Institutional Ethnography for Oppressed People

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:30 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Kjeld HOEGSBRO , Department of Sociology and Social Work, Aalborg University, Aalborg, Denmark
The especially oppressed people in modern society are the people with communicative, mental or social disabilities stemming from brain injuries, developmental disorders and mental illness such as schizophrenia. These people are in many ways marginalized in modern society where social and communicative skills are highly valued and sometimes requisite for achieving a position on the labor market as well as getting into social networks of modern urban subcultures. Being in such a position often makes them ultimately dependent on welfare institutions where they have difficulties in expressing their needs and demands for social relations, daily activities and means for personal development.

Since 1997 the author has been involved in several investigations into the institutional landscape for these people following the ambitions of an applied institutional ethnography. That means that our point of departure was the life-world of these people and their efforts to get a coherent everyday life and a basis for personal development.  With this reference we judged the total structure of institutions they were confronted with and the powerful relations and social processes behind these institutions and out of the horizon of their experiences. When mapping these relations between life-world, professional interventions and the regulatory forces behind (discourses, norms, jurisdictions etz.) we often succeeded in uncovering processes that had been unnoticed by users, professionals and the people in charge.

This paper will summarize the methodologically challenges for institutional ethnography when entering the life-world and institutional structures for people in especially oppressed situations. To deal with the situation of these people challenges our tradition and changes slightly the elements in our research designs. Among the regulatory principles that gain more importance and weight in this field are discourses ranging from pedagogical theories over diagnostic systems and the concept of evidence to governmentalities.