Institutional Ethnography and Activist Futures

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 18:30
Location: Hörsaal 33 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Eric MYKHALOVSKIY, Sociology, York University, Toronto, ON, Canada
Institutional Ethnography (IE) is a distinctive approach to sociological inquiry developed by Canadian feminist sociologist Dorothy E. Smith.  From the standpoint of everyday experience, institutional ethnographic inquiry seeks to explore the extended relations of ruling that organize contemporary capitalist societies.  Institutional ethnographers have developed approaches to the analysis of ruling that pay particular attention to the importance of objectified forms of knowledge and the active character of texts in coordinating action across time and place. Initially articulated as a sociology for women, through a growing body of empirical research, Institutional Ethnography has developed into a sociology for people.    

This paper addresses the relationship between institutional ethnography and activist practice.  It positions institutional ethnography’s unique contribution to activist efforts to change the world within emerging debates about and calls for engaged scholarship.  Through a discussion of examples of institutional ethnographic research, the paper considers how institutional ethnography’s empirical focus on and critique of the operation of ruling relations offers intellectual resources to forms of activism that seek to remake the institutional relations that shape, organize and limit our everyday lives.