Reimagining method

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Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 23 August 2011



Cunliffe, A.L., Linstead, S.A. and Locke, K. (2011), "Reimagining method", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 6 No. 2.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Reimagining method

Article Type: Guest editorial From: Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, Volume 6, Issue 2.

This journal special issue emerged from the Qualitative Research in Management and Organization Conference held at the University of New Mexico in April 2010. This was the second QRM conference, with the first held in 2008, and a third to be held in 2012. Each conference is designed to create a space where scholars doing qualitative research in and around organizations can exchange ideas and engage in critical discussion about a variety of methods and issues. In addition to this special issue, QRM 2008 also resulted in a QROM special issue entitled Telling Tales.

The theme of QRM 2010 was Reimagining Method, with George Marcus and Linda Putnam as the keynote speakers. In the two books with James Clifford and Michael Fischer (1986), Writing Culture and Marcus and Fischer (1986) Anthropology as Cultural Critique, George Marcus drew attention to the crisis of representation occurring in social and cultural anthropology by questioning the ways in which ethnographies are written and read, disrupting the fixities through which ethnographers view fieldwork, and reflexively critiquing their relationship with “others”. Yet 20 years on, in a 2008 article entitled “The ends of ethnography”, Marcus observed that little has changed in terms of the way we carry out and write our research. He argued that social and cultural anthropology has been in a long decline, its intellectual drive suspended – a criticism that can also be levied against management and organization studies, where despite the variously termed textual, linguistic, reflexive, narrative, symbolic and aesthetic turns, functionalist methodologies still dominate. Journals such as QROM that publish qualitative work from a variety of epistemological positions, and articles that are reflexive, critical, focus on subjective experience and context-oriented are generally the exception. Few journals now provide a space for such work to be presented. Whilst there has been some experimentation with novel methods, too often these have been used to enhance rather than destabilize classical ways of theorizing and writing. In his article, George Marcus argued that we need to reinvent the culture of fieldwork, ethnography and method, and this was the aim of QRM 2010.

Conference participants were encouraged to question and explore methods as a pivot for reimagining – reorienting and refocusing – research in organizations and management. Presentations covered a range of methods including narrative forms, multi-sited ethnography, discourse-based approaches, poems, aesthetics, shadowing, action research and film. Participants hailed from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Denmark, Germany, South Africa, Sweden, the UK and the USA.

The five papers in this special issue offer a flavour of the themes and methods studied. A number of papers reflexively draw attention to the process of research and the issues and choices we face as situated, fallible and embodied researchers. They offer not just a variety of methods, but also very different research contexts.

Rebecca Gill argues that we need a “jeweler’s eye view of the world” to access the micro-performances – public and private moments – of work. She explores the feasibility and practical considerations that ethnographic shadowing can offer researchers interested in taking this perspective.

Kathryn Haynes reflexively examines the tensions and challenges involved in presenting autoethnographic research on personally charged subjects in the public space of academic conferences. Doing so, she provides insights into what it feels like to perform autoethnography in the midst of professionally consequential relations.

Jasmin Mahadevan’s paper reflects upon the challenges she faced and the choices she made as an interpretive anthropological fieldworker when doing her doctoral research. She argues that research and researcher identity shape and are shaped by others in the field, and offers ways in which we can reflexively consider this relationship.

Claude-Helene Mayer and Christian Martin Boness’s paper takes us away from standard organizational settings and provides a glimpse into the dynamics of conflict management as it is expressed in church environs in Tanzania. The vignettes they narrate demonstrate the ethos of Christian community in conflict mediation. Viviane Sergi and Anette Hallin use a process lens to examine research as performance – a local, subjective, embodied and reflexive practice. They offer a number of vignettes from researchers to illustrate the emotional nature of our work and its ethical and generative potential. We hope you enjoy them.

Finally, we would like to encourage QROM readers to consider submitting abstracts for the next QRM conference (Call included in this issue). The theme of QRM 2012 is Embodiment, Imagination, and Meaning. The keynote speakers are Mark Johnson, whose work (e.g. 1987, 1993, 2007) over the last 30 years addresses metaphor, the body, moral imagination and meaning, and Karen Ashcraft, Ashcraft and Mumby who explores embodiment, gender relations, power and identity within work (e.g. 2001, 2004).

Ann L. Cunliffe, Stephen A. Linstead and Karen LockeGuest Editors


Ashcraft, K.L. (2001), “Organized dissonance: feminist bureaucracy as hybrid form”, Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 44 No. 6, pp. 1301-22.

Ashcraft, K.L. and Mumby, D. (2004), Reworking Gender: A Feminist Communicology of Organization, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.

Clifford, J. and Marcus, G. (1986), Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Johnson, M. (1987), The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Johnson, M. (1993), Moral Imagination: Implications of Cognitive Science for Ethics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Johnson, M. (2007), The Meaning of the Body: Aesthetics of Human Understanding, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Marcus, G.E. (2008), “The end(s) of ethnography: social/cultural anthropology’s signature form of producing knowledge in transition”, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 1-14.

Marcus, G.E. and Fischer, M. (1986), Anthropology as Cultural Critique, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

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