In-Labour Ethnography - Challenges and Possibilities When Doing Ethnography in Our Own Work Place

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 10:00
Location: Hörsaal 6C P (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Mario SANTOS, University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal
Jette Aaroe CLAUSEN, Metropol University College of Copenhagen, Denmark
Health care settings are particularly complex and enclose the potential of establishing connections between different theoretical and disciplinary backgrounds. When health professionals are performing ethnography in health institutions, this requires a wider degree of reflexivity, going beyond taken-for-granted understandings of well-known, everyday practices. The hospital is a context framed by dynamic professional responsibilities, unclear definitions of private and public spaces, shifting relations mediated by technology, and patient and professional plural expectations towards the ethnographer. The aim of this presentation is thus to explore the underresearched area of health professionals doing ethnography in their own work setting. The analysis is based on two different experiences from the authors as they undertook their research on a maternity ward, while also being a qualified nurse or midwife. The value of this “in-labour ethnography”, we argue, is the capacity of bringing to light practices, knowledge, relationships, and the contribution from involved technologies that would be otherwise undercover or inaccessible to the common researcher. One of the aspects we highlight from our research experience is the productive potential of observers and observed acknowledging the specific features of ethnographers – their background and insideness, but also their research agenda and their connections to other contexts and institutions – which position them cultural and socially as belonging to the outside world and, at the same time, contribute to build a role for the ethnographers as having a place inside the hospital setting, nor as insiders or outsiders. Managing this can be a challenging task. Nevertheless, the particular position of health professionals has a peerless potential to defy the way health care is viewed from inside the health care system. As such, this presentation proposes a reflection on both the productive and on the problematic features of in-labour ethnography, although highlighting the value of this strategy.