Everyday life offers a vital starting point for organizational research, giving researchers an entry point for investigating how social relations and knowledges deeply shape us. For institutional ethnographers, everyday life refers to the actualities and particularities of people’s lived worlds that are deeply embedded in social relations (Mykhalovskiy and McCoy 2002; Smith 2005). Institutional ethnography centres on explicating the taken-for-granted forms of life we inhabit – figuring out how our lives are put together and conditioned by the extended and penetrating social relations of which we are a part and make up (de Montigny 2017; Smith 2005). Just as Butler (2009) writes that ‘life requires support and enabling conditions in order to be a livable life’ (21), an institutional ethnographic approach underscores the relational nature of our existence, as it highlights how sustaining life is about social or political relations that are structured and experienced. The goal of research is to transform everyday life – revealing and remaking socially organized disjunctures and knowledges that objectify people’s lives.
The excerpt above is taken from a recent piece I wrote on the possibilities and limits of using (or experimenting with) institutional ethnography: 'Investigating the organizational everyday: a critical feminist approach.' Please check out the piece here and the abstract below.
This article considers the possibilities and limits of applying institutional ethnography, a feminist theoretical and methodological approach that contributes to collective projects of investigating and transforming social life. Elaborating on the approach, the article reports on an ethnographic exploration of visual artists’ experiences and struggles in Canada's art world – a project that started from the standpoint of practising visual artists, examined their work and relations, and explicated practices and logics of art and valued work conditioning their lives. Speaking back to formal or text-based investigations of particular institutions, the article grapples with how to engage in research that more fully reveals the ‘social,’ attending to everyday life, to the ‘life work’ that people do, and to social forms that are threaded through intersecting, localized intimate and institutional spheres.