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Institutional Ethnography

Course Number
5100 (Social and Behavioural Health Science)
Course Instructor(s)
Daniel Grace

Course Description

As a method of inquiry, Institutional ethnography (IE) provides an analytic tool box to help researchers map social relations and explicate how individuals are governed. IE, at its heart, is about working towards a more equitable society and is analytically concerned with exploring the ways in which power is exerted in practices of ruling. Developed by Canadian feminist scholar Dorothy Smith, this alternative sociology provides a research strategy that allows for an understanding of the socially organized nature of everyday life. IE is committed to discovery and is a highly empirically-driven form of social research which draws principally from primary interview, observational, and text-based data sources. This approach to critical social science focuses on the material actualities of people’s lives in order to help develop analytic descriptions of ruling practices.

Course Objectives

  1. Gain an in-depth understanding of the theoretical foundations of Institutional Ethnography as an alternative sociological research strategy;
  2. Appreciate the range of ways Institutional Ethnographies and have been conducted historically (over the last 30 years) and contemporaneously in the field of public health research;
  3. Be able to design an Institutional Ethnography (e.g., the development/refinement of a research problematic for a research proposal or grant submission);
  4. Strengthen qualitative skills to conduct an Institutional Ethnography, including (a) data collection (e.g., participant observation and qualitative interviews) and data analysis (e.g., approaches to mapping text-mediated work processes, analysing interviews);
  5. Critically apply Institutional Ethnography to an area of research interest; and
  6. Appreciate critiques of Institutional Ethnography and its relationship to other qualitative and ethnographic research traditions (e.g., political activist ethnography) and critical social science theories and frameworks (e.g., governmentality, intersectionality).

Methods of Assessment

Discussion Facilitation 30%
Presentation of Final Paper 20%
C. Final Paper or Research Proposal 50%