for learning.

We thus invite comments and suggestions in relation to potential further methodological contributions of this kind. Any proposals might be addressed to the editors.

Manuela Nocker, Mike Rowe and Matthew Brannan