Discovering Agency, Material Practices & Marginalization Examples from an Institutional Ethnography on Hidden Disabilities in Working Life

Friday, July 18, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: 424
Oral Presentation
Maria NORSTEDT , University of Lund, Lund, Sweden
The main question I will address in my paper is: what does the use of institutional ethnography help me see analytically that I would have risked not seeing with other methodological glasses? In order to discuss this, I will draw on and exemplify with my first analysis of the empirical material from an on-going workplace study about hidden disabilities and working life. In this moment I am in the process of doing this analysis. The study takes its starting in the experiences and work knowledge of individuals with hidden disabilities in order to understand individual, interactional and institutional aspects of importance for people with hidden disabilities when they decide to tell – or not to tell – others in the workplace. While discourse analysis is a relevant methodological approach in a study about people with hidden disabilities I argue that institutional ethnography (IE) through its focus on institutional practices and ruling relations allows for an understanding of their material consequences in workplaces and on every day experiences. Discourse analysis could stay at the level of representation, not showing what people actually do with discourses and thereby risking seeing neither agency nor material practices. IE enables an understanding of how marginalization works in individual, interactional and institutional practices in workplaces and of how the everyday life and agency of persons with hidden disabilities are impacted by these practices. Another advantage is that IE does not accept an ontological divide between individual and structure and an analysis based in IE thus can provide an answer to the long debated paradox among disability researchers: how to theoretically understand disability as a consequence of inequality/social structures without neglecting individuals’ bodily experiences of living with a disability. This is also something I will discuss in the paper with the help of my empirical data.