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The SAGE Handbook of
Qualitative Business and
Management Research Methods
Sara Miller McCune founded SAGE Publishing in 1965 to support
the dissemination of usable knowledge and educate a global
community. SAGE publishes more than 1000 journals and over
800 new books each year, spanning a wide range of subject areas.
Our growing selection of library products includes archives, data,
case studies and video. SAGE remains majority owned by our
founder and after her lifetime will become owned by a charitable
trust that secures the company’s continued independence.

Los Angeles | London | New Delhi | Singapore | Washington DC | Melbourne

The SAGE Handbook of
Qualitative Business and
Management Research Methods

History and Traditions

Edited by
Catherine Cassell, Ann L. Cunliffe
and Gina Grandy
SAGE Publications Ltd Introduction & editorial arrangement © Catherine Cassell, Ann L. Cunliffe
1 Oliver’s Yard and Gina Grandy, 2018
55 City Road
London EC1Y 1SP Chapter 01 © Catherine Cassell, Chapter 20 © Chahrazad
Ann L. Cunliffe and Gina Grandy, Abdallah, Joëlle Basque and Linda
SAGE Publications Inc. 2018 Rouleau, 2018
2455 Teller Road Chapter 02 © Ning Su, 2018 Chapter 21 © Rebecca Piekkari
Chapter 03 © Robert P. Gephart, and Catherine Welch, 2018
Thousand Oaks, California 91320
Jr., 2018 Chapter 22 © Simon Hayward and
Chapter 04 © Barbara Simpson, Catherine Cassell, 2018
SAGE Publications India Pvt Ltd
2018 Chapter 23 © Sandra Corlett and
B 1/I 1 Mohan Cooperative Industrial Area Chapter 05 © Wharerata Writing Sharon Mavin, 2018
Mathura Road Group, 2018 Chapter 24 © Fahad M. Hassan,
New Delhi 110 044 Chapter 06 © Angelo Benozzo, Caroline Gatrell and Carolyn
2018 Downs, 2018
SAGE Publications Asia-Pacific Pte Ltd Chapter 07 © Jose F. Molina- Chapter 25 © Amanda Sinclair and
3 Church Street Azorin, 2018 Donna Ladkin, 2018
#10-04 Samsung Hub Chapter 08 © Alia Weston and J. Chapter 26 © Jenny K. Rodriguez,
Singapore 049483 Miguel Imas, 2018 2018
Chapter 09 © Nancy Harding, 2018 Chapter 27 © Chris Land and
Chapter 10 © Bettina Schneider Scott Taylor, 2018
and Bob Kayseas, 2018 Chapter 28 © Mark N.K. Saunders
Chapter 11 © Gina Grandy, 2018 and Keith Townsend, 2018
Chapter 12 © Leah Tomkins and Chapter 29 © Giampietro Gobo,
Virginia Eatough, 2018 2018
Chapter 13 © Steve Vincent and Chapter 30 © Alexandra
Joe O’Mahoney, 2018 Rheinhardt, Glen E. Kreiner,
Chapter 14 © Andrea Whittle, 2018 Dennis A. Gioia and Kevin G.
Editor: Kirsty Smy Chapter 15 © Judith A. Holton, 2018 Corley, 2018
Editorial Assistant: Colette Wilson Chapter 16 © Alexandra Michel, 2018 Chapter 31 © Michael D. Myers,
Production Editor: Sushant Nailwal Chapter 17 © Sylwia Ciuk, Juliette 2018
Copyeditor: Sunrise Setting Ltd. Koning and Monika Kostera, 2018 Chapter 32 © Emma Bell and
Proofreader: Sunrise Setting Ltd. Chapter 18 © Giuseppe Scaratti, Nivedita Kothiyal, 2018
Indexer: Sunrise Setting Ltd. Mara Gorli, Laura Galuppo and Chapter 33 © Rebecca Whiting
Marketing Manager: Emma Turner Silvio Ripamonti, 2018 and Katrina Pritchard, 2018
Cover Design: Wendy Scott Chapter 19 © Fernando F. Fachin
Typeset by Cenveo Publisher Services and Ann Langley, 2018
Printed in the UK
Apart from any fair dealing for the purposes of research or private
study, or criticism or review, as permitted under the Copyright,
Designs and Patents Act, 1988, this publication may be reproduced,
stored or transmitted in any form, or by any means, only with the prior
permission in writing of the publishers, or in the case of reprographic
reproduction, in accordance with the terms of licences issued by
the Copyright Licensing Agency. Enquiries concerning reproduction
outside those terms should be sent to the publishers.

Library of Congress Control Number: 2017939689

British Library Cataloguing in Publication data

At SAGE we take sustainability seriously. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
Most of our products are printed in the UK
using FSC papers and boards. When we ISBN 978-1-5264-2926-1
print overseas we ensure sustainable
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List of Figuresviii
List of Tablesix
Notes on the Editors and Contributorsx

1 Introduction: Qualitative Research in Business and Management

Catherine Cassell, Ann L. Cunliffe and Gina Grandy 1


2 Positivist Qualitative Methods 17

Ning Su

3 Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 33

Robert P. Gephart, Jr.

4 Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 54

Barbara Simpson

5 Critical Management Studies 69

Wharerata Writing Group

6 Poststructuralism 86
Angelo Benozzo

7 Mixed Methods 102

Jose F. Molina-Azorin

8 Resisting Colonization in Business and Management Studies:

From Postcolonialism to Decolonization 119
Alia Weston and J. Miguel Imas

9 Feminist Methodologies 138

Nancy Harding

10 Indigenous Qualitative Research 154

Bettina Schneider and Bob Kayseas

11 An Introduction to Constructionism for Qualitative

Researchers in Business and Management 173
Gina Grandy

12 Hermeneutics: Interpretation, Understanding and Sense-making 185

Leah Tomkins and Virginia Eatough

13 Critical Realism and Qualitative Research: An Introductory

Steve Vincent and Joe O’Mahoney

14 Ethnomethodology 217
Andrea Whittle

15 From Grounded Theory to Grounded Theorizing in Qualitative

Judith A. Holton


16 Researching Bodies: Embodied Fieldwork for Knowledge Work,

Which Turns Out to Be Embodied 253
Alexandra Michel

17 Organizational Ethnographies 270

Sylwia Ciuk, Juliette Koning and Monika Kostera

18 Action Research: Knowing and Changing (in) Organizational

Giuseppe Scaratti, Mara Gorli, Laura Galuppo and Silvio Ripamonti

19 Researching Organizational Concepts Processually: The Case

of Identity 308
Fernando F. Fachin and Ann Langley

20 Designing Strategy as Practice Research 328

Chahrazad Abdallah, Joëlle Basque and Linda Rouleau

21 The Case Study in Management Research: Beyond the Positivist

Legacy of Eisenhardt and Yin? 345
Rebecca Piekkari and Catherine Welch


22 Achieving Critical Distance 361

Simon Hayward and Catherine Cassell

23 Reflexivity and Researcher Positionality 377

Sandra Corlett and Sharon Mavin
Contents vii

24 Muted Masculinities – Ethical and Personal Challenges for Male Qualitative

Researchers Interviewing Women 400
Fahad M. Hassan, Caroline Gatrell and Carolyn Downs

25 Writing through the Body: Political, Personal, Practical 415

Amanda Sinclair and Donna Ladkin

26 Intersectionality and Qualitative Research 429

Jenny K. Rodriguez


27 Access and Departure 465

Chris Land and Scott Taylor

28 Choosing Participants 480

Mark N.K. Saunders and Keith Townsend

29 Qualitative Research across Boundaries: Indigenization,

Glocalization or Creolization? 495
Giampietro Gobo

30 Conducting and Publishing Rigorous Qualitative Research 515

Alexandra Rheinhardt, Glen E. Kreiner, Dennis A. Gioia and
Kevin G. Corley

31 Writing for Different Audiences 532

Michael D. Myers

32 Ethics Creep from the Core to the Periphery 546

Emma Bell and Nivedita Kothiyal

33 Digital Ethics 562

Rebecca Whiting and Katrina Pritchard

List of Figures

  3.1 The multiple layers of the abductive process 39

  8.1 Typology of approaches categorizing postcolonial vs colonial research 124
19.1 Example of visual mapping and temporal bracketing (Howard-Grenville
et al., 2013) 313
21.1 Eisenhardt’s positivist view of the case study 348
26.1 Categorical complexities 446
26.2 Two-step hybrid approach to analysis 450
29.1 The Mmogo-Method™502
29.2 A Fulla doll 508
List of Tables

  3.1 Framework for qualitative interpretive science research 38

  3.2 Qualitative research strategies and methods of analysis for
interpretive social science 40
  4.1 Three logics of inference 59
13.1 Critical realist research designs (amended from Ackroyd and
Karlsson 2014) 207
13.2 CR research strategies, explanations and examples 208
18.1 The grid 298
18.2 Project flow and phases 300
18.3 Synopsis of the AR distinctive features 304
19.1 Four conceptions of process thinking applied to organizational identity 310
20.1 Three profiles of strategy as practice research design 335
23.1 Reflexivity in qualitative research 394
24.1 UK study on motherhood, part-time work and professional careers:
Demography and profiles of research participants 410
26.1 Intersectionality themes using qualitative research methods 435
26.2 Examples of intersectional research using qualitative methods 436
28.1 Utility of frequently used non-probablity sampling techniques 486
31.1 Audiences and outputs 533
31.2 A writing template (adapted from Myers, 2013) 535
Notes on the Editors
and Contributors


Catherine Cassell has a longstanding interest in research methodology and the use of
qualitative methods in the business, organization, and management fields. She has co-edited
four books for Sage on qualitative organizational research and published numerous papers
about the uses of qualitative research in the organizational psychology and management
field more generally. Her latest text, Interviews for Business and Management Students, was
published by Sage in 2015. Catherine was the founding chair of the British Academy of
Management’s Special Interest group in Research Methodology – a group she is still heav-
ily involved with – and a founding member of the steering committee of the European
Academy of Management’s Special Interest Group in Research Methods and Research
Practice. She is inaugural co-editor of Qualitative Research in Organizations and
Management: an international journal, and on the editorial boards of numerous other jour-
nals. She is a Fellow of the British Academy of Management and an Academic Fellow of
the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. Having previously held a number of
senior academic appointments, she is Dean of Birmingham Business School at the
University of Birmingham, U.K.

Ann L. Cunliffe is Professor of Organization Studies at Fundação Getulio Vargas-EAESP,

Sao Paulo, Brazil. She held positions at the Universities of Bradford and Leeds in the UK,
and the Universities of New Mexico, New Hampshire, and California State University in the
USA. Ann’s current research lies at the intersection of organizational studies, philosophy,
and communications, exploring how leaders and managers shape organizational life, selves,
and action in living conversations. In particular, she is interested in examining the relation-
ship between language and responsive and ethical ways of managing organizations. Other
interests include: leadership, selfhood, qualitative research methods, embodied sensemak-
ing, developing reflexive approaches to management research, practice, and learning. Her
recent publications include the book A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap
Book about Management (2014). She has published articles in Organizational Research
Methods, Human Relations, Management Learning, Journal of Management Studies, and the
British Journal of Management. She organizes the biennial Qualitative Research in
Management and Organization Conference in New Mexico, USA.

Gina Grandy is Professor and RBC Women in Leadership Scholar with the Hill and Levene
Schools of Business at the University of Regina located in Saskatchewan, Canada. Her research
interests include leadership, gender and women’s experiences at work, stigmatized work, iden-
tity, qualitative research methods, and case writing. She is the Associate Editor for the Case
Research Journal and serves on the international advisory board for Management Learning and

Gender in Management: An International Journal. Her research has been published widely in
such journals as Human Relations, the Journal of Business Ethics, the Journal of Management
Studies, Gender, Work and Organization, Organization, Management Learning, Gender in
Management, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, and the Case Research


Chahrazad Abdallah is Associate Professor at ESG UQAM in Montreal, Canada. She holds
a PhD in Management from HEC Montréal, Canada. Her research focuses on strategizing in
pluralistic settings, specifically artistic organizations. She also has a strong interest in qualita-
tive research methods, particularly ethnography. Her current research focuses on creativity as
an ambiguous discursive practice. Her work was published in the Journal of Management
Studies, Organizational Change Management, and the Revue Française de Gestion.

Ozan Alakavuklar’s research is focused on the ethics and politics of organizing, the critical
analysis of management education, business schools and non-capitalist forms of organizing,
particularly social movements, and community organizing practices. Recently he undertook
ethnographic research into the organizing of free food stores. He is a senior lecturer in the
School of Management at Massey Business School, based at Albany in Auckland, New

Fahreen Almagir’s research centers on advancing organizational theory from the perspective
of rights and capability of involved and affected communities in response to globalization and
sustainable development initiatives. She is Lecturer in Business Ethics at Monash University,
Australia, and formerly Postdoctoral Researcher in the School of Management at Massey
Business School, New Zealand.

Joëlle Basque is a Research Fellow at HEC Montréal, Canada. She holds a PhD in organiza-
tional communication from Université de Montréal and her expertise is in discourse analysis,
qualitative research methods, and identity construction processes in organizations. She is
currently leading two major research projects with important Canadian organizations to under-
stand the role of organizational identity in strategic planning. Her research interests include the
relations between strategic discourses and strategic planning, as well as collective creativity in
organizations. So far, she has studied these topics in cultural organizations and police agencies.

Emma Bell is Professor of Organization Studies at the Open University, UK. Her approach to
understanding management draws on insights from the social sciences and humanities to
critically explore meaning-making in organizations. Key themes include change and organiza-
tional loss, learning and knowledge production, and the role of spirituality and belief in
organization. Her work has been published in journals including the British Journal of
Management, the International Journal of Management, and Reviews, Human Relations and
Organization. She has also published several books, including Reading Management and
Organization in Film (2008), Business Research Methods (2015, with Alan Bryman), and
A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Management Research

(2013, with Richard Thorpe). Emma is current Past Co-Chair of the Critical Management
Studies Division of the Academy of Management and joint Editor-in-Chief of the journal
Management Learning.

Angelo Benozzo teaches Work and Organizational Psychology and Qualitative Research
Methods at the University of Valle d’Aosta, Italy. His current research interests include
gender and sexual identity in the workplace and emotion in organizations. He studies these
topics using the interpretative key of critical and poststructural and posthuman theories. He
has recently published articles in: Gender, Work and Organizations; the Journal of Vocational
Behaviors, Sexualities, Qualitative Inquiry, and Cultural Studies and Critical Methodologies.
He is currently an Associate Editor of Qualitative Research in Organizations and

Sylwia Ciuk is a Senior Lecturer in Organization Studies at Oxford Brookes Business School,
Oxford Brookes University, UK. She is a sociologist whose research interests have been evolving
around the issues of power, control, and resistance in organizational change as well as critical
perspectives on leadership development. More recently, she has been exploring different
aspects of language diversity in subsidiaries of multinational enterprises, particularly in rela-
tion to their micro-political dimension. She has authored and co-authored several academic
articles and book chapters, both in English and in Polish. Her work has been published in
Management Learning and the Journal of Global Mobility.

Sandra Corlett is a Principal Lecturer in Organization and Human Resource Management at

Newcastle Business School, Northumbria University, in Newcastle, UK, and Chair of the
British Academy of Management’s Special Interest Group on Identity. Her research interests
are in identity, vulnerability, manager and follower learning and development, and qualitative
research methods. Her work has been published in Gender in Management: An International
Journal, the Journal of Business Ethics, Management Learning, and the Scandinavian Journal
of Management. Sandra is co-editor of a special issue on identity, in the International Journal
of Management Reviews, and co-editor of a Routledge Studies in HRD text entitled Identity as
a Foundation for Human Resource Development.

Kevin G. Corley, PhD (Pennsylvania State), is a Professor of Management at the W. P. Carey

School of Business at Arizona State University, USA. His research largely springs from the
question, ‘why do people in organizations experience change the way they do?’ Answering this
question has led Professor Corley to do field research examining the processes by which man-
agers and employees organize around their roles and practices, as well as how they make sense
of the changes that occur within their organization. Examining these processes has led him to
focus on foundational concepts such as identity, image, identification, culture, and learning.
His research has appeared in the Academy of Management Journal, the Academy of
Management Review, Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, and the
Academy of Management Annals. He recently served as an Associate Editor at the Academy of
Management Journal focused on qualitative methods, and helped co-edit a special issue on
mixed-methods research at for Organizational Research Methods.

Andrew Dickson’s research revolves around the use of psychoanalysis to critically consider
the structure and function of organizations and institutions, particularly in the ‘health’ sector.

Methodologically, his focus is on critical qualitative research methods such as ­autoethnography.

He is Senior Lecturer in the School of Management in Massey Business School, based in the
Manawatu, New Zealand.

Carolyn Downs is a Lecturer at Lancaster University, UK, and focuses on leading EU-funded
research on enterprise and employment with groups vulnerable to social exclusion. She special-
izes in participatory action research. Carolyn’s research has been recognized as having consid-
erable impact, appearing in the European Commission Handbook of Good Practices for
Encouraging Migrant Enterprise (2016).

Virginia Eatough is a Reader in the Department of Psychological Sciences at Birkbeck,

University of London, UK. Her research focuses on the experiential structure of feelings and
how individuals ascribe meaning to their emotional experiences. She draws on the philosophies
of hermeneutics and phenomenology to explore both the thematic and the tacit, pre-reflective
dimensions of interpretation and understanding. Her work has appeared in a range of leading
journals, including The British Journal of Psychology, Theory and Psychology, Phenomenology
and Practice, Qualitative Research in Psychology, and The British Journal of Social
Psychology. She is author of chapters on hermeneutics in Research Methods in Psychology (4th
Edition), the Handbook of Qualitative Psychology, and Analysing Qualitative Data in
Psychology: A Practical & Comparative Guide, all from Sage.

Fernando F. Fachin is Assistant Professor in the Department of Management and Economics

at the Royal Military College of Canada. He obtained his PhD in management at HEC Montréal
and has taught at McGill University, Canada. He is a member of the Strategy as Practice Study
Group at HEC Montréal and the Research Group on Language, Organization and Governance
at Université de Montréal. His research deals with identity, strategy, entrepreneurship, process
thinking, and open innovation. He is currently studying the role of space and technology as
agents in the organizing process of identity work. He has received and been nominated for
awards at the Academy of Management Annual Meeting.

Laura Galuppo is an Assistant Professor in Work and Organizational Psychology at the

Psychology Department, Faculty of Psychology, Catholic University of Milan, Italy. Her cur-
rent research focuses on social sustainability in organizations, organizational learning, collabo-
rative research, and organizational ethnography.

Robert P. Gephart, Jr. is Professor of Strategic Management and Organization at the

University of Alberta, Canada, and a Research Associate at IAE Lyon, University of Jean
Moulin, France. Dr. Gephart currently serves as an Associate Editor for Organizational
Research Methods and has published in several respected journals, including Administrative
Science Quarterly, the Academy of Management Journal, the Journal of Management,
Qualitative Sociology, Organizational Research Methods, and Organization Studies. He is also
the author of Ethnostatistics: Qualitative Foundations for Quantitative Research (Sage, 1988)
and a co-editor of Postmodern Management and Organization Theory (Sage, 1996). He received
the 2015 Sage Publications / Organizational Research Methods Division Career Achievement
Award and has twice been awarded an Academy of Management Journal Outstanding Reviewer
Award. He received his PhD from the University of British Columbia, Canada. Dr. Gephart’s
current interests are qualitative research methods, risk, sensemaking, and ethnostatistics.

Caroline Gatrell is Professor of Organisation Studies at the University of Liverpool

Management School, UK. Caroline’s research centers on work, family, and health. From a
sociocultural perspective, she examines how working parents (both fathers and mothers)
manage boundaries between paid work and their everyday lives. In so doing she explores inter-
connections between gender, bodies, and employment, including development of the concept
‘Maternal Body Work’. Her work is published in leading journals including: Human Relations;
British Journal of Management; Gender, Work & Organization; Social Science & Medicine;
and the International Journal of Management Reviews. She is Co-Editor in Chief, International
Journal of Management Reviews.

Dennis A. Gioia is the Robert and Judith Auritt Klein Professor of Management in the Smeal
College of Business at Penn State University, USA. He received his doctorate from Florida
State University, USA. Prior to his academic career he worked as an engineer for Boeing
Aerospace at Cape Kennedy during the Apollo lunar program and for Ford Motor Company as
corporate recall coordinator. Current research and writing interests focus on the ways in which
identity, image, reputation, and learning are involved in sensemaking, sensegiving, and organi-
zational change.

Giampietro Gobo, PhD, is Professor of Methodology of Social Research and Evaluation

Methods, at the University of Milan, Italy. Former Director of the center ICONA (Innovation
and Organizational Change in the Public Administration), he was the first chair of the
‘Qualitative Methods’ Research Network of ESA (European Sociological Association).
Consulting Editor of the International Journal of Qualitative Research in Work and
Organizations, he has published over 50 articles in the areas of qualitative and quantitative
methods. His books include Doing Ethnography (Sage 2017, 2nd edition, with A. Molle),
Qualitative Research Practice (Sage 2004, co-edited with C. Seale, J.F. Gubrium and D.
Silverman), and Collecting Survey Data: An Interactional Approach (Sage 2014 with S.
Mauceri). His interests concern the decolonization of methodology, the reduction of inequality
in women’s scientific careers, and the relationship between quantum physics and social sci-
ences. He is currently undertaking projects in the area of coordination and workplace studies.

Mara Gorli is an Assistant Professor in Work and Organizational Psychology at the Faculty of
Economics, Department of Psychology, Catholic University of Milan, Italy. Her main research
interests are in organizational learning, in the impact of organizational change on people and
relationships, and in reflexivity in organizations. As member of the Center for Research and
Studies in Healthcare Management (CERISMAS), she combines organizational research and
intervention with a passion for visual, ethnographic, and qualitative methodologies.

Nancy Harding is Professor of Human Resource Management at the University of Bath,

School of Management, UK, a rather grand title for someone who started her working life as a
typist and working on production lines in factories in the Welsh valleys. Her research and
teaching focus on critical approaches to understanding organizations, and her particular interest
is working lives. She is an accidental feminist – class had a major influence on her early life,
but she found that being a woman restricted her academic career. She has published papers in
many of the expected academic journals, and published several books, including an exploration
of the social construction of the manager in The Social Construction of Management: Texts and

Identities (Routledge, 2003), and the construction of the employee in On Being at Work: The
Social Cnstruction of the Employee (Routledge, 2013). The construction of the organization,
whose publication date is extending into the future, will complete a planned trilogy.

Fahad M. Hassan is a Researcher and Tutor at Lancaster University, UK. Fahad’s research
centers on career, workplace, and family. He studies the lives of professionals from the socio-
cultural perspective of work and family. His published work ‘(Academic) Leadership
Development in Pakistani Universities’ (2014) focuses on organizational leadership develop-
ment processes.

Simon Hayward has an MBA and DBA from Alliance Manchester Business School, UK, and
his first degree in English was from Oxford University, UK. He is a leadership expert in the
fields of distributed, authentic, and complexity leadership. His first book, Connected
Leadership, was WHSmith’s Business Book of the Month in January 2016, in their top ten for
several months, and is distributed internationally. It was shortlisted by the Chartered
Management Institute for Book of the Year. He is a regular media commentator on leadership
issues, in the press and on television and radio. Simon has worked with major clients in North
America, and across Europe and Asia for over 26 years, advising on enterprise leadership
issues, developing senior leaders, and designing global change programs. He is CEO of Cirrus,
a leading provider of leadership development and assessment services.

Judith A. Holton, PhD, is Associate Professor of Management at Mount Allison University,

Canada. In addition to research methodology, her research interests include leadership and
management of complex systems, organizational change, and learning and innovation in
knowledge work. She has written a number of methodological papers and books about
grounded theory and was the founding editor of The Grounded Theory Review, a peer-reviewed
journal dedicated to classic grounded theory research. She is co-author, with Barney Glaser, of
The Grounded Theory Seminar Reader (Sociology Press, 2007) and The Grounded Theory
Review Methodology Reader (Sociology Press, 2012) and, with Isabelle Walsh, of Classic
Grounded Theory: Applications with Qualitative and Quantitative Data (Sage, 2017). She has
also published her work in Organizational Research Methods, Management Learning, The
Learning Organization, Leadership and Organization Development Journal, Advances in
Developing Human Resources, and The Grounded Theory Review.

J. Miguel Imas lectures on organizational-social psychology at the Faculty of Business and

Law, Kingston University, UK. He holds a BSc and PhD in Social Psychology from the LSE
(UK) and has been visiting professor at the Getulio Vargas Foundation (Brazil) and the
University of Chile (Chile). Miguel has undertaken extensive (visual) ethnographic research in
Latin America, where he has engaged with indigenous as well as deprived communities and
organizations. He has contributed to developing similar research in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
His work has been published in several journals on postcolonialism, art-resistance, and bare-
foot entrepreneurs.

Bob Kayseas is a Saskatchewan born First Nations scholar from the Fishing Lake First
Nation, located in east central Saskatchewan. Bob is the Vice-President Academic and a
Professor at the First Nations University of Canada. He obtained a degree in Business

Administration and a Master of Business Administration from the University of Regina and a
Ph.D (Enterprise and Innovation) from the Australian Graduate School of Entrepreneurship,
Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. Bob has established a recog-
nized scholarly program of research centered on Aboriginal entrepreneurship and economic
development. He is actively engaged in both the research and practice of entrepreneurship and
economic development. Dr. Kayseas is also the Chair of FLFN Ventures Ltd – a corporate
entity owned by the Fishing Lake First Nation. The company manages one joint venture with
Horizon North Logistics Inc. and Beardy & Okemasis First Nation at BHP Billiton’s Discovery
Lodge camp near Jansen, Sask.

Juliette Koning is Professor in Organizational Studies at Oxford Brookes Business School,

Oxford Brookes University, UK and Research Fellow at the Security Institute for Governance
and Leadership in Africa of Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She is a social anthropolo-
gist who has two broad research interests: the study of small business organizations in
Southeast Asia (particularly those of ethnic Chinese owner-managers) and the study of private
security organizations in South Africa and the UK. Driven by her ‘anthropological roots’, her
research explores organizational identity and identity work (gender, age, ethnicity); ethical
leadership (religion/belief); small organizations (SMEs, ethnic entrepreneurship), and research
methodology (organizational ethnography). She has published in such journals as
Entrepreneurship, Theory & Practice; Journal of Business Ethics; Entrepreneurship &
Regional Development; Management Learning; and Qualitative Research in Organizations and
Management. Juliette is co-convenor of the Standing Working Group on Organizational
Ethnography at EGOS (European Group for Organizational Studies).

Monika Kostera is Professor Ordinaria and Chair of Management at the Jagiellonian

University in Kraków, Poland, as well as Professor and Chair in Management at Durham
University, UK, and Professor at Linnaeus University, Sweden. She holds several visiting pro-
fessorships. She has authored and edited 40 books in Polish and English, including Management
in a Liquid Modern World with Zygmunt Bauman, Irena Bauman, and Jerzy Kociatkiewicz
(Polity), as well as a number of articles published in journals including Organization Studies,
Journal of Organizational Behavior Management, and British Journal of Management. Her
current research interests include archetypes, narrative organization studies, ethnography, work
disalienation, and the humanistic turn in management.

Nivedita Kothiyal is currently an independent researcher and teaches part-time at the York
Management School, University of York, USA. Until recently, she was an Associate Professor
at the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) in India. She holds a PhD in Human
Resource Management with over 15 years of experience in research, teaching, consultancy, and
training. Her research is interested in decent work, gender and diversity management, work-
force development and skill building, and corporate social responsibility. In her research, she
draws on postcolonial theory and critical management studies. Her research has been published
in field-leading journals, including the British Journal of Management and Indian Journal of
Industrial Relations, and edited volumes including Managing Alternative Organisations in
India by Cambridge University Press.

Glen E. Kreiner is the John and Becky Surma Dean’s Research Fellow in the Smeal College
of Business at Penn State University, USA. Professor Kreiner received his PhD from Arizona

State University, USA. He is primarily a qualitative researcher with a special emphasis on

grounded theory, but he also publishes conceptual and quantitative research. He studies issues
such as identity (at the organizational, occupational, and individual levels), stigma, dirty work
jobs, work-home boundaries, and intellectual disabilities in the workplace. He has published in
a wide variety of management journals, including the Academy of Management Journal,
Academy of Management Review, Organization Science, and Journal of Applied Psychology
and has served on multiple editorial boards. When he’s not playing the role of professor, he
enjoys life with his family, gardening, baking, and the theatre.

Donna Ladkin is Professor of Leadership and Ethics at The Graduate School of Management,
Plymouth University, UK. A philosopher and musician by background, her approach highlights
the esthetic and ethical qualities at the heart of leadership and how it gets done. The role of
embodiment in both the performance of leadership and the process of ethical engagement has
been a key theme in her research, which is also informed by her practice as a yoga practitioner
and teacher. She is the author of Rethinking Leadership: A New Look at Old Leadership
Questions, Authentic Leadership: Clashes, Convergences and Coalescences (co-edited with
Chellie Spiller and shortlisted as one of 10 Best Leadership Books of the Year by the International
Leadership Association (ILA)), The Physicality of Leadership (co-edited with Steven S. Taylor),
and Mastering the Ethical Dimension of Organizations, which was shortlisted for the CMI’s Book
of the Year award in 2016.

Chris Land is Professor of Work and Organization at Anglia Ruskin University. His research
is particularly concerned with the relationship between work and value, ranging from political
economic approaches grounded in the labor theory of value, to questions concerning the cul-
tural values animating specific orientations and oppositions to work. His research practice is
ethnographically informed, though practical constraints mean that text and talk often replace
embodied action as the objects of study. He is currently Head of the Department of Human
Resources and Organizational Behaviour in the Lord Ashcroft International Business School,
and is on the editorial boards of Organization Studies and Organization.

Ann Langley is Professor of management at HEC Montréal, Canada and holder of the Chair in
Strategic Management in Pluralistic Settings. Her research focuses on strategic change, inter-
professional collaboration, and the practice of strategy in complex organizations. She is par-
ticularly interested in process-oriented research and methodology and has published a number
of papers on that topic. In 2013, she was co-guest editor with Clive Smallman, Haridimos
Tsoukas, and Andrew Van de Ven of a Special Research Forum of Academy of Management
Journal on Process Studies of Change in Organizations and Management. She is also co-editor
of the journal Strategic Organization, and co-editor with Haridimos Tsoukas of a book series,
Perspectives on Process Organization Studies, published with Oxford University Press. She is
adjunct professor at Université de Montréal, Canada, and University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

Sharon Mavin is Professor of Leadership and Organization Studies and Director of Newcastle
University Business School, Newcastle University, UK; a Fellow of the British Academy of
Management; Chair of the University Forum of Human Resource Development; co-Editor of
Gender in Management: An International Journal; and an Associate Editor of International
Journal of Management Reviews. Her research interests are in women’s leadership, female
misogyny, doing gender, identity, vulnerability, dirty work, and gendered media representa-

tions. She is widely published in journals such as Human Relations, British Journal of
Management, Organization, International Journal of Management Reviews, Gender, Work &
Organization, Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International
Journal, and Gender and Management: An International Journal.

Alexandra Michel is faculty at the Graduate School of Education at the University of

Pennsylvania, USA, where she also received her doctorate (Wharton School). Her ongoing
ethnographic research tracks four cohorts of investment bankers for over a decade, document-
ing how innovations in the work practices of knowledge intensive firms (1) shape the psychol-
ogy and embodiment of participants and (2) diffuse through our economy. Her research has
appeared in Administrative Science Quarterly, Organization Science, in various sociology,
anthropology, and psychology journals, and as a book manuscript (Bullish on Uncertainty:
How Organizational Cultures Transform Participants, Oxford Press).

Jose F. Molina-Azorin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Management at the

University of Alicante, Spain. His research focuses on strategic management, specifically com-
petitive strategy, strategic groups, determinants of firm performance, microfoundations,
dynamic capabilities, and the relationships between competitive strategy, organizational design,
environmental management, and quality management. His research also focuses on mixed
methods. Together with using mixed methods in his strategic topics, he has also examined the
application and added value of mixed methods research in strategy and other management
fields through systematic methodological reviews. His research on mixed methods has been
published in several book chapters and in methodological journals including Organizational
Research Methods, the Journal of Mixed Methods Research, the International Journal of
Multiple Research Approaches, and Quality & Quantity, among other outlets. He is Co-editor
of the Journal of Mixed Methods Research, and helped co-edit a special issue on mixed meth-
ods research at Organizational Research Methods.

Michael D. Myers is Professor of Information Systems at the University of Auckland Business

School, New Zealand. His research interests are in the areas of qualitative research methods
and the social, organizational, and cultural aspects of information systems. Michael wrote
Qualitative Research in Business & Management, published by Sage Publications in 2013 (2nd
edition). He has also published research articles in many journals including European Journal
of Information Systems, Information and Management, Information and Organization,
Information Systems Journal, Information Systems Research, Information Technology &
People, Journal of Management Information Systems, Journal of Strategic Information
Systems, Journal of Information Technology, and MIS Quarterly. Michael won the Best Paper
award (with Heinz Klein) for the most outstanding paper published in MIS Quarterly in 1999.
He previously served as Senior Editor of MIS Quarterly from 2001–5 and as Senior Editor of
Information Systems Research from 2008–10.

Joe O’Mahoney is a Professor in Organizational Studies in Cardiff Business School, UK. He

has co-authored a book on critical realist research methods, and researches realist approaches
to organization theory, especially in the area of management ideas and worker identities.

Rebecca Piekkari is Professor of International Business at the Aalto University, School of

Business (formerly Helsinki School of Economics) in Finland. She has published on

q­ ualitative research methods, particularly on the use of case studies in international business.
Her most recent book, entitled Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and
Management Research, was co-edited with Catherine Welch and published by Edward Elgar
in May 2011. During the past few years, she has also developed a special interest in multi-
lingual organizations and the methodological challenges associated with fieldwork that
crosses language boundaries. Rebecca has worked as Visiting Professor at several well-
known business schools and universities and taught the case studies particularly to PhD

Craig Pritchard’s current academic practice involves various forms of critical action research
into the development of alternative NZ dairy industries in Aotearoa/New Zealand. He is
Associate Professor in Massey Business School’s School of Management, based in the

Katrina Pritchard is an Associate Professor in the School of Management at Swansea

University, UK. Her research interests include the construction of identity and professional
knowledge, digital media and devices at work, and diversity, with a specific focus on age and
gender. Katrina is interested in a broad range of methodological issues in organizational stud-
ies, including digital and visual approaches.

Alexandra Rheinhardt is a PhD student in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State
University, USA. Her main research interests revolve around individual level identity and iden-
tification (including how identity is primed and the consequences of identification), organiza-
tional level identity, individual and organizational roles and role-relationships, as well as
leadership. She primarily conducts qualitative and conceptual research.

Silvio Ripamonti is an Assistant Professor in Work and Organizational Psychology at the

Psychology Department, Faculty of Psychology, Catholic University of Milan, Italy. His cur-
rent research focuses on management learning, aging, organizational learning, and HRM in

Jenny K. Rodriguez is Lecturer in Employment Studies at the University of Manchester, UK.

Her research interests span across two areas: intersectionality in work and organizations, and
international human resource management. Her published work has reported on these issues in
Latin America, the Hispanic Caribbean and the Middle East. Her current research explores inter-
sectional inequality from a transnational feminist perspective, and the interplay between identity,
work, and regulation, specifically looking at the experiences of transnational skilled migrants.

Linda Rouleau is Professor at the Management Department of HEC Montreal, Canada. Her
research work focuses on micro-strategy and strategizing in pluralistic contexts. She is also
doing research on the strategic sensemaking role of middle managers and leaders. She is co-
editor of the Cambridge Handbook of Strategy as Practice. In the last few years, she has pub-
lished in peer-reviewed journals such as Academy of Management Review, Organization
Science, Accounting, Organizations and Society, Journal of Management Studies, and Human
Relations. She is co-responsible for the GéPS (Strategy-as-Practice Study Group, HEC
Montreal). She is also leading an international and interdisciplinary network on ‘Organizing in
Extreme Contexts’.

Mark N.K. Saunders is Professor of Business Research Methods at Birmingham Business

School, University of Birmingham, UK. His research interests include research methods,
organizational trust, and SMEs. Mark’s research has been published in a range of journals
including British Journal of Management, Human Relations, Journal of Small Business
Management, and Social Science and Medicine. His books include Research Methods for
Business Students (currently in its 7th edition), Handbook of Research Methods on Trust (cur-
rently in its 2nd edition), and Handbook of Research Methods on Human Resource

Giuseppe Scaratti is Professor in Work and Organizational Psychology at the Psychology

Department, Faculty of Economics, Catholic University of Milan, Italy. His current research
interests are on practice-based approaches to the study of knowing, learning, and change in
organizations, HRM and knowledge management in organizations, evaluation, social sustainabil-
ity, and qualitative research methods in organizational research. As Director of the Psychology of
Work Service (Department of Psychology) and of Trailab (Transformative Action Interdisciplinary
Laboratory – Faculty of Economics) he is involved in research projects and intervention on the
field with multiple organizations and stakeholders.

Bettina Schneider is currently the Associate Vice-President Academic and an Associate

Professor in Business and Public Administration in the Department of Indigenous Science,
Environment, and Economic Development at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv).
Bettina is a non-Indigenous scholar, originally from the United States. She received her MS in
Community Development and her PhD in Native American Studies from the University of
California, Davis, USA. Bettina has also worked as a consultant for First Nations Development
Institute, First Nations Oweesta Corporation, and Opportunity Finance Network. Her research
has predominantly focused on Indigenous community and economic development strategies,
Native and Aboriginal financial institutions, Indigenous-relevant business and financial literacy
curricula, and First Nations financial reporting and accountability relationships.

Barbara Simpson is Professor of Leadership and Organisational Dynamics at Strathclyde

Business School in Glasgow, UK. Her PhD in Management, which was awarded by the
University of Auckland in 1998, marked a sea change from her earlier career as a physics-
trained geothermal scientist. Nevertheless, traces of this past experience remain evident in her
work today, which brings the principles of action, flow, and movement to bear on the processes
of creativity, innovation, leadership, and change. She has pursued these interests in diverse
organizational settings including hi-tech businesses, professional firms, public utilities, arts
companies, SMEs, and micro-enterprises involved in the manufacture of plastics and food
products. Her current research is deeply informed by the philosophies of the American
Pragmatists, especially George Herbert Mead’s thinking on process and temporality. She has
published her work in journals including Organization Studies, Human Relations, Organization,
R&D Management, and the Journal of Management Inquiry.

Amanda Sinclair is an author, researcher, teacher, and consultant in leadership, change,

gender, and diversity. She is a Professorial Fellow at Melbourne Business School, The
University of Melbourne. Her books include: Doing Leadership Differently (1998); Leadership
for the Disillusioned (2007); Leading Mindfully (2016); and Women Leading (with Christine
Nixon, 2017). Amanda has been at the forefront of leadership research in gender, sexualities,

bodies, and identities. As a yoga and meditation teacher she believes that bodies and minds –
together – nourish rich and generative practices of researching, thinking, leading, and living.
She is a passionate advocate for, and experimenter in, academic writing, and longs for aca-
demic writing which is as surprising and pleasurable as a good novel. Her partner, four adult
children, and other animals help remind her of these and other important things.

Ning Su is Associate Professor of General Management, Strategy and Information Systems at

the Ivey Business School, Western University, Canada. His research examines global innova-
tion and outsourcing strategies, with a focus on field-based case studies and qualitative research
methods. His work is published in journals such as the Management Information Systems
Quarterly (MISQ), MIT Sloan Management Review, and Decision Sciences. Professor Su is the
recipient of the inaugural Early Career Award of the Association for Information Systems, the
40 Most Outstanding MBA Professors Under 40 of Poets&Quants, the Giarratani Rising Star
Award runner-up of the Industry Studies Association, and Best Article Awards from the
Decision Sciences Institute and IBM Research.

Scott Taylor is Reader in Leadership & Organization Studies at Birmingham Business

School, University of Birmingham, UK. His research focuses on the meaning of work and
workplaces in people’s lives. Scott approaches this through interpretive analysis of qualita-
tive data, using interview, documents, and participant observation to gather empirical mate-
rial. He has worked with a range of sociological analytical perspectives, such as semiotics,
Weberian analysis, autonomous Marxism, and contemporary feminist theory. Scott is cur-
rently director of undergraduate programs at Birmingham Business School, Associate Editor
of Organization, and has served as the US Academy of Management Critical Management
Studies division chair.

Leah Tomkins is a Senior Lecturer in Organization Studies at The Open University, UK. Her
research focuses on the experiences of work and organization, including the ways in which
these are both enabled and constrained by discursive, historical context. She draws on the phi-
losophies of hermeneutics and phenomenology to try to make sense of organizations and the
people who inhabit and lead them, critiquing popular notions of ‘authentic leadership’ and ‘the
caring organization’ for downplaying the lived experiences of work in its day-to-day, un-heroic
moments. Her work has appeared in a range of leading journals, including Organization
Studies, Organization, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Management
Learning, Business Ethics Quarterly, and The Humanistic Psychologist.

Keith Townsend is Associate Professor at Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia. His

research interests focus primarily on line managers (particularly frontline managers) and
employee voice, but has a keen interest in understanding approaches to qualitative research
methods. His research has been published in a range of journals including Human Resource
Management Journal, Work, Employment and Society, and Human Resource Management
(US). He has also published research methods books titled Method in the Madness: Research
Stories You Won’t Read in Text-Books and Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods in
HRM: Innovative Techniques.

Steve Vincent is Chair in Work and Organization at Newcastle University Business School,
UK. He has co-authored a book on critical realist research methods, and uses critical realism

to inform his research, which touches on skills and soft-skills at work, self-employed workers,
work organization, and the labor process.

Catherine Welch is Associate Professor of International Business at the University of Sydney,

Australia. She has a long-standing interest in qualitative research methods, and at the moment
her research lies in applying process approaches to the study of firm internationalization.
Together with Rebecca Piekkari, she has edited two volumes on qualitative research published
by Edward Elgar: Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for International Business
(2004) and Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research
(2011). She has published on numerous aspects of doing qualitative research, including inter-
viewing, writing-up, and the case study. She, Rebecca Piekkari, and their co-authors have
published their work on the case study in Organizational Research Methods, Journal of
International Business Studies, International Journal of Management Reviews, and Industrial
Marketing Management.

Alia Weston is an Assistant Professor at OCAD University, Toronto. She has expertise in the
areas of business management and design, and her research is focused on understanding how
creativity and business can contribute to positive social change. Key themes in her research
include exploring creative resistance within resource constrained environments, and exploring
how alternative business practices can contribute to solving challenges in society. Alia has con-
tributed to research about alternative and postcolonial work practices in Africa and Latin
America, and her work has been published in a diverse range of media. This includes scholarly
work in Organization journal, edited collections on Critical Perspectives on Entrepreneurship,
and Precarious Spaces: The Arts, Social & Organizational Change, as well as the Globe and
Mail, a leading Canadian newspaper. In conjunction with her research, she hosts workshops and
exhibitions which engage with issues related to creative and sustainable work practices. A nota-
ble example is the (Re)² Reconstructing Resilience conference and art exhibition.

Rebecca Whiting is a lecturer in the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck,

University of London, UK. Her research interests include aspects of the contemporary workplace
such as the discursive construction of work identities (for example, the older worker), concepts
(such as age, gender, and work-life, boundaries), and digital technologies at work. She is also
interested in the particular challenges of qualitative digital research and visual methodologies.

Andrea Whittle is a Professor of Management at Newcastle University Business School, UK. Her
research is driven by a fascination with how people interact and use language in organizational
settings to construct their reality. Her research is informed by ethnomethodology, discourse analy-
sis, and conversation analysis, and she has written about a variety of organizational settings, includ-
ing organizational change, strategy, management consulting, and public inquiries.

Suze Wilson’s research involves the critical analysis of leadership and particularly why and
how it has become normalized for us to equate ‘leadership’ with grandiose expectations of
‘transformation’, ‘vision’, and ‘charisma’. She is interested in theorizing and practicing leader-
ship in ways that are more inclusive and humble. Suze is senior lecturer in the School of
Management at Massey Business School based in the Manawatu, New Zealand.
Introduction: Qualitative
Research in Business and
Catherine Cassell, Ann L. Cunliffe and Gina Grandy

Welcome to The Sage Handbook of qualitative researchers. Some chapters cover

Qualitative Business and Management methods that are well established, whereas
Research Methods. The Handbook aims to others highlight new and unfolding methods
provide a state-of-the art overview of qualita- or areas of investigation. We encourage you
tive research methods in the business and to dip in and out of the Handbook, following
management field. Our intention is to pro- up on any traditions, methods or issues that
vide a comprehensive review of the history particularly capture your interest.
and traditions that underpin qualitative Our philosophy in putting together the
research within management and organisa- Handbook is that we have sought to recog-
tions; outline a number of contemporary nise and celebrate the diversity of qualitative
methods and their relevance; and explore business and management research methods.
some of the challenges that may lie ahead for The three editors all come from different
qualitative researchers. In doing so, we draw traditions and we may make quite different
from a wide range of research traditions. methodological and philosophical choices
While any handbook seeks to be comprehen- in relation to our own qualitative research
sive, it will inevitably offer a view of the field practices. However, we are committed to
informed by a particular lens. In this case, encouraging rather than problematising such
that lens is the view of the three editors, all diversity and believe it is important, espe-
experienced qualitative scholars, and also the cially for new researchers, to be aware of the
viewpoint of our contributors, who are all range of philosophical positions, epistemolo-
leading-edge, international qualitative gies, methodologies and methods available.
researchers. A number of chapters are tar- As John Van Maanen noted back in 1995,
geted at those who are relatively new to the ‘From examples of novel practices can come
field, while others are aimed at experienced individual and collective experiments and

perhaps as a result we can loosen up some first comment we would make is that there is
of the writer’s cramps that seem so preva- increasing interest in the uses and opportuni-
lent in our field’ (1995, p. 139). Loosening ties offered by research informed by qualita-
researcher’s cramps by supporting diversity tive methods. Qualitative research can now
maintains the richness of our field and legiti- be found in many different areas within the
mates different ways of theorising, writing ‘discipline’ of business, management and
and enacting researcher roles. The authors in organisational research, including those tra-
the Handbook are therefore researching man- ditionally seen as founded upon objectivity,
agement and/or organisations from within ‘facts’, numbers and quantification. For
different disciplines (including strategy, example, we now see qualitative research in
organisational psychology, organisational accounting (Boll, 2014; Lee & Humphrey,
communications, sociology, international 2006); entrepreneurship (Díaz García &
business and education) using a wide range Welter, 2011); finance (Kaczynski, et  al.,
of traditions and methods. Inevitably, while 2014; Salmona, et al., 2015); human resource
acknowledging that the Handbook is wide management (Townsend et  al., 2016); inter-
in coverage, we also recognise that we will national business (Doz, 2011; Moore, 2012);
never be able to fully capture a developing information systems (Hoefnagel et al., 2014);
and ever-changing domain. marketing (Bellenger et  al., 2011; Rokka &
This introductory chapter positions what Canniford, 2016); organisational behaviour
follows in the Handbook by outlining some (Cassell & Symon, 2004; O’Leary &
of the characteristics of the current state Sandberg, 2016; Symon & Cassell, 2012);
of qualitative business and management organisational communication (Brummans,
research methods and highlighting some of 2014; Tracy et al., 2014); organisational psy-
the debates and challenges in the field. We chology (Crozier & Cassell, 2016; Neergaard &
also introduce the different sections of the Ulhøi, 2008; Symon & Cassell, 2006) and
Handbook to offer the reader an overview strategy (Anteby et  al., 2014; Bettis et  al.,
of what follows. The chapters have been 2014). Hence qualitative research now takes
arranged across two thematic volumes; the place and is also published in most, if not all,
first focussing on ‘History and Traditions’, of the sub-disciplines of business and man-
and the second covering ‘Methods and agement. There has also been a number of
Challenges’. For ease of navigation, in this new journals focussing upon qualitative
chapter we have included notes in parenthe- methods and issues, for example the Journal
ses wherever specific chapters or sections of Organizational Ethnography established
are mentioned, to indicate which companion in 2012; Qualitative Research in Financial
volume (‘History’ or ‘Methods’) the chapter Markets established in 2009; and Qualitative
appears in. We invite you to join with us on Research in Organizations and Management;
this journey through what is a thriving and an International Journal established in 2006.
exciting methodological domain. Furthermore, there have been a number of
special issues of management journals focus-
sing upon work informed by qualitative
research methods. Sometimes these special
CHARACTERISING QUALITATIVE issues bring together a range of different
RESEARCH IN THE BUSINESS AND qualitative methods to support the develop-
MANAGEMENT FIELD ment of a particular research topic, for exam-
ple exploring and understanding dirty work
Given the diversity outlined above, how can (Grandy et al., 2014) or international market-
we characterise qualitative business, man- ing (Andriopoulos & Slater, 2013). Other
agement and organisational research? The special issues focus upon the uses of a
Introduction: Qualitative Research in Business and Management 3

p­articular type of method across a range postgraduate research training. In the UK,
of topics, for example case studies (Lee Europe and Australasia it is not unusual to see
et  al., 2007); shadowing (McDonald & such training focus around learning the craft
Simpson, 2014); stories (Donnelly et  al., of research, with courses on research philoso-
2013) or video (Jarzabkowski et  al., 2014). phy, and qualitative and quantitative research
Additionally, others are connected to qualita- methods to advanced levels. In the US, post-
tive research conferences, for example, QRM graduate training is usually discipline-based
Conference 2012 ‘Embodiment, Imagination (e.g. accounting, organisational behaviour,
and Meaning’, in Qualitative Research in marketing), focussing on extending disci-
Organizations and Management. plinary knowledge. Research philosophy
Within sub-areas of the discipline it is is rarely covered and the positivist assump-
evident that qualitative research has devel- tions underpinning much of the coursework
oped at different rates and with different remain unchallenged. This has had not just
foci. However, many of the common debates a methodological impact but also a philo-
around methods such as philosophical sophical one. For example, critical, practice-
approaches, quality criteria, different tools of based and discursive approaches to research
analysis and the role of software in data anal- are more common to European, Australasian,
ysis have been critiqued within these different and Latin American business and manage-
areas. For example, there have been debates ment researchers – and US-based organisa-
about quality criteria within qualitative man- tional communications researchers – because
agement research more generally (see Amis & of their philosophical training. Other parts of
Silk, 2008; Bluhm et  al., 2011; Symon the world also have different epistemological
et al., 2016), as well as how it relates to spe- traditions, some of which may not be as open
cific research designs and subject areas (see to qualitative research. For example, Chen
Gibbert et  al., 2008 on case study research; (2016) discusses the challenges of teach-
Healy & Perry, 2000 on market research; and ing qualitative research in China, where, he
Welch et al., 2013 on international business). argues, there is a lack of support for qualita-
There has also been differential progress tive research because it is seen as subjective,
towards the use and acceptance of qualita- biased and unrepresentative. In addressing
tive research in various geographical com- such concerns, Chen (2016, p.  72) outlines
munities of qualitative researchers. The use the importance of an experiential learning
of qualitative management research in North strategy that draws upon a pedagogy familiar
America, Europe and the rest of the world within Chinese management learning of the
has developed at different rates and has ‘unity of knowing and doing’.
been informed by different traditions (Lee & We recognise there is a potential danger in
Humphrey, 2006). Üsdiken (2014) notes that characterising traditions as US or European.
there is less qualitative research published in We do acknowledge that there is diversity
US journals than their European alternatives. within continents and regional locations and
Bengtsson et al. (1997) suggest that the trans- that some caution is required. For example,
atlantic gap can also be explained by different Knoblauch et  al. (2002, p. 2), in discussing
methodological approaches in that European the variety of qualitative research in Europe,
research is more frequently idiographic and highlight how scientific enterprises such as
processual, whereas, in contrast, US research qualitative research are imprinted by cultures –
is dominated by nomothetic approaches not only by ‘epistemic cultures’, but also
with their emphasis upon quantitative analy- by their surrounding institutions, traditions
sis across large samples to test hypotheses. and political, as well as economic contexts.
This is still relevant today, and perhaps par- They suggest that in the European context,
tially explained by cultural differences in the impact of specific national traditions of

thinking upon qualitative research can par- Turning now to developments in visual
ticularly be seen in countries that have passed methods, although previously under-explored
through a Communist era, such as Poland and in organisation and management research
Slovenia. (Davison et  al., 2012; Meyer et  al., 2013),
Having noted the diversity in histories and Bell & Davison (2013) suggest that this is
development, we would also characterise changing. Whereas in the past the emphasis
qualitative research in this field as one where upon the linguistic turn had led to visuality
there is currently considerable methodo- typically being neglected, this is now being
logical innovation. Indeed, as Buchanan & re-addressed in organisation and manage-
Bryman (2007) highlight, recent methodo- ment studies. An indication of this visual
logical innovation within the field of man- turn is the increased resources available for
agement and organisational research more qualitative management and organisational
generally has been located around qualitative researchers interested in such methods (e.g.
and interpretive methods. Three trends are Invisio and the special
particularly worthy of mention here: first, the issues on visual methods that have been pro-
opportunities offered by increasingly sophis- duced by different journals (e.g. Accounting,
ticated communication technologies; second, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 2009;
advances in the use of visual methods; and Qualitative Research in Organizations
third, innovations in how researchers ‘do’ and Management, 2012; Organizational
and write up qualitative research. Taking Research Methods, 2016). Hence it is not
new technologies first, the development of surprising that this Handbook contains a
the internet and new forms of social media number of chapters and, indeed, a special
have opened up a variety of online contexts section on visual methods. As Davison et al.
available for the qualitative researcher to (2012) suggest, visual methods particularly
study (Zicker & Carter, 2010). The recent lean towards qualitative analysis, and within
emergence of virtual ethnography, where this collection we have chapters on photo-
participant observation can occur in a vari- graphs (Warren); drawing (Ward and Shortt);
ety of locations such as online chat rooms, and collages (Plakoyiannaki and Stavraki).
offers new opportunities for accessing the The use of video is also highlighted in the
culture of online communities. Other terms chapters on multimodality (Viney, Clarke
used in this area include netnography and and Cornelissen); and ethnographic docu-
webnography. The former is a term coined mentaries (Morgan, Game & Slutskaya). A
by Kozinets (2010) and the latter by Purli key issue in all these developments is the
(2007), both intended to refer to particular possibility of both established and emerg-
types of online ethnography. Other qualita- ing approaches and methods to offer new
tive researchers have looked at the opportu- research insights (Gill, 2014; Jarret & Liu,
nities for using standard qualitative methods 2016; Ray & Smith, 2012).
online, for example interviewing (Morgan & The turn to visual methods has clearly also
Symon, 2004; Salmons, 2015) and online opened up novel ways to ‘do’ and present or
focus groups (Stewart & Williams, 2005). write up qualitative research. We have also
Within the Handbook, we deal with some of seen attention directed to other innovative
these new methods of collecting research data ways to do and present qualitative research.
in chapters such as netnography by Kozinets Qualitative researchers have brought to light
and analysing web images by Pritchard and the significance of smell to workplace and
Whiting. We also consider some of the dis- research experiences (Baxter & Ritchie,
tinctive challenges that such methods pose, 2013; Riach & Warren, 2015), the body as
for example in Whiting and Pritchard’s chap- a critical aspect informing the research-
ter on digital ethics. er’s experiences (Mavin & Grandy, 2016a,
Introduction: Qualitative Research in Business and Management 5

2016b), as well as that which informs the 2016); emphasising the inclusion of the
everyday experiences of leadership (Ladkin, researcher (Hardy et  al., 2001); and creating
2014; Sinclair, 2005, 2011, 2014), and the ‘more imaginative, more nuanced and richer
role of emotion in research (Rivera & Tracy, interpretations’ (Cunliffe, 2011, p. 409) from
2014). Rivera & Tracy’s (2014) qualitative our data. Reflexive thinking also enables the
research on the experiences of border patrol opening up of new possibilities with differ-
officers is a particularly poignant piece which ent types of research questions (Sandberg &
draws from vignettes, participant observa- Alvesson, 2010), new ways of theoretical
tion, shadowing and interviews to sharply thinking (Shotter, 2008) and new ways of
bring to light how emotion does inform our engaging with participants and the outcomes
experiences of work and research. Their of such engagements (Corlett, 2013; Holton &
piece vividly surfaces what it feels like to do Grandy, 2016). Moreover, within qualitative
such ‘dirty work’, something we suggest can organisational research, reflexivity is mov-
only emerge through an innovative approach ing towards being seen as standard practice.
to doing and writing-up qualitative research. Indeed, authors have suggested it should be a
Overall, rare and rich insights are afforded regular part of research methods training (e.g.
through reflexive, embodied, emotive and Symon & Cassell, 2004). Considerations of
aesthetically driven qualitative research. reflexivity within the literature have expanded
In a related vein, yet at the same time in beyond the purely methodological; as Weick
ways moving us away from methods more (2002, p. 893) suggests, theory construction in
generally, an increased interest in qualitative the current millennium can be seen as an exer-
management research draws attention to the cise in ‘disciplined reflexivity’.
role of the individual researcher. Within the In summary, we would portray the field
methodological literature this has been evi- of qualitative business and management
denced by the increased focus upon researcher research methods as characterised by diver-
positioning and reflexive research practice sity in epistemologies and methods, with
(Cunliffe & Karunanayake, 2013; Hibbert novel methodologies and approaches being
et al., 2014). There is a burgeoning literature developed all the time. We have suggested
within organisation studies about the role and that there is now a more nuanced approach
contribution of researcher reflexivity (e.g. to the role of the researcher and to reflexivity,
Cunliffe, 2003; Johnson & Duberley, 2003; and more generally an exciting future ahead.
Weick, 2002). Given the closeness of the Within the Handbook we have captured
researcher to the research participants within some of that diversity and the chapters offer
qualitative research, this is particularly perti- thought-provoking explorations to those
nent for qualitative researchers. For Alvesson interested in using these methods.
and Sköldberg (2009, p. 9), reflexivity ‘means
that serious attention is paid to the way dif-
ferent kinds of linguistic, social, political and
theoretical elements are woven together in the KEY CHALLENGES
process of knowledge development, during
which empirical material is constructed, inter- Any academic domain faces challenges and
preted and written’. The benefits of researcher critique, and here we outline some of the
reflexivity are seen to be numerous, rang- challenges currently experienced by qualita-
ing from enabling us to think about our own tive management researchers. The increased
thinking (Haynes, 2012) and our own bodies prevalence of qualitative research has resulted
(Mavin & Grandy, 2016a, 2016b; Sinclair, in the emergence of a number of debates
2014); questioning the taken-for-granted in including the status and quality of qualitative
our own and others beliefs (Ripamonti et al., business and management research. Recent

commentaries have focussed upon the extent and not value free, they provide important
to which qualitative research has made it into heuristics that reflect the core values of a
the mainstream (e.g. Bluhm et  al., 2011; particular craft. The use of criteria appropri-
Üsdicken, 2014) and the increased accept- ate to the philosophical and methodological
ance (or not) of qualitative research within positioning of the research would lead to a
top journals in the field. Some argue that more level playing field for qualitative busi-
considerable progress has been made. ness and management research.
However, this advancement is not universally Such criteriological debates link into con-
recognised by qualitative researchers. While cerns about the move towards increasing
Üsdicken’s (2014) review of 40 years of standardisation within qualitative manage-
management publications argues that there is ment research (Cassell, 2016). In outlining
an increase in the amount of qualitative sources of standardisation, Cassell cites the
research published in those journals, we sug- recommendations made by different journal
gest that an increase of 14.3 per cent over a editors about what qualitative researchers
30 year period is hardly a radical change. need to do in order to get their papers pub-
These debates inevitably link in to discus- lished in the top international outlets. Such
sions of quality in qualitative research and prescriptive types of editorials and articles are
how quality is defined (e.g. Symon et  al., critiqued extensively by Symon et al. (2016,
2016; Tracy, 2010; Welch et al., 2013). This p. 1), who argue that they serve to produce
has long been a problem within the evalua- ‘(inappropriate) homogeneous evaluation cri-
tion of qualitative management research in teria’ with the consequence of ‘marginalising
that criteria associated with a positivist para- alternative perspectives and disciplining indi-
digm informed by quantitative approaches vidual qualitative researchers into particular
have been inappropriately applied to quali- normative practices’. A concern with a move
tative research (Easterby-Smith et al., 2008; to formulaic treatment of research questions
Johnson et al., 2006). This has led to various has been critiqued more generally elsewhere
authors creating alternative sets of criteria within our field (e.g. Alvesson & Gabriel,
for qualitative research and some arguing 2013), but Cornelissen (2016) notes that there
that without the expansion of such evalu- is also a move towards what he describes
ation criteria, some of the work produced as factor analytic approaches to qualita-
by qualitative management researchers tive research, where data analysis strategies
may be undermined (Amis & Silk, 2008). mimic the principles of quantitative analysis.
Organisation studies scholars argue that the Our concern is that this potentially serves to
criteria for evaluating qualitative manage- limit creativity within qualitative research – a
ment research need to be contingent upon state, as Van Mannen (1995, p. 139) provoca-
the philosophical tradition within which tively observed, of ‘technocratic unimagina-
such research is conducted (Cunliffe, 2011; tiveness’ where ‘our generalizations often
Golden-Biddle & Locke, 1993; Johnson et al. display a mind-numbing banality and an inex-
2006), the implication being that the differ- plicable readiness to reduce the field to a set
ent traditions outlined in the first section of of unexamined, turgid, hypothetical thrusts
the Handbook would draw upon different designed to render organizations systematic
evaluation criteria. To supplement this, Tracy and organization theory safe for science’! As
(2010) identifies eight flexible ‘big tent’ cri- noted earlier, we see diversity as something to
teria – a worthy topic, rich rigour, sincerity, celebrate, rather than to be constrained.
credibility, resonance, significant contribu- We would also be remiss not to acknowl-
tion, ethics and meaningful coherence – edge the challenges that qualitative research-
markers of goodness for qualitative research. ers can confront in trying to balance the need
She argues that while criteria are contextual to stay within what can be restrictive page
Introduction: Qualitative Research in Business and Management 7

limits with the inclusion of enough ‘raw’ noted earlier, as shaped by our own perspec-
data to present a persuasive account for their tive and position within it. Feedback from the
reviewers. Pratt (2009) suggests that quali- reviewers of the collection and our interna-
tative researchers include both ‘power’ and tional advisory board helped to develop the
‘proof’ quotes as a means to persuade the content. In the end, we found out that the chal-
reviewers of the rigour of the findings. This, lenges in putting the Handbook together very
however, can often be challenging within much mirrored the challenges facing the disci-
page limits historically designed for research pline and practice of qualitative management
that employs quantitative methods. research. We wanted the content to reflect the
Institutional requirements can also create diversity of the methodological field, includ-
a challenge. Pressure to publish a defined ing epistemologies, methods and research
number of articles in top (often mainstream) designs. Hence the reader will find chapters
journals within a specified time frame has from a wide array of philosophical stances to
an impact on a researcher’s ability to engage qualitative management research ranging
in more longitudinal and ethnographic stud- from positivist qualitative research (Su),
ies – good qualitative research takes time! interpretative science (Gephart) and construc-
Negotiating institutional review boards and tionism (Grandy), to analytic techniques
ethics committees when doing snowball sam- informed by post-structuralism such as dis-
pling (confidentiality issues), ethnography course (Fairhurst and Cooren) and sociomate-
(does everyone that the researcher encoun- riality (Riach), to those informed by
ters need to sign a consent form?), and get- post-positivism, for example fuzzy set qualita-
ting consent when doing participatory action tive content analysis (Sinkovics et al.). Perhaps
research (see Burns et  al., 2014) requires unsurprisingly, the challenges outlined in the
persistence, but is often rewarded by rich, in- previous sections are all addressed within dif-
depth insights into organisational life. ferent contributions of the Handbook, so we
Such debates are characteristic of lively have chapters on publishing qualitative
methodological engagement. We would argue research aimed at beginners to the field, writ-
that the production of a Handbook to high- ing for different audiences (Myers), together
light, critique and review the contribution of with the more challenging questions and
qualitative research to our field is somewhat debates about conducting and publishing rig-
timely. Clearly, considerable progress has orous qualitative research (Rheinhardt et al.).
been made in this area, but there is also room The book starts by addressing some of
for so much more. We would hope that the the wide variety of traditions within which
Handbook, through its coverage of these dif- qualitative research is conducted. The aim
ferent debates within a methodological con- here is to provide an overview of those differ-
text, enables us to progress these debates in ent traditions and we cover long-established
a constructive way and draw attention to the philosophical approaches such as positiv-
many opportunities that qualitative research ism (Su); interpretivism (Gephart); pragma-
methods offer to our diverse research field. tism (Simpson); hermeneutics (Tomkins &
Eatough); critical realism (Vincent &
Mahoney) and ethnomethodology (Whittle);
alongside more recent approaches such as
INTRODUCING THE HANDBOOK critical management studies (Pritchard et al.);
poststructuralism (Benozzo); mixed meth-
Putting together the content of the Handbook ods (Molina-Azurin); feminism (Harding);
felt like an important responsibility in that it constructionism (Grandy); postcolonialism
could be interpreted as the editorial team (Weston & Imas) and indigenous methodolo-
defining the content of the field, though, as gies (Schneider & Kayseas). Each of those

chapters provides an overview of the philo- the problematic issue of how the researcher
sophical approach, together with summaries achieves some critical distance, if indeed this
of key debates and the implications for quali- is possible, is critiqued (Hayward & Cassell).
tative business and management research. Fahad et  al. provide an informative insider
The next section of the book focusses upon account of the reflexive challenges faced by
research designs within qualitative business men interviewing women, while Sinclair &
and management research. Again, our aim Ladkin provide an interesting account of
here was to represent the key approaches the possibilities that come for the researcher
used within the field with a particular focus when they acknowledge and embrace writ-
on what perhaps can be seen as traditional ing from the body as a qualitative researcher.
research design approaches within quali- Rodriguez’s chapter on intersectionality and
tative research. We start with chapters on qualitative research brings to light how gen-
field research (Michel) and workplace der and other ‘markers’ of difference are re-
ethnographies (Ciuk et  al.), which help created and sustained within systems of power
characterise some of the first forays into and inequality and how qualitative research
qualitative research by management research- opportunities and challenges arise through this
ers. Holton’s chapter on grounded theoriz- methodological framework. Both Sinclair &
ing provides needed clarity to the debate Ladkin and Rodriguez offer insights into the
on grounded theory as a design in qualita- researched and the researcher. Our edito-
tive research. She distinguishes between rial aim in this section is to problematise the
grounded theory as a general methodology role of the qualitative researcher and explore
in its own right and the inductive approach a range of different dimensions of the lived
typically employed by qualitative research- experience of qualitative research.
ers often referred to as grounded theory. She Volume one concludes with a section on
advocates for the use of grounded theorising, some of the challenges associated with con-
not grounded theory, to depict that which is ducting qualitative research. Taylor & Land
employed by qualitative researchers. There discuss the key issue of access and depar-
are also chapters on action research (Scaratti ture, something that faces every qualitative
et al.) and case studies (Piekkari & Welch), researcher and is increasingly discussed
both of which have long traditions in qualita- within the qualitative literature. Publication
tive management research. Chapters on pro- is an often-cited challenge for the qualita-
cess (Fachin & Langley) and practice designs tive management researcher and here we
(Abdallah et al.) conclude this section. have two different insightful approaches to
As noted earlier, there is an increased the topic. Whereas Myers offers writing for
emphasis within qualitative business and different audiences as a resource for the nov-
management research about the role of the ice qualitative researcher, Reinhardt et  al.
researcher in the research process. Within lies offer suggestions for how we understand
a recognition that we are part of the organisa- conducting and publishing rigorous quali-
tional world that we study and therefore this tative research, recognising that rigour may
will impact the methods, process and outcomes be defined in a variety of ways by different
of our research in a variety of different ways. qualitative researchers. The increasing glo-
Section Three includes a number of chapters balisation of management research offers
that focus explicitly on the researcher’s role. both opportunities and challenges and these
Within this section considerable attention are addressed by Gobo in his chapter about
is paid to reflexivity and the implications in globalisation and qualitative research across
practice of taking a reflexive stance. The key boundaries. The distinctive challenges of eth-
issues and challenges are outlined in reflexiv- ics in international research are also explored
ity and positionality (Corlett & Mavin) and by Bell & Kothiyal. The increased impact of
Introduction: Qualitative Research in Business and Management 9

globalisation and the use of novel commu- these developments, we decided to devote
nication technologies offers a series of new a full section within the Handbook to these
ethical challenges, as critiqued by Whiting & approaches, though we recognise that the vis-
Pritchard in their chapter on digital ethics. ual is also considered in other places within the
The chapter in this section by Saunders & Handbook. The chapters in Section 6 ­illustrate
Townsend offers discussion on an issue of the potential of different visual methods such
key importance for qualitative researchers: as photographs (Warren), drawing (Ward &
choosing research participants. Shortt) and collages (Plakoyiannaki &
Volume two of the Handbook turns to con- Stavraki). The possibilities for videos in quali-
sider methods more specifically. Given the tative research are also on the rise. In a particu-
extensive variety in methods as noted ear- larly unique approach, Morgan et  al. discuss
lier, the volume outlines both the traditional how research participants can create their own
approaches with a long history, such as inter- videos through ethnographic documentaries.
views (Lee & Aslam), and those that are rela- Analysis of visual images is more directly
tively new. Where well-used approaches are addressed in Viney et al.’s chapter on semiot-
discussed, the intention is to provide the reader ics and symbols and Pritchard and Whiting’s
a new angle or perspective on those methods, chapter on analysing web images. Our predic-
for example Lee & Aslam discuss the nature tion is that as time progresses there will be even
of the wholesome interview and Learmonth & more methodological developments within the
Griffin offer us a new way of understand- area of visual methods of qualitative research.
ing images of women at work through ana- The final section of the Handbook covers
lysing fiction in Disney films. Section 5, on methodological developments. This section
contemporary methods, includes methods focusses upon contemporary methods that
of data collection and analysis, although in have had little airing in the qualitative business
some chapters the method encapsulates both, and management field. For example, Rippin &
as can be seen in the chapters on autoethnog- Hyde produce an intriguing account of the use
raphy (Haynes) and stories and narrative of sewing as a critical research method tech-
(Gabriel). Novel methods often underem- nique, whereas Beech & Broad introduce us
ployed by qualitative researchers in busi- to the concept of ethnomusicality and what
ness and management are also covered, for that means for research methods. Adopting an
example diary studies (Radcliffe), shadow- innovative approach in presenting methodo-
ing (McDonald) and archival analysis (Mills logical developments, Rivera threads insights
and Helms Mills). Contemporary theo- from Yoda (Star Wars) throughout her thor-
retical approaches such as sociomateriality ough account of the important topic of emo-
(Davies & Riach) and dramaturgical methods tion and qualitative research, while Durepos
(Birch) are showcased alongside methods & Mills outline ANTI-history as an alternative
that have had a long history within the field, approach to histography. Using the internet for
for example group methods (Coule). Other research into ethnographic communities is the
chapters in this section focus upon alterna- focus of Kozinets’ chapter on netnography.
tive ways of analysing language, for example Alvesson & Sandberg critique the metaphors
rhetoric (Hamilton), discourse (Fairhurst & traditionally used for research design and
Cooren) and stories and narrative (Gabriel). through the use of different metaphors offer
The section concludes with a new look at one some alternative conceptualisations of the
of the longstanding ways of analysing qualita- research process. This section also highlights
tive data, thematic analysis (King & Brooks). some of the developments at the more quanti-
As noted earlier, there has been an increased tative end of qualitative data analysis such as
usage within business, organisation and man- pattern-matching (Sinkovics, N.) and fuzzy set
agement fields of visual methods. In recognising qualitative comparative analysis (Ott et al.).

CONCLUSIONS Alvesson, M. & Sköldberg, K. 2009. Reflexive

methodology: New vistas for qualitative
research. 2nd edition. London: Sage.
In putting together this Handbook we have
Amis, J.M. & Silk, M.L. 2008. The philosophy
sought to capture the essence of what is an
and politics of quality in qualitative organiza-
ever-evolving, exciting and diverse field for tional research. Organizational Research
business and management research. The chap- Methods, 11(3): 456–80.
ters weave in and out of philosophical, concep- Andriopoulos, C. & Slater, S. 2013. Exploring
tual and empirical considerations relevant for the landscape of qualitative research in inter-
those already engaged in qualitative research, national marketing: Two decades of IMR.
but also relevant for those new to qualitative International Marketing Review, 30(4):
research and those simply curious about the 384–412.
possibilities afforded through qualitative Anteby, M., Lifshitz, H. & Tushman, M. 2014.
research in business and management. The Using qualitative research for“how”questions.
Retrieved from http://strategicmanagement.
chapters also incorporate extensive reference
lists, which can serve as a resource for those
management.pdf (accessed on 16 August,
who want to delve deeper into a particular 2017).
topic or study. Not only does the content reflect Baxter, L.F. & Ritchie, J.M. 2013. The sense of
considerable breadth and depth in topics as it smell in researching a bakery. International
relates to qualitative research, the contributors Journal of Work Organisation and Emotion,
provide perspectives from across the world, 5(4): 369–83.
spanning such countries as Italy, Canada, the Bell, E. & Davison, J. 2013. Visual management
United States, the UK, India, Brazil, Greece studies: Empirical and theoretical approaches.
and New Zealand, amongst others. International Journal of Management
Putting together this Handbook has been a Reviews, 15(2): 167–84.
Bellenger, K.L., Bernhardt, J.L. & Goldstucker,
valuable learning experience for us as well. We
D.N. 2011. Qualitative research in market-
continue to be intrigued by the different and
ing. Chicago: American Marketing
complementary approaches that emerge across Association.
the chapters and sections of the Handbook and Bengtsson, L., Elg, U. & Lind, J. 1997. Bridging
excited by the prospects they offer in terms of the transatlantic publishing gap: How North
our own development as researchers and the American reviewers evaluate European idio-
insights they offer for organisation scholars graphic research. Scandinavian Journal of
and practitioners. We sincerely hope that this Management, 13(4): 473–92.
collection serves as a valuable resource and Bettis, R.A., Gambardella, A., Helfat, C. &
stimulates new paths for qualitative research- Mitchell, W. 2014. Theory in strategic man-
ers in business and management to explore. agement. Strategic Management Journal,
35(10): 1411–13.
We encourage you to read on to see what
Bluhm, D.J., Harman, W., Lee, T.W. & Mitchell,
might inspire you for your next study.
T.R. 2011. Qualitative research in manage-
ment: A decade of progress. Journal of Man-
agement Studies, 48(8): 1866–91.
Boll, K. 2014. Shady car dealings and taxing
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Influential Traditions
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Positivist Qualitative Methods
Ning Su

POSITIVISM verifying the relationships and regularities

between the various elements, or analyzing
Positivism is a major paradigm of academic individuals’ subjective experience and inter-
inquiry. A paradigm represents a basic world- pretation, of the world (e.g. Burrell &
view collectively held by a community. Morgan, 1979).
Thomas Kuhn defines the concept of para- Positivism has a long history and a criti-
digm as ‘universally recognized scientific cal role in the development of science.
achievements that, for a time, provide model According to some, the tradition of positiv-
problems and solutions for a community of ism can be traced back to the time of the
practitioners’ (Kuhn, 1996, p. 10). More Renaissance. For example, Italian scientist
broadly speaking, a paradigm can be viewed and scholar Galileo Galilei’s (1564–1642)
as a network of basic, metaphysical assump- Sidereus Nuncius, or The Starry Messenger
tions underlying an area of academic inquiry. (1610), included using systematic astro-
Paradigms can be categorized along several nomical observations to prove and extend the
key dimensions, including ontology, which Copernican model. This work was to some
addresses whether the ‘reality’ represents an extent the precursor of modern positivist
objective existence external to and independ- science (Drake, 1978). French philosopher
ent from individual cognition, or a product of Auguste Comte (1798–1857) was considered
individuals’ subjective consciousness; epis- the founder of the doctrine of positivism and
temology, which addresses how the world the discipline of sociology. Comte’s work
can be understood and how such knowledge proposed that society evolves through three
can be transmitted among human beings; and successive stages: the theological, the meta-
methodology, which addresses whether the physical, and the positive (Giddens, 1972).
researcher focuses on identifying and In his account of the structure of sciences,

Comte emphasized data of experience as the in the nineteenth century and the subsequent
basis of knowledge. After Comte, positivism, development of anthropology and sociology
more broadly defined, developed through dif- (Bogdan & Biklen, 1982). Today, ‘qualitative
ferent phases pioneered by different schools research’ has evolved into a vibrant and some-
in history. Examples include critical positiv- what contested field, rather than a monolithic
ism pioneered by Ernst Mach (1838–1916), approach with clearly defined boundaries. In
and the subsequent logical positivism, logical business and management, the term ‘qualita-
empiricism, or neo-positivism in the twenti- tive research’ has been used by different schol-
eth century embracing examples of empirical ars in different, and sometimes contradictory,
sciences in philosophy (e.g. Bunge, 1996). ways. According to Van Maanen (1979,
In today’s sociological studies, especially p. 520), ‘the label qualitative methods has no
those focusing on business and management, precise meaning in any of the social sciences.
the use of the word ‘positivist’ frequently It is at best an umbrella term covering an array
emphasizes an objectivist epistemology which of interpretive techniques which seek to
seeks to ‘explain and predict what happens describe, decode, translate, and otherwise
in the social world by searching for regu- come to terms with the meaning, not the fre-
larities and causal relationships between its quency, of certain more or less naturally occur-
constituent elements’ (Burrell & Morgan, ring phenomena in the social world’. Similarly,
1979, p. 5). Consistent with the dominant, Strauss & Corbin (1998, p. 10) refer to qualita-
traditional approaches in the natural sciences, tive research as ‘any type of research that pro-
such objectivist epistemology assumes that duces findings not arrived at by statistical
the phenomenon under investigation and the procedures or other means of quantification’.
investigator have an independent relationship, Such research centers on a ‘nonmathematical
where knowledge accumulates as new verified process of interpretation, carried out for the
hypotheses are added to the existing stock of purpose of discovering concepts and relation-
knowledge and falsified hypotheses eliminated ships in raw data and then organizing these into
(ibid). This objectivist epistemological position a theoretical explanatory scheme’ (ibid., p. 11).
usually lies on the foundation of an ontology Overall, common to many of the definitions of
that assumes the existence of the physical and qualitative research is a focus on the phenom-
social world to be an external reality; this reality enon in its relatively natural setting and a non-
can be apprehended through the construction mathematical data analysis process.
of a set of time- and context-free generaliza- The positivist paradigm and qualitative
tions capturing the essence of the reality (Guba research methods may seem to contradict
& Lincoln, 1994). Aligned with these ontologi- each other. Specifically, positivism was tra-
cal and epistemological assumptions, positivist ditionally considered to be chiefly associated
research tends to emphasize the identification with quantitative methods, whereas quali-
and empirical testing of hypotheses in proposi- tative research tends to be associated with
tional form, with quantitative approaches such more subjectivist positions of the researchers.
as surveys and controlled experiments being However, the positivist paradigm and qualita-
the most common methods (ibid). tive methods can coexist in harmony. In fact,
positivist qualitative research represents a
uniquely useful and extensively adopted genre
of academic inquiry. Ontologically, positivist
POSITIVISM AND QUALITATIVE qualitative research assumes the existence
RESEARCH of an objective, external reality that can be
apprehended and summarized, although
The history of qualitative research can be not readily quantified. Epistemologically,
traced back to the various social investigations positivist qualitative research focuses on
Positivist Qualitative Methods 19

searching for, through non-statistical means, Third, qualitative methods enrich the
regularities and causal relationships between context of positivist research. Qualitative
different elements of the reality, and sum- methods are especially valuable for explor-
marizing identified patterns into generalized ing dynamic, embedded phenomena such
findings. Methodologically, positivist quali- as historical change, contextual fields, and
tative research tends to emphasize a nomo- social processes, which often cannot be ade-
thetic rather than idiographic approach; this quately captured by quantitative techniques.
approach utilizes systematic research proto- For example, Burgelman (1994) examined
cols and techniques to develop and test theo- the Intel Corporation’s strategic business exit
retical models or propositions in accordance processes in dynamic environments. Dyer
with the canons of scientific rigor (Burrell & & Nobeoka (2000) investigated the Toyota
Morgan, 1979). Corporation’s creation and management of
Furthermore, when carefully combined, knowledge-sharing processes with its sup-
positivism and qualitative research form a plier network. Both studies offer context-rich,
synergistic relationship. The complementa- memorable examples of critical management
rity between the positivist stance and qualita- issues, concepts, and theoretical findings.
tive methods manifests itself in several ways. Finally, positivist qualitative research can
First, qualitative methods expand the scope be readily integrated with quantitative meth-
of positivist research. Qualitative research ods. There are different ways to combine these
is especially suitable for exploring emerg- two approaches. For example, McNamara &
ing phenomena and identifying new theory Bromiley (1997) used interviews with cor-
development opportunities. For example, porate managers at a bank to explore how to
Bourgeois & Einsenhardt (1988) examined empirically test a set of hypotheses, before
the then rapidly emerging microcomputer developing a model based on the available
industry, and identified the decision-mak- data for further quantitative analysis. Koh
ing processes in industries with extremely et  al. (2004) conducted two complementary
high rates of technological and competitive studies, with a qualitative study identifying
change, which the authors termed ‘high- specific psychological contract obligations
velocity’ environments. The notion of high- in information technology (IT) outsourcing
velocity industry has since inspired a rich relationships, and a quantitative study testing
stream of research (e.g. Einsenhardt, 1989a; the impact of fulfilled obligations on IT out-
Bogner & Barr, 2000; Clark & Collins, 2002). sourcing success.
Second, qualitative methods extend the
depth of positivist research. For example,
Mintzberg’s (1978) seminal work on the
patterns in strategy formation distinguished POSITIVIST QUALITATIVE
between emergent and deliberate strategy. RESEARCH PROCESS
Building on the conceptualization of strategy
as patterned action, Mirabeau & Maguire’s In positivist qualitative research, the input of
(2014) publication further unpacked the pro- the research process typically consists of a
cess by which emergent strategy originates variety of data, especially unstructured data.
from autonomous strategic behavior and The sources of data include interviews,
eventually becomes realized within organi- observations, videos, and documents (Patton,
zational settings. Capitalizing on qualitative 2001). These different formats of data are
methods, this stream of research on emergent extensively used in different fields of busi-
strategy offers an increasingly refined, in- ness and management (e.g. Gersick, 1989;
depth view of strategy formation, while open- Orlikowski, 2002; Kane et  al., 2014).
ing up new avenues for further examination. Interviews usually consist of open-ended or

semi-structured questions about subjects’ of qualitative data into high-quality find-

experience, perceptions, and knowledge. In ings, a number of research methodologies
the final publication, interviews are usually have been developed and adopted. The most
incorporated in the form of direct quotations. prominent methodologies related to positivist
Observations and videos capture actions, qualitative research include grounded theory
interactions, conversations, practices, pro- and case study.
cesses, and other dynamics at multiple levels,
including individual, interpersonal, group,
community, organizational, interorganiza-
tional, and industry. The data are incorpo- POSITIVIST QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
rated into the final publication as field notes. AND GROUNDED THEORY
Documents include written records, official
publications and reports, correspondence, Grounded theory represents a widely used
press releases, memorabilia, artistic works, methodology applicable across different par-
photographs, films, and videotapes. Excerpts adigms (Walsh et al., 2015). Grounded theory
of documents can be included in the final was pioneered by Glaser & Strauss (1967).
publication to support and explain the find- The principles behind grounded theory are
ings. A key benefit of utilizing the diverse well aligned with positivism (Bryant, 2002).
forms of data is the creation of a ‘thick The tenets of grounded theory have also pro-
description’ capturing both detailed content vided a valuable toolkit for qualitative
and rich context of the studied phenomena researchers (Holton & Walsh, 2016) and
(e.g. Geertz, 1973). contributed to the legitimization and systemi-
Positivist qualitative research in business zation of qualitative research methods.
and management emphasizes novel, rel- Before Glaser and Strauss’s work, qualitative
evant, testable, and empirically valid theo- research methods mostly focused on using an
ries as output (e.g. Eisenhardt, 1989b). The explicit coding procedure to convert qualita-
specific output can take different forms. The tive data into a ‘crudely quantifiable form’
most common types include new themes, for further testing of provisional hypotheses,
patterns, concepts, insights, and propositions or focused on generating theoretical ideas,
(e.g. Patton, 2001). Specifically, in theoreti- including new concepts, properties, and
cal qualitative research, findings can con- hypotheses, without going through a system-
sist of formal concepts and frameworks. For atic coding process. Combining prior
example, based on interviews within a large approaches, Glaser (1965) created the con-
multinational corporation, Burgelman (1983) stant comparative method, which achieved
identified a process model of internal cor- the twin goals of generating theory more
porate venturing in major diversified firms. systematically through explicit coding and
Leveraging ‘direct research’ (Mintzberg, supporting provisional testing of
1979), Mintzberg & McHugh (1985) elabo- hypotheses.
rated strategy formation in an ‘adhocracy’ Glaser & Strauss (1967, p. 106) explain
and emphasized the type of ‘emergent’ strat- ‘the basic, defining rule for the constant
egies. In more applied types of qualitative comparative method’ as, ‘while coding an
research, the findings can consist of a set of incident for a category, compare it with the
substantive practices. For example, Peters & previous incidents in the same and differ-
Waterman (1982) used qualitative inquiry ent groups coded in the same category’.
to identify a set of patterns among the best- Specifically, this process can be described
run companies in the US. Similarly, Covey in four stages. The first stage involves com-
(1990) discovered seven habits of highly paring incidents applicable to each category
effective individuals. To convert varied forms emerging from the data. Through constant
Positivist Qualitative Methods 21

comparison, the researcher identifies each study. The selective coding process unifies
category’s dimensions, conditions, conse- all categories around a core category. The
quences, and relation to other categories. The core category might emerge from the identi-
second stage centers on integrating catego- fied categories, or take the form of a more
ries and properties. As the researcher con- abstract term. The core category emerging
tinues making sense of the data, the diverse from selective coding represents the central
categories and properties start to relate to one phenomenon of the study.
another and become a more unified whole. These specific and systematic coding
The third stage focuses on delimiting the the- techniques introduced by Strauss & Corbin
ory. As the emergent theory solidifies and the (1990) have been extensively adopted by
list of categories becomes theoretically satu- qualitative studies in business and manage-
rated, the researcher starts discovering the ment. For example, to explore how coopera-
underlying uniformity in the categories and tion emerged in a highly competitive setting,
properties. This results in the formulation of Browning et al. (1995) conducted a grounded
the theory with a smaller set of higher-level theory analysis of observation, interview,
concepts. The fourth stage presents the coded and archival data collected at a consortium
data, memos, and the theory in writing. The in the semiconductor manufacturing indus-
constant comparative method can be applied try. In the data analysis, the researchers first
to generate both substantive theories, which performed open coding, assigning each inci-
address specific empirical areas of inquiry, dent in the entire data set to an emergent
and formal theories, which center on concep- open coding scheme. The resulting 130 codes
tual areas of inquiry. Constant comparison were subsequently reduced into increasingly
constitutes the core of the Glaserian approach abstract categories through axial coding,
of grounded theory methodology. which produced 24 categories. Finally, in a
Strauss & Corbin’s (1990) subsequent process of selective coding, these categories
work on a different approach to grounded were further collapsed and renamed, yielding
theory methodology prescribed a set of sys- the 17 categories as the paper’s key results.
tematic and specific techniques for devel- Based on these categories, the authors then
oping theory from qualitative data (ibid.; identified and drew on complexity theory as a
Corbin & Strauss, 1990). These techniques novel framework to further explain and theo-
center on three basic types of coding: open, rize from the phenomenon (ibid.). As another
axial, and selective. Open coding involves example, Harrison & Rouse (2015) followed
an interpretive process by which the data are a three-stage process, including developing
broken down analytically and given concep- first-order concepts through open coding, dis-
tual labels. In open coding, events, actions, covering second-order themes through axial
and interactions are compared with others coding, and aggregating theoretical dimen-
for similarities and differences; conceptually sions by iterating between data and theory.
similar events, actions, or interactions are The analytical process allowed the authors to
grouped together to form categories and sub- inductively build a process model explaining
categories. Axial coding relates categories feedback interactions in creative projects.
to their subcategories through the ‘coding Both Glaserian and Straussian approaches
paradigm’ of conditions, context, action or to grounded theory have laid the foundation
interaction strategies, and consequences. The of qualitative research, and some studies have
hypothetical relationships proposed deduc- drawn on elements from both. Meanwhile,
tively are verified repeatedly against incom- these two approaches also differ signifi-
ing data, while the development of categories cantly. The divide was evident in Glaser’s
continues as the data accumulate. Selective (1992) criticism of the Straussian approach.
coding takes place in the later phases of the Several differences are most salient. First, the

Glaserian approach requires the researcher to Meanwhile, it is worth noting that other
rely on theoretical sensitivity and investigate aspects of the grounded theory methodology
the field without bringing precise research also resonate with other paradigms, espe-
questions or preconceived theories. The cially as the grounded theory approach has
Straussian approach, in contrast, allows the also evolved over time (e.g. Annells, 1997;
guidance of predefined research questions Bryant, 2002). For example, some argue that
and preexisting theoretical frameworks. the Glaserian school assumes a critical real-
Second, the Glaserian approach emphasizes ist approach, whereas the Straussian school
an inductive analytic process, where theories aligns with a relativist and constructivist
strictly emerge from the data. The Straussian stance (Annells, 1997).
approach combines elements of both induc- As grounded theory becomes increas-
tive and deductive methods, and centers on ingly adopted by researchers and adapted in
abductive reasoning which involves con- different ways, Charmaz (2000; 2001; 2006;
tinual validation. Abduction refers to ‘a type 2008) suggests that the methodology can be
of reasoning that begins by examining data broadly categorized into two forms: con-
and after scrutiny of these data, entertains structivist and objectivist grounded theory.
all possible explanations for the observed Constructivist grounded theory is aligned
data, and then forms a hypothesis to confirm with the interpretive tradition. It emphasizes
or disconfirm until the researcher arrives the phenomena of study and views data and
at the most plausible interpretation of the theoretical analysis as closely intertwined,
observed data’ (Bryant & Charmaz, 2007, and co-created through the interaction and
p. 186). Third, the Glasserian approach relies interpretation of the researcher and research
on substantive coding and theoretical coding participants. The theory emerging from this
to form theoretical models. The Straussian experience is therefore an interpretation that
approach has specified a coding paradigm, is based on, and specific to, the researcher’s
with the potential risk of ‘forcing’ catego- view. Objectivist grounded theory is ‘a form
ries on the data (Glaser, 1992), but can help of positivist qualitative research’ (Charmaz,
researchers generate findings in a structured 2006, p. 188). It views data as representing
manner. external, knowable reality and theoretical
In exploring the philosophical underpin- analysis as a process of careful discovery by
nings of grounded theory, subsequent investi- unbiased observers. Objectivist grounded
gations have suggested that while extensively theory, therefore, emphasizes stricter adher-
adopted by interpretivist research, both the ence to the prescribed research procedures.
Glaserian and Straussian approaches, as the This ­ constructivist–objectivist dichotomy
foundation of the grounded theory methodol- provides the clarity much needed for dis-
ogy, in fact, have a significant level of consist- tinguishing different grounded theory stud-
ency with the positivist paradigm (e.g. Denzin ies. Meanwhile, a specific study might
& Lincoln, 1994; Charmaz, 2000; Bryant & contain elements of both approaches and
Charmaz, 2007). For example, the Glaserian whether the study can be judged to be con-
approach builds on ‘assumptions of an objec- structivist or objectivist ‘depends on the
tive, external reality, a neutral observer who extent to which its key characteristics con-
discovers data, reductionist inquiry of man- form to one tradition or the other’ (ibid.,
ageable research problems, and objectivist p. 130). Overall, grounded theory has been
rendering of data’ (Glaser & Strauss, 1967, embraced by positivist qualitative research-
p. 510). The Straussian approach embeds ers and has in part inspired the creation and
similar assumptions, with additional empha- systemization of related research methodol-
sis on the positivism-inclined process of ogies and strategies. A prominent example
provisional verification of the findings. is case study.
Positivist Qualitative Methods 23

POSITIVIST QUALITATIVE RESEARCH be categorized into three types: exploratory,

AND CASE STUDY descriptive, and explanatory; case studies can
also be categorized into single or multiple
cases and holistic or embedded cases. The
Case study represents an important genre of
single-case study is appropriate when the
social science research. The early major pro-
case is critical to confirming, challenging,
ponents of case study research include the
or extending the examined theory, extreme
works of Yin (1981a; 1981b; 1984; 2014) or unusual by deviating from norms, com-
and Stake (1978; 1995; 2005). Yin (1984) mon in everyday occurrences, revelatory of
defines case study as an overarching research previously inaccessible phenomena, or lon-
strategy and outlines its defining features. gitudinal by investigating the same case at
Specifically, ‘a case study inquiry copes with multiple points in time. Single-case studies
the technically distinctive situation in which encompass holistic and embedded designs. A
there will be many more variables of interest holistic design examines the global nature of
than data points, and as one result, relies on the case, whereas an embedded design inves-
multiple sources of evidence, with data need- tigates multiple subunits within the case. In
ing to converge in a triangulating fashion, the multiple-case study, several cases are
and as another result benefits from the prior selected to serve either as literal replications
development of theoretical propositions to by predicting similar results, or theoretical
guide data collection and analysis’ (Yin, replications by predicting contrasting results.
2003, p. 13). This is consistent with Stake’s A multiple-case study may also consist of
(1995; 2005) definition of a case as a func- multiple holistic or embedded cases. A spe-
tioning body, a bounded system, ‘not a meth- cial type of multiple-case study is a two-case
odological choice but a choice of what is to study, with the second case serving as confir-
be studied’ (2005, p. 443), and case study as mation or contrast (ibid.).
‘both a process of inquiry about the case and Stake’s (1978; 1995; 2005) approach to
the product of that inquiry’ (2005, p. 444). case study, in comparison, seems more con-
Case study usually differs from the other sistent with the interpretivist or constructiv-
forms of research in that it focuses on the in- ist paradigm (e.g. Appleton, 2002; Grandy,
depth investigation of a phenomenon in its 2010). For example, Stake’s (1995) seminal
real-world context, and is especially valuable text The Art of Case Study Research often
when the boundaries between phenomenon emphasizes construction rather than discov-
and context are ambiguous (Yin, 2003). Case ery of knowledge and multiple perspectives
study is inclusive and pluralistic, with the about cases. Stake also categorizes case stud-
potential to accommodate diverse paradigms ies into three types: intrinsic, instrumental,
and research techniques, both qualitative and and collective. Intrinsic case study focuses
quantitative (ibid.; Stake, 2005). on understanding one particular case, with
Qualitative researchers have been espe- the case itself – rather than some abstract
cially active in embracing case study, fre- construct or generic phenomenon – repre-
quently citing the seminal work of Yin and senting the focus of interest. An instrumental
Stake. Yin and Stake’s approaches, mean- case study, instead, is undertaken to gener-
while, also have significant differences. ate insights into an issue or derive general-
Yin’s (1984; 2014) descriptions of case izable conclusions. Collective, or multiple,
study tend to be oriented toward a ‘realist’ case study is conducted when several cases
perspective. The meticulous and methodical are examined jointly for the purpose of
guidelines provided by Yin make the work investigating a phenomenon, population, or
especially valuable for positivist qualitative general condition. Overall, the more ‘intrin-
research. According to Yin, case studies can sic’ the interest of inquiry is in the case, the

more the study focuses on the case’s idiosyn- positioned the study in the theoretical litera-
cratic context, issue, and story. Stake’s work ture on organizational change, which focused
differs from Yin’s methodical, positivist-­ on the punctuated equilibrium model and
oriented approach, but collectively these two radical change. Having identified the impor-
approaches enrich the repertoire of methods tant but understudied continuous, incremen-
for qualitative research. tal change as the research focus, the authors
Eisenhardt (1989b) further formalized selected six computer firms, using each firm as
theory-building from multiple-case study a replication to confirm or disconfirm emerg-
research into a nine-step process. This model ing conceptual insights. The authors visited
has incorporated elements of Yin’s (1984) the firms and conducted semi-structured,
approach as well as grounded theory (e.g. open-ended interviews with both lower- and
Glaser & Strauss, 1967; Strauss, 1987). higher-level managers regarding the evolu-
Specifically, first, the researcher defines the tion of product development projects. Using
research focus and question. A priori specifi- the interviews as well as supplementary data,
cation of constructs is allowed, but the initial the authors wrote an independent case study
theoretical framework is tentative. Second, for each firm, with a focus on the features
cases are chosen through theoretical sam- of m ­ultiple-product innovation. Through
pling, as new cases are added to replicate subsequent comparison of different permu-
previous cases, extend emergent theory, fill tations of pairs of cases for similarities and
theoretical categories, or serve as examples of differences, a set of organizational structures
polar types. Third, research instruments and and processes related to continuous change
protocols are crafted based on the research emerged. The author crystallized the findings
question. Fourth, data collecting overlaps into three key properties: ‘semistructures’,
with analysis through the continuous crea- ‘links in time’, and ‘sequenced steps’, and
tion of field notes. Fifth, within-case analy- finally linked the ideas to existing literatures,
sis allows the unique patterns of each case including complexity theory and the resource-
to emerge. Sixth, cross-case comparison based view of the firm, to make further theo-
identifies higher-level patterns. Tactics such retical contributions (ibid.). This study uses a
as using categories or dimensions, conduct- methodical approach to search for the ‘objec-
ing pairwise analysis, and dividing the data tive’, generalizable best practices, and dem-
by sources, can be applied. Seventh, iterative onstrates a clear positivist orientation. Other
tabulation of evidence continuously sharpens examples following this approach include the
constructs and verifies relationships, yielding studies of Hallen & Eisenhardt (2012), Davis
a theory that fits closely with data. Eighth, the & Eisenhardt (2013), and Su (2013).
emergent concepts, theory, or hypotheses are
compared with the extant literature. Finally,
theoretical saturation signals the closure of the
iterative theory building process (ibid.). This POSITIVIST QUALITATIVE RESEARCH
well-defined, structured process aligns closely IN DIVERSE DISCIPLINES
with the positivist paradigm, and has been
extensively adopted by positivist qualitative Positivist qualitative studies have been
research in business and management over the adopted by many disciplines, such as sociol-
last decades (Eisenhardt & Graebner, 2007). ogy, psychology, policy, law, health, educa-
As an example, Brown & Eisenhardt tion, and business. In business, positivist
(1997) used a multiple-case study of six firms qualitative research has been applied in many
in the computer industry to examine how major fields, including, but not limited to,
organizations can successfully engage in con- management, information systems, interna-
tinuous change. Specifically, the authors first tional business, organizational behavior,
Positivist Qualitative Methods 25

marketing, accounting, and operations. In quantitative focus have also featured positiv-
management, qualitative research, with both ist qualitative studies, complementing quan-
positivist and non-positivist stances, has been titative research. Examples of these outlets
extensively applied (Lee, 1991; Bansal & include Management Science (e.g. Faraj &
Corley, 2011). Similarly, in information sys- Xiao, 2006), Production and Operations
tems, there is a plurality of qualitative research Management (e.g. Pagell et  al., 2014), the
approaches, both positivist and non-positivist Journal of Operations Management (e.g.
(Orlikowski & Baroudi, 1991; Mingers, 2001; Choi & Hong, 2002), and Decision Sciences
Dubé & Paré, 2003). The field of international (e.g. Levina & Su, 2008). In addition, positiv-
business also moves toward methodological ist qualitative research is especially valuable
pluralism by embracing diverse approaches, for identifying and illustrating ‘best practices’
including both positivist and ‘alternative’ from multiple business cases. This approach
qualitative research (Welch et  al., 2011). In has therefore been extensively applied in
organizational behavior, qualitative research publications in practitioner-oriented jour-
has long had an important place (Johns, nals, such as the Harvard Business Review
2006). The field of marketing has long (e.g. Lacity et al., 1995) and the MIT Sloan
embraced qualitative methods as well (Calder, Management Review (e.g. Su et al., 2016).
1977; Belk, 2007), although qualitative Across these disciplines, positivist quali-
research tends to be associated with an inter- tative research has provided a useful toolkit
pretivist approach in marketing. In the field of for studying a wide range of phenomena.
accounting, similarly, qualitative research in These phenomena encompass multiple lev-
general has a long tradition (Chua, 1986; els, from microfoundations to macro dynam-
Vaivio, 2008). In operations management, ics, spanning the levels of individual, group,
there has been an increasing use of qualitative organizational subunit, organization, and
research (Barratt et  al., 2011). Many of the interorganizational network (Hitt et  al.,
qualitative studies in the field of operations 2007). For example, at the individual level,
management adopt a positivist stance. Molinsky (2013) used self-reflections of 50
While the prevalence of positivist qualita- students to understand the psychological
tive research varies with specific disciplines mechanisms by which individuals adapt to
and publication outlets, the approach has new cultural settings. At the organizational
established its position as a key genre of pub- level, Su (2013) used 95 interviews with
lication. The following are some examples middle- and senior-level managers, direct
of empirical research leveraging positivist observations, and archival data at 13 offshore
qualitative methods. Positivist qualitative IT service suppliers – which encompassed
research regularly appears in the Academy all the most globally recognized players in
of Management Journal (e.g. Hallen & China’s IT outsourcing industry – to exam-
Eisenhardt, 2012), Administrative Science ine how these organizations grow their busi-
Quarterly (e.g. Lawrence & Dover, 2015), ness in multiple markets and make decisions
Organization Science (e.g. Cattani et  al., regarding their internationalization. At the
2013), the Strategic Management Journal interorganizational level, Dyer & Nobeoka
(e.g. Joseph & Ocasio, 2012), the Journal (2000) combined interviews with more than
of International Business Studies (e.g. Orr 30 executives from Toyota; interviews with
& Scott, 2008), MIS Quarterly (e.g. Levina executives from 10 of Toyota’s first-tier
& Ross, 2003), and Information Systems suppliers in Japan and 11 Toyota suppliers
Research (e.g. Jarvenpaa & Leidner, 1998). in the US; and archival and survey data to
Since positivist qualitative research examine how the company creates and man-
shares the same philosophical stance as ages a high-performance, knowledge-sharing
many quantitative studies, journals with a production network. All these studies have

both offered rich depictions of complex, con- their underlying socioeconomic ecosystems,
temporary phenomena and made significant, are largely new and can differ significantly
novel contributions to theories. from traditional ones. For example, research
has shown that in emerging markets, individu-
als’ sensemaking and organizations’ strategic
decision-making can be especially dynamic
POSITIVIST QUALITATIVE RESEARCH and innovative (Su, 2015). The convergence of
IN THE AGE OF DIGITIZATION AND digitization and globalization leads to increas-
GLOBALIZATION ing innovation and interaction, thereby pre-
senting new opportunities and a compelling
Positivist qualitative research has unique need for further academic inquiry.
value propositions in today’s business envi- In this rapidly changing environment, posi-
ronment. Our world is being transformed by tivist qualitative research can be an especially
two major trends: digitization and globaliza- valuable tool for advancing academic theories,
tion (Manyika et al., 2011, 2014). The emer- for several reasons. First, qualitative research is
gence of information and communications suitable for investigating the emergent, ambigu-
technologies is changing the foundation and ous, dynamic, and less-understood phenomena
fabric of economies and societies, giving brought about by digitization and globaliza-
rise to new forms of organizing (e.g. tion. In this environment, the flexible, contex-
Boudreau & Lakhani, 2013; Kuek et  al., tualized characteristics of qualitative inquiry
2015; Lifshitz-Assaf, forthcoming), while have an advantage over quantitative methods
disrupting incumbent ones. A variety of because qualitative research is ‘open to unan-
innovative digital technologies, such as the ticipated events’ and ‘offers holistic depictions
mobile Internet (e.g. Ghose et  al., 2013), of realities’ (Rynes & Gephart, 2004, p. 455)
cloud computing (e.g. Su, 2011), big data that encompass a wide range of variables, rela-
(e.g. Tambe, 2014) and analytics (e.g. tionships, meanings, and processes.
Martens et al., 2016), 3D printing (e.g. Su & Second, positivist qualitative research,
Pirani, 2013), search engine (e.g. Ghose particularly, can help motivate research-
et al. 2014), online recommendation systems ers with a positivist stance to explore these
(e.g. Panniello et  al., 2016), and artificial emerging phenomena. Positivist research-
intelligence (e.g. Dhar, 2016), are shaping ers represent a large academic commu-
the world’s informational, economic, and nity. Some disciplines, such as finance and
social relationships (e.g. El Sawy et  al., operations, or topics, such as big data and
2010; Sundararajan et al., 2013; Dhar et al., analytics research, mostly adopt a positivist
2014) and giving rise to new industries and paradigm. A positivist stance can help engage
market categories. a dialogue with a diverse set of communities.
Simultaneously, digitization accelerates Positivist qualitative research can also be
globalization (e.g. Agerfalk & Fitzgerald, readily combined with quantitative methods.
2008; Chen & Horton, 2016; Aral et  al., For example, the theoretical concepts, rela-
2017). The global flow of capital, trade, and tionships, and frameworks that emerge from
increasingly, information, ideas, and innova- positivist qualitative research can be further
tion, has shifted the world’s business land- examined with quantitative methods. Such
scape (Manyika et  al., 2014). Emerging integration of qualitative and quantitative
markets have grown into not only new hubs approaches can enrich our understanding of
of global commerce in terms of scale, but diverse phenomena.
also worldwide centers of innovation and Third, the positivist paradigm accepts the
entrepreneurship (e.g. The Economist, 2015). notion of the ‘generalizability’ of findings.
Emerging m ­ arket-based organizations, and When studying the emerging phenomena in
Positivist Qualitative Methods 27

digitization and globalization, researchers rigor. When carefully designed and meticu-
are able, therefore, to examine whether these lously executed, positivist qualitative
new phenomena can generate new theories, research can synergistically combine the
whether the new theories can help reconcep- strengths of positivist paradigm and qualita-
tualize existing phenomena, whether the new tive inquiry. Based on diverse forms of data,
phenomena can in fact be understood by exist- positivist qualitative research generates novel
ing theories, and whether the new phenomena and reliable concepts and theories regarding
are qualitatively different from existing ones. complex and oftentimes contemporary phe-
These questions can meaningfully contribute nomena. Grounded theory is a widely used
to the creation and accumulation of knowledge. methodology for positivist qualitative
Finally, from a methodological perspec- research, while case study prescribes method-
tive, the trends of digitization and globali- ical procedures that are especially useful for
zation give rise to new opportunities and generating positivist theoretical insights from
challenges. The increasing availability of qualitative data. Diverse disciplines have
data, combined with the innovative appli- embraced positivist qualitative research.
cation of analytic techniques such as data Positivist qualitative research has its chal-
mining, can potentially complement or even lenges. Due to its oftentimes field-based
extend traditional positivist qualitative meth- nature and highly methodical research pro-
ods. Data in different languages and from cess, it can require significant time and com-
diverse cultural contexts could also become a mitment, as well as access to research sites for
rich source of information and inspiration for in-depth investigation. Demonstration of rigor
theory development. by following the prescribed procedures and
Overall, embracing a plurality of philo- guidelines is important (Miles & Huberman,
sophical perspectives and research methods 1994; Dubé & Paré, 2003; Siggelkow, 2007;
allows scholars to examine the changing land- Gibbert et  al., 2008; Yin, 2014). Meanwhile,
scape of global business from diverse frames however, a key merit of positivist qualita-
of reference. Positivist qualitative research, tive research, as well as qualitative inquiry
with its significant tradition and extensive in general, is the celebration of novelty and
adoption in diverse disciplines, provides an creativity (Bansal & Corley, 2011). Therefore,
important toolkit for understanding today’s researchers should also actively explore differ-
ever-changing economy and society. ent styles within positivist qualitative research
and pursue methodological innovation. When
applying positivist qualitative methods,
researchers need to maintain a fine balance
CONCLUSION between rigor and creativity, and seek to gen-
erate insights that are both empirically valid
Positivist qualitative research represents an and theoretically ground-breaking. Today’s
important, established genre of academic age of digitization and globalization can rep-
inquiry. Ontologically, it assumes an objec- resent an excellent opportunity for applying
tive external reality that is apprehensible and advancing positivist qualitative research.
although not readily quantifiable.
Epistemologically, it focuses on identifying
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Qualitative Research as
Interpretive Social Science
R o b e r t P. G e p h a r t , J r .

Qualitative research has recently become so Indeed, the term ‘science’ is absent in
prominent (Gephart, 2004) that it is ‘taking titles, keywords and abstracts in the journal
over the social sciences and related profes- Qualitative Research on Organizations and
sional fields’ (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, Management. And the journal Organization
p. ix). Yet some scholars have questioned the Science provides no explicit discussion of
viability of a scientific approach to non- qualitative organization science despite fre-
positivist qualitative research. For example, quent qualitative papers published in its
‘when the interpretive perspective of science pages. This evidence suggests that qualita-
is adopted … the generally accepted stand- tive organizational scholars today are more
ards and practices for writing and assessing concerned with producing humanistic, liter-
the convincingness of this work become ary, political and idiosyncratic knowledge
increasingly difficult to apply’ (Golden- (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005, p. x) than with
Biddle & Locke, 1993, p. 595). This argu- producing verifiable scientific knowledge
ment shifts the focus from the integrity of of organizations (following Schutz, 1973b,
research methods used to produce knowledge p. 53). This unfortunate situation has emerged
to a concern with the convincingness of the in organizational research despite the long-
text to readers. More strongly, ‘once research- standing interest in producing trustworthy,
ers drop the notion that organization studies meaningful and evidence-based knowledge
need to model reality and search for essen- of organizations that is useful in practice.
tialist underlying structures via scientific The lack of concern with advancing a non-
study, they can embrace a more diverse and positivist scientific approach to organiza-
interpretive approach’ (Wicks & Freeman, tional research may be limiting the social
1998, p. 130). value, credibility and influence of the field.

There is an alternative. Over 60 years contributions, and to demonstrate why organ-

ago the philosopher and sociologist Alfred izational research needs a qualitative, inter-
Schutz (1973) contributed a methodology pretive and scientific approach. The broader
for interpretive social science that inspired value of interpretive social science, why it is
many important ideas used in organizational needed in organizational research, and future
research, including sensemaking (Garfinkel, challenges and directions are addressed in the
1967; Weick, 1995), structuration theory conclusion.
(Giddens, 1976; Barley, 1986) and ‘abduc-
tive reasoning’ (Blaikie, 1993; Dunne and
Dougherty, 2016). The goal of this chap- Qualitative Research and Scientific
ter is to further develop Schutz’s approach Knowledge
to qualitative research as an interpretive
social science (Blaikie, 1993, p. 42) that can Qualitative organizational research is a multi-
develop into an influential field that provides method process that uses ‘qualitative data’,
verifiable and meaningful knowledge of including linguistic symbols and stories,
organizations. verbal communication and written texts to
I approach this task by addressing research understand organizational processes. It pro-
within the ‘interpretive paradigm’ of social duces rich descriptions of naturally occurring
science (Burrell & Morgan, 1979; Hassard, behaviour in real life organizations as well as
1993; Gephart, 2004, 2013). The chapter concepts and theories for understanding
addresses the following questions: (1) what is organizational realities (Gephart, 2004 and
interpretive, qualitative science? (2) how does 2013). Of the four ‘paradigms’ of qualitative
interpretive qualitative science differ from research (positivist, interpretive, critical and
other approaches to qualitative research? (3) postmodern; Gephart, 2004, 2013; Hassard,
how can scholars use qualitative methods to 1993), only qualitative positivism and the
produce interpretive social science? and (4) scientific streams of interpretivism aspire
why does organizational research need a sci- and claim to produce scientific knowledge
entific approach to interpretive research? research.
To do answer these questions, the chapter Qualitative positivism (Gephart, 2004,
first explores the philosophical and sociolog- 2013) uses a natural science approach that
ical foundations of interpretive social science substitutes qualitative methods and data for
(Schutz, 1967, 1973a, b); Garfinkel, 1967). quantitative methods and data. Positivism
The next section on ‘Qualitative research and assumes that science can mirror reality, and,
scientific knowledge’ explains what qualita- through reliable and valid methods similar to
tive interpretive social science is and how it quantitative methods, it can uncover facts and
differs from other qualitative approaches and, determinant causal inter-relationships among
particularly, from qualitative positivism. The variables (Gephart, 2013, p. 291). Qualitative
section on ‘Elements of an interpretive sci- positivism thus mimics quantitative positiv-
ence of organizations’ elaborates a method for ism and has only limited concern with the
interpretive social science and demonstrates meanings social phenomena have for social
further how it differs from other approaches actors in everyday settings.
to qualitative research. The qualitative meth- Interpretive science research is defined
ods that can be used to produce interpretive here as research that systematically con-
social science are then presented in the con- structs scientific theory and concepts (knowl-
text of Schutz’s model of interpretive social edge) as ‘second order’ interpretations based
science. The chapter also provides examples on inductive and abductive analysis of mem-
of organizational research to illustrate inter- bers’ actual common sense or ‘first order’
pretive social science concerns, methods and concepts and actions and meanings. This
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 35

second order scientific theory is verifiable, that can be tested and falsified, agrees with
reproducible, logical, holds practical mean- experience, explains commonsense concepts
ing to lay actors and offers abstract, objective of nature, accepts a set of rules for scientific
meaning to interpretive scientists. procedure that is valid for all empirical sci-
There are important differences between ences and deals with the pre-given meaning
interpretive social science and positivist of social reality (Schutz, 1973a, p. 49).
social science. These differences arise from Other non-scientific approaches to quali-
the fact that interpretive social science takes tative research focus on subjective mean-
an insider view that privileges social actors’ ings and human meaning-making, but seek
knowledge of social contexts and their com- different kinds of understanding ‘based on
monsense meanings. It seeks to understand the varying ontological, and methodological
members’ tacit knowledge, shared mean- beliefs’ to which the researchers subscribe
ings and the informal norms everyday actors (Bhattacharya, 2008, p. 2). These approaches,
use to act in the world. Interpretive theory is including hermeneutics, emancipatory social
built from, and refers back to, commonsense theories, feminism, critical theories, queer
meanings. In contrast, positivist social sci- theory and the sociologies of everyday life,
ence privileges an outsider view of culture are described in Bhattacharya (2008) and
and behaviour, imposes scientific meanings Douglas et al. (1980).
on observations of everyday behaviour and The interpretive social science research
generally lacks concern for members’ com- produces: ‘historically situated tales’ of what
monsense meanings and interpretations. particular people do in particular places at
The interpretive social science approach certain times; ‘reasoned interpretations’ of
focuses on description and understanding what this conduct means for social actors
of ‘the actual human interactions, meanings (Van Maanan, 1998, p. xi–xii); theoretical
and processes that constitute real-life organi- frameworks of propositions and arguments
zational settings’ (Gephart, 2004, p. 455) describing determinant relations among sci-
and examines how commonsense meanings entific constructs; and ‘empirically ascertain-
are created and used by members for prac- able’ and verifiable relations among concepts
tical purposes. Interpretive social science (Schutz, 1973b, p. 65).
uses controlled inferences (Schutz, 1973b, In the pages that follow, I develop this
p. 51), formal logic, induction, deduction, conception of interpretive social science fur-
retroduction and abductive reasoning to ther and provide examples of organizational
interpret qualitative data (Blaikie, 1993). research that display features of this approach
The initial tasks for interpretive social to science.
science are to describe and understand the
commonsense constructs and subjective
interpretations of social actors, to ‘explore Natural Science and Social Science
the general principles’ by which social actors
organize their experiences and to develop A long-standing debate exists concerning the
a theoretical system composed of second- proper methodology for social science
level scientific constructs that objectively (Schutz, 1973a). One view assumes a basic
describe, predict and explain social organi- difference between the structure of nature
zational behaviour (Schutz, 1973a, p. 34). and the structure of the social world that
Research is ‘interpretive’ when it starts necessitates distinct methods for natural and
from and returns to ‘the subjective meaning social science. A second view examines
of the actions of human beings from which human behaviour in the same way that natu-
all social reality originates’ (Schutz, 1973b, ral scientists look at nature. It assumes that
p. 62). It is scientific when it produces theory only the methods of natural science can

establish reliable knowledge (Schutz, ELEMENTS OF AN INTERPRETIVE

1973a). Schutz (1973a, b) offers a third view SCIENCE OF ORGANIZATIONS
and middle ground. He argues that the phe-
nomena social science examines have differ- Weber’s (1978) Economy and Society: An
ent structures than natural science phenomena Outline of Interpretive Sociology describes
because the observational field of social sci- an organizational ‘science concerning itself
ence has a pre-given structure, meaning and with the interpretive science of social action
relevance for human beings living there. and thereby a causal explanation of its course
Social science needs to investigate exactly and consequences’ (Weber, 1978, p. 4).
what the natural science methods extract – Weber was concerned to scientifically under-
tacitly held beliefs of commonsense reason- stand the ‘subjective meaning’ of phenom-
ing that produce and sustain our ability to ena, which he conceives as understanding
distinguish and make sense of nature and all that is ‘subjective’ because its goal is to
objects of culture (Schutz, 1973b, p. 58). By understand what the other actor ‘means’ in
presupposing shared meanings, positivism an action, in contrast to what an observer
solves the ‘fundamental problem of social might impute. Subjective meaning can be
science before scientific inquiry starts’ shared and it is not introspection or the pri-
(Schutz, 1973b, p. 55). A more valid vate affair of an actor. It can also be con-
approach requires ‘particular devices foreign trolled in common sense. Also, predictions
to the natural sciences’ (Schutz, 1973b, based on subjective meanings are usually
p.  58), so that theory can agree with com- made in common-sense thinking with great
monsense experience – something all the success. Hence, we can predict that a letter
sciences of human affairs have done. addressed to a specific individual will reach
Qualitative interpretive social science the addressee, and it generally does. Thus,
starts from the first order ‘constructs’ of com- subjective understanding refers to what the
monsense reasoning and seeks to understand actor ‘means’ by an action in meanings that
members’ subjective interpretations. It then can be shared with other actors.
creates second order scientific constructs Schutz’s (1973a, 1973b) aim was to put
from commonsense constructs. The scientific Weber’s interpretive sociology on a firmer
constructs are objective, ideal type theoretical grounding. To do so he provided a method-
constructs formed in accordance with proce- ology of ideal types for understanding social
dural rules valid for all empirical sciences action (Blaikie, 1993, p. 42). This is premised
and that embody testable general hypotheses. on the idea that commonsense knowledge is
Scientific constructs differ from the con- foundational to knowing the world and is based
structs of common sense, since they must be on a system of constructs that register the typi-
objective in the sense that propositions from cality of the world in a shared (intersubjective)
them can be subjected to controlled verifica- manner. The bridge between common sense
tion and cannot refer to private, uncontrolled and scientific meaning is the methodology of
experience (p. 62). The interpretive science social types that involves social actors’ uses of
approach thus starts from the premise that typifications of both persons and courses of
commonsense knowledge is foundational to action (Blaikie, 1993, p. 43). Schutz (1973a)
knowing the world. It accepts the applica- notes that actors engage in ‘typification’ dur-
tion of natural science methods to second ing commonsense reasoning. Any actual per-
order social science concepts, but proposes ception of an object is transferred to similar
additional devices foreign to natural science objects that are thereafter viewed as ‘the
that can bridge commonsense and scientific same type’ of object. The typicality of the
concepts. world lies in the shared world of meaning
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 37

that existed before us and that is experienced motives and attitudes, where the other and
using a stock of knowledge of typical objects their conduct are just instances or exemplars
(Schutz, 1973a, pp. 6–8). We need to interpret of the broader type. Course of action types
this commonsense world in order to act in the are idealized typifications of actions, pro-
world (Schutz, 1973a, p. 10). jects and motives that social actors had in the
Schutz gives primacy to commonsense past and will display or enact in the future.
knowledge with his well-known postu- Action types sustain ongoing social interac-
late of subjective interpretation (p. 11): to tion. They include future-oriented, ‘in-order-
understand what an action means, one must to’ motives (p. 21) that describe the goals and
understand the meaning the action has for the motives another person seeks in choosing an
actor. One cannot understand an institution or action and past-oriented, ‘because motives’
organization without understanding what it (p. 22) that explain after the fact why some-
means to individuals who orient their behav- one acted. Schutz (1973a, p. 28) was primar-
iour towards it. Thus, the world is not ‘my ily concerned with types of ‘rational action’
private world’ (p. 11) because one’s knowl- that presuppose rational consideration of the
edge of it is from the outset intersubjective alternative means to an end; clear insight into
and socialized. these ends, means and alternatives; and deter-
Three assumptions are needed for actors to mination of their importance. Other forms of
produce shared meanings. First, social actors action can be analysed as departures from
must assume that people in a common setting this rational model.
will see and recognize common objects of the Schutz (1973a, p. 34) clearly emphasized
world even if their backgrounds, purposes that social science requires description and
and the systems of relevance they use to inter- analysis of the subjective point of view –
pret objects and events differ (Schutz, 1973a, the interpretations of action and settings
p. 11). Second, actors must assume that an made by the actors involved. He validates
inter-changeability of standpoints exists this argument by addressing two questions
such that members could change places and (1973a, pp. 34–6). First, how is it possible
see what the other sees (pp. 11–12). Third, to grasp subjective meaning scientifically?
actors must assume a congruency of systems This involves replacing the objects of com-
of relevance, whereby any differences in per- mon sense related to unique events with a
spectives that originate in biographies are model of the social world in which typified
irrelevant and hence actors can see objects events relevant to the social scientific prob-
in an identical manner (p. 12). These com- lem occur. Then one constructs a model of
mon assumptions allow members to develop the typical interaction (e.g. a salesman selling
the sense that the objects of shared meaning an auto) and analyses the typical meaning the
are objective and detached from each actor’s interaction might have for the types of actors
unique definition of the situation, biographi- who originate the interaction.
cal circumstances and purposes at hand, and Second, how is it possible to grasp subjective
thus supersede the thought objects of peo- meaning structures using a system of objec-
ples’ private experience (p. 12). tive knowledge? First, one needs to develop
Central to Schutz’s ideal type method is methodological devices for obtaining objec-
the premise that people make sense of oth- tive and verifiable knowledge of subjective
ers and the social world by creating con- meaning structures that allow for discovery
structs of typical social relationships and via controlled inference (Schutz, 1973a). The
motives. Most relationships are constituted knowledge must be possible to state in propo-
by distant persons and can be grasped only sitional form and capable of verification by
by forming a construct of a typical way of observation (pp. 51–2). Second, the scientific
behaviour with a typical pattern of underling attitude must guide objective consideration of

subjective knowledge. This involves a disin- philosophical foundations for an interpretive

terested observer who is detached from their social science. Thus, he neglected methodo-
biographical situation and who seeks truth in logical issues of how the actor’s perspective is
accordance with pre-established features of grasped, how interpretive social science mod-
the scientific method and pre-existing knowl- els are to be tested and how theory originates
edge of the scientific field involved. The in the experience of the scientist (Freeman,
‘scientific problem’ then determines what is 1980, pp. 129–30).
relevant to the solution, to data, and to abstrac- The method begins with a first order
tions and generalizations that emerge. The rel- description when a researcher observes the
evancies of scientific inquiry are determined social world and describes members’ com-
solely by the scientific attitude. Observations monsense constructs, methods and subjective
must also be interpreted in terms of their sub- meanings (steps 1–3). Next, (steps 4a and 4b)
jective meaning for actors. (p. 40). the researcher constructs typical course-of-
Schutz (1973b, pp. 63–4) provided a detailed action patterns that correspond to observed
description of the interpretive social science events (Schutz, 1973a, pp. 40–4 and pp.
method. Table 3.1 summarizes Schutz’s work 63–4). These first order descriptions are
(1973a, 1973b, 1967) and incorporates com- coordinated to the ‘personality type’ (actor
mon steps in interpretive qualitative research type) of the subject and this ‘model of con-
(Gephart, 2004, 2013). This framework is gen- scious action’ is restricted to key elements
eral because Schutz focused on establishing of specific performances. Typical motives

Table 3.1  Framework for qualitative interpretive science research


1. Interpretive scientist gains access to everyday life site of actual social interaction of relevance to research and
observes interaction as it naturally occurs in real life contexts.
2. Researcher uses field research and ethnographic methods including ethnographic interviews to develop thick and
detailed written descriptions of actual interactions in real life context and records detailed descriptions of settings and
conversations that occurred therein.
3. Researcher analyses data to discover members’ concepts including key words, constructs and theories that explain
the subjective meaning of everyday life settings and actions and develops first order descriptions of interactions and
settings from actors’ point(s) of view.


4. Researcher reviews and analyses (interprets) concepts and theories in members’ accounts from a distant or dis-
interested (scientific) perspective to induce via abstraction second order concepts, i.e. concepts of concepts of social
actors that show patterns in first order descriptions of actors.
a. Researcher constructs ideal type models of social roles or positions of people participating in interaction in focal
settings to analytically describe the interaction
b. Ideal type models are refined to include course-of-action models and motives ascribing typical notions, purposes
and goals to ideal type models of actors in specified but general social positions
c. Constructed second order models are refined to insure they 1) capture and preserve (make recoverable) subjective meanings
of members, 2) are logically consistent and 3) present human action in a manner understandable to everyday actors

5. Researcher varies features of models to understand how variations in models lead (hypothetically) to variations in
outputs or outcomes of interaction.
6. Researcher examines data (prior data or new data) to ascertain if patterns of meaning and interaction provided in
adduced theory are consistent with actual behaviours and interactions in real life settings that represent key aspects
of ideal type models.
7. Researcher relates or compares actors’ and social scientific descriptions of behaviour and interaction to existing and
newly created (inductively and abductively constructed) second order concepts and theories to refine or contest prior
and new theories and concepts.
8. Researcher formulates narratives, logically consistent and testable propositions or hypotheses that summarize via
empirical generalization the findings and insights from first order and second order analyses.
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 39

are ascribed to the actor who is placed in the in commonsense terms to that actor and others
situation of interest. The analyst begins the (Schutz, 1973b, p. 64). This insures compat-
second level analysis by creating constructs ibility with the constructs of everyday life.
or models of actors in the form of ‘homun- Models of social action must also be clear,
culi’ with prescribed in-order-to and because distinct and fully compatible with principles
motives. The construction of these models is of formal logic to make the models objectively
a central practice in interpretive social sci- valid (Schutz, 1973b, p. 64). The researcher
ence and can be done using one or more of the also needs to ensure consistency between
commonly used qualitative analysis methods commonsense and scientific concepts.
presented in Table 3.2. Table 3.2 highlights Thereafter, one can vary the circumstances
the uses of the methods for organizational within which the model operates. For example,
science, cites empirical research using the one can compare a model of a producer acting
methods and provides basic methodological under unregulated competition with one acting
references on how to undertake the methods. under cartel restrictions and assess the output of
The table presents commonly used strategies each model. This allows the researcher to under-
for interpretive social science research including stand the different factors that explain empirical
ethnography and grounded theorizing. These regularities (p. 65) and can be used to produce
well-developed strategies describe and then interpretive social science theory (steps 5–8).
interpret members’ actual behaviours and first This scientific analysis process was later
order meanings, the strategies are based on inter- labelled ‘abduction’: ‘the process used to
pretive science ideas and the strategies offer con- produce social scientific accounts of social
genial approaches to doing interpretive social life by drawing on the concepts and mean-
science. But they are not necessarily the ‘best’ ings used by social actors, and the activi-
or only ways to do interpretive social science. ties in which they engage’ (Blaikie, 1993,
Once first and second order models are p. 176). Abduction is the analytical process
developed, the researcher confirms that the that moves from lay descriptions of social life
models are not arbitrary (step 4c). They must to technical descriptions of social life. Schutz
be constructed so that a human act performed never used the term abduction. But his exten-
in the real world by an actor, as indicated by sion of Weber’s (1978) ideal type methodol-
the typical construct, would be understandable ogy was important to the development of the

Everyday common sense terms

Bases for social actions and interactions

Social actors’ accounts

Social scientific descriptions

Social theories generated OR

Conceptual understandings in terms of social theories or perspectives

Figure 3.1  The multiple layers of the abductive process

Source: Adapted from Blaikie (1993) p. 177
Table 3.2  Qualitative research strategies and methods of analysis for interpretive social science
Application Description Interpretive Science Uses Examples Reference Sources

Case Study Detailed description of phenomenon Describe first order meanings Orlikowski (1996) study of Mills, Duerpos & Wiebe
Strategy and how it changed over time Develop second order concepts situated change at a (2009)
Validate, elaborate or test theory software firm
Ethnographic Strategy Insider description of a culture or Produce rich and meaningful descriptions of Weeks (2004) study of the Agar, M. 1980
micro-culture developed through actual organizational behaviour and first culture of complaints at
participation in the culture order meanings a British bank.
Grounded Theory Strategy Inductive construction of theory Identification of members’ first order Perlow (1997) study of Glaser & Strauss (1967)
And Methods of Analysis from systematically obtained and meanings using in vivo coding work practices and time Locke (2002)
analysed data Constant comparative analysis of theoretically management of software Walsh, Holton, Bailyn,
sampled categories of data to develop engineers Frenandez, Levina &
second order concepts Glaser (2015)
Expansion Analysis Line by line, data-driven interpretation Shows how background knowledge, Gephart, Topal & Zhang Cicourel, 1980
Method of a text or transcript sensemaking practices and first and second (2010) study of temporal
order concepts operate in text sensemaking in a public
Ethno-semantic Analysis Structured approach to inductive Identification and verification of first order Boehlke (2005) ethnography Spradley (1979)
Method discovery of folk terms and concepts and their cultural meaning to of how tattoo parlour McCurdy, Spradley &
categories in ethnographic members recruited customers Shandy (2005)
interviews and data Construction of folk taxonomies
Interpretive Textual Strategy for undertaking computer Identify first order meanings Gephart (1997) Kelle (1995)
Analysis Method supported textual analysis Develop second order concepts
Statistically test and verify patterns identified
through qualitative data analysis
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 41

‘abductive’ research strategy in social sci- members’ (ethno) methods for constructing
ence (Blaikie, 1993, pp. 176 and 178). The and sustaining a sense of shared social mean-
overview of the abductive research strategy ing and order (Garfinkel, 1967). It does this by
in Figure 3.1 highlights the multiple layers analysing the everyday methods people use to
involved (Blaikie, 1993, p. 177). accomplish practical tasks (Coulon, 1995, p.
The abductive strategy connects first level 2). Ethnomethodology is not ‘an “alternative”
and second level constructs to integrate com- methodology’ or theory (Turner, 1974, pp. 7
mon sense, scientific knowledge and form and 11). It is a proto-science (Lynch, 1993)
theory in interpretive social science. For some concerned with understanding the taken-for-
interpretive scientists, reporting social actors’ granted foundations of social order and how
accounts is all that can or needs to be done to activity accomplishes a sense of the external
understand social life (Blaikie, 1993, p. 177). world (Mehan & Wood, 1975, p. 5).
Others turn these accounts into descriptions Ethnomethodology, originated by
of social life tied closely to actors’ natural Garfinkel, builds on Schutz’s phenomenology
language. Still others ‘will generate abstract to specify ‘elemental’ interpretive processes
descriptions, or even theories, from the that inform all attributions of meaning or sen-
descriptions produced from actors’ accounts’ sibility (Freeman, 1980, p. 139). Garfinkel
(Blaikie, 1993, p. 177). But Schutz’s abductive went beyond Schutz’s focus on ‘normal’ or
process is central to interpretive social science. ‘stable’ social interaction: ‘Procedurally, it
A key task for interpretive social science is is my preference to start with familiar scenes
to uncover the tacit mutual knowledge, sym- and ask what can be done to make trouble’
bolic meanings, intentions and rules that ori- (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 37). He thus created
ent actors in the everyday world, and to avoid ‘breaching’ experiments that were designed:
imposing an outsider view – as is done by posi-
tivist methods. This is difficult in many situa- to multiply the senseless features of perceived envi-
ronments; to produce and sustain bewilderment,
tions because much everyday activity is routine consternation and confusion; to produce … anxi-
and carried out in an unreflective attitude. But ety, shame, guilt and indignation; and to produce
when social life is disrupted or people are chal- disorganized interaction (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 38).
lenged to explain their behaviour, actors are
forced to undertake sensemaking (Garfinkel, These experiments were used to test (and
1964, 1967) to reflectively search for and confirm) the necessity of using interpretive
construct meanings (Blaikie, 1993, p. 177). practices to produce and sustain normal social
Ethnomethodologists have developed ‘breach- interaction. A well-known breaching experi-
ing’ procedures to force actors to engage in ment is Garfinkel’s ‘pre-medical student’
sensemaking, which makes their tacit meanings experiment (1967, pp. 57–64), designed to
and theories explicit (see ‘Ethnometholodogy, systematically breach all the essential com-
sensemaking and interpretive practices’ below). monsense expectancies Schutz (1973a & b)
These ‘breaching’ procedures add a new meth- identified and to create confusion for subjects
odological tool that allows interpretive social in an interview situation.
science to test and validate hypotheses about In the experiment, Garfinkel (1967) posed
the nature of interpretive practices. as a ‘medical school representative’ and ran
28 pre-medical students individually through
a three-hour interview to ‘learn why the
Ethnomethodology, Sensemaking medical student in-take interview was such
a stressful situation’ (p. 58). After the first
and Interpretive Practices
hour of the interview, Garfinkel played a
Ethnomethodology is ‘the science of sense- recording of an ‘actual’ interview for each
making’ (Heap, 1976) that investigates subject. The recording was a faked interview,

‘the applicant was a boor, his language was empirically validated Schutz’s (1973) insights,
ungrammatical, he was evasive, contradicted confirmed the importance of commonsense
the interviewer’ and bragged. The subjects interpretive practices as foundations of social
were then asked to assess the recorded inter- interaction, and related commonsense mean-
view. Each subject was given contrived infor- ings and sensemaking to dimensions of social
mation from the applicant’s (fake) ‘official organization. He also provided strong evidence
record’ (1967, p. 59) that contradicted the that social researchers should treat social set-
principle points in the subject’s assessment tings as emergent situations, where social actors
of the applicant. For example, if the subject necessarily invent rational properties and inter-
said that the applicant was from the lower pretive procedures to deal with unfolding con-
class, the subject was told that the applicant’s tingencies of situations.
father was a senior executive of a major firm. Egon Bittner, a student of Garfinkel,
Student subjects were told that the appli- extended ethnomethodology to address organ-
cant was admitted and doing well; that six ization theory (Bittner, 1974). He argued
psychiatrists had strongly recommended the (p. 70) that traditional sociology seeks to under-
applicant be admitted based on fitness for stand how well the intended formal structures
medicine; and that most students who had of organization describe what is going on in
heard the recording agreed as well. organizations. The concept of ‘informal organi-
Most of the student subjects (25 of 28) zation’ was developed in sociology to account
were ‘taken in’ by the deception. They for situations where formal structures did not
became anxious and bewildered, then tried provide for certain aspects of organization;
to resolve the ‘incongruities of performance for example, workers who routinely ignore a
data with vigorous attempts to make it factu- no smoking policy. Philip Selznik (1948) had
ally compatible with their original and very pointed out that informal features of organiza-
derogatory assessments’ (Garfinkel, 1967, tion are needed to adapt to the impact of func-
p. 60). Seven of the 25 subjects were unable tional imperatives, but he failed to consider
to resolve the incongruity of their views: what the formal structures mean to lay actors
‘their suffering was dramatic and unrelieved’ and how they are used by them on a day-to-day
(p. 63). Three students assumed there had basis (Bittner, 1974, p. 71). Bittner (1974) thus
been a deception and dismissed the incon- argued for the re-specification of the concept of
gruence. Twenty-two of the 28 subjects organization, from the outsider conception of
expressed ‘marked relief – ten of them with positivists to an interpretive conception of insid-
explosive expressions – when the deception ers’ meanings. This could be done by using the
was disclosed’ (Garfinkel, 1967, p. 64). Thus postulate of subjective meaning to study how
Garfinkel (1967) was able to demonstrate actors’ terms and meanings are assigned to real
the importance that interpretive practices objects and events in real scenes of interaction
have for shared meaning and social order by (Bittner, 1974, p. 75). This re-specification has
systematically breaching the commonsense been started (Gephart, 1978, 1993), but is an
expectancies fundamental to social order. important and incomplete task for the future of
Garfinkel used the results to criticize conven- interpretive social science.
tional positivist sociologies that treat common-
sense interpretive practices as ‘epiphenomenal’.
Positivists incorrectly conceive of members of
society as cultural or psychological ‘dopes’, CONTEMPORARY EXAMPLES OF
who produce stable features of society by act- INTERPRETIVE SOCIAL SCIENCE
ing out pre-established scripts or by acting on
the basis of their psychological biography and The ideas above provide foundations for an
conditioning. Garfinkel’s research (1967, p. 36) interpretive social science of organizations.
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 43

And Garfinkel’s (1967) breaching experi- p. 409). Van Maanen took extensive field
ments show how ethnomethodology has notes, collected tales, and sought to learn the
developed a means to create and verify local culture of police from the inside: ‘Only
objective concepts of subjective meanings in by entering into the webs of local associa-
ways that are ‘intendedly replicable and the tions does a fieldworker begin to glimpse
frameworks can be extended through empiri- the distinctive nature of what lies within and
cal research’ (Turner, 1974, p. 11). This sec- without these webs’ (Van Maanen, 1981,
tion describes four examples of organizational p. 14). Most of his time was spent with a
research undertaken in a manner consistent few squad members who became his key
with interpretive social science methods. I informants (p. 15). After training, he learned
selected these studies to illustrate the meth- the symbols of membership in police cul-
ods, practices and findings of interpretive ture: ‘on my body, I still carried a badge
social science. Each study displays only parts and a gun’, and ‘dressed for the street as I
of the interpretive social science model, but thought a plainclothes officer might’ (p. 15).
collectively they display all of the features. He also learned informal police practices,
including how to please the station sergeant
to get favourable job assignments and the
Organizational Socialization folk theories police have regarding police
work. During his time with the police,
Van Maanen (1973) undertook an ethno- ‘They allowed me to watch what they did
graphic study of police in their naturally and I let them do it’ (p. 17). He thus gained
occurring occupational settings to explore an insider’s view of the subjective meanings
the relatively unexamined process of sociali- of police work and yet kept a disinterested
zation into a police organization. Most previ- perspective on police and himself: ‘I have
ous information on police socialization came tried to come as close to police as possible
from questionnaire-survey research that without being one of them and to stand as
addressed police attitudes. Van Maanen used far away from the police as I could without
a dramaturgical approach (Van Maanen, leaving the planet’ (1981, p. 17).
1973, p. 408; Goffman, 1959) to conceptual- Van Maanen (1981) faced the tasks of
ize police and recruits as actors performing writing ethnography and producing scien-
both ‘on stage’ and ‘back stage’. He focused tific knowledge once the fieldwork ended.
on the individual recruit’s entry into the To end fieldwork ‘is to distance one’s self
police organization, a point when the organi- from the people studied’ (1981, p. 18). ‘At
zation ‘may be thought to be most persua- the point of their departure, I suspect most
sive, for the person has few guidelines to fieldworkers begin to seriously question
direct his behavior … and is more readily their data base and express some grave res-
influenced’ than later in their organizational ervations as to both its quantity and quality’
career (Van Maanen, 1973, pp. 408–9). (Van Maanen, 1981, p. 18). Faced with the
Van Maanen’s entry to the field required challenge of ‘putting together and writing up
a lengthy search for a police department what I have discovered in the field’ (p. 21)
that would permit him to complete police he developed two analytic goals to order his
training and do police work as an ethnogra- materials: (1) ‘presenting the linguistic and
pher (Van Maanen, 1981). The study lasted conceptual categories used by the police to
for nine months. Three months were spent think about and express themselves’ (p. 21);
as ‘a fully participating member of one and (2) attempting to ‘present the patterns of
Union City Police Academy recruit class’, action relevant to given cognitive categories’
followed by four months as a back-seat (p. 21) to describe the social organization of
observer in patrol units (Van Maanen, 1973, police activities.

Using data at hand and the first order con- of organization (Bittner, 1974) and the pro-
cepts and theories of police, Van Maanen cess of status transformation and degrada-
developed a second order, ideal type model tion (Garfinkel, 1956) to specify ideal type
of four ‘analytically distinct’ stages in models of status degradation and the ideal
police recruit initiation: choice, introduc- type organizational schemes used to ver-
tion, encounter and metamorphosis (Van bally construct organizations. The degrada-
Maanen, 1973, p. 409). These stages describe tion case was then analysed using grounded
the experiences and interactions of members, theory practices (Glaser and Strauss, 1967)
but extend beyond first order meanings to to describe, code and interpret patterns in
include typical motives and goals of com- the data. Analysis focused primarily on how
mon member statuses and analytical goals, members’ constructions of the organization
including construction of a model of police emerged, changed over time and were used
socialization as it unfolds over time. The in the degradation process. The core focus in
model is constructed to capture members’ the paper is a detailed transcript of the ‘deg-
subjective meanings and Van Maanen (1973, radation work’ that occurred at a commit-
1981) keeps his ‘theory’ close to the every- tee meeting where the degradation process
day contexts and constructs studied. This unfolded. A line-by-line interpretation of the
study is an excellent example of interpre- discourse was prepared in order to under-
tive social science research using abduction stand how the interpretive concepts (Bittner,
to transform actors’ first level accounts into 1974; Garfinkel, 1956; Schutz, 1973a & b)
higher-order descriptions of social life tied explained the sensemaking that produced the
closely to actors’ natural language (Blaikie, degradation, including the practices involved
1993, p. 177). in constructing enforceable schemes of
organization warranting the degradation.
The research described the schemes of
Organizations and Status organization constructed by different groups
at the meeting – degradation facilitators and
resistors – and how these were developed and
Gephart (1978) undertook an auto- employed over time to interpret the leader’s
ethnographic study of how a researcher, in behaviour. Through this process, prior ideal
the role of organization leader, created and type models of degradation and organization
operated a university graduate students’ were validated by comparing the models to
centre (GSC). The research process involved the observations. Then the model was refined
participation in GSC activities, recording into more elaborate second order concepts to
field notes on conversations and activities reflect the insights from the specific study. In
during one year of participant observation addition, a grounded theory model of the life
research, and analysis of organizational doc- history of a degradation process was devel-
uments. The research eventually focused on oped from the data, using theoretical sam-
the unexpected occurrence of a ‘status degra- pling and constant comparative analysis of
dation’ ceremony: a meeting where ‘the different groups and second level organiza-
public identity of an actor is transformed into tional constructs.
something lower in the scheme of social The research confirmed the accuracy of
types’ (Garfinkel, 1956, p. 420). In this case, prior conceptualizations of how meaning
the leader was removed from the role of man- construction creates organization. It also pro-
ager of the centre and his status was trans- vided insights into the higher-level construct
formed in a downward manner. of status degradation as one form of succes-
The research used second order ethnometh- sion. This was done by connecting first order
odological constructs concerning the concept meanings to second order scientific concepts
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 45

and then generalizing to address the more additional new frameworks for understand-
abstract construct of incumbent succession ing leader succession.
in organizations. The research also provided
testable propositions, models and a grounded
theory of organizational succession built Technological Change
from the concepts of the concepts of social
actors that could be evaluated (confirmed, Barley (2015) supervised an ethnographic
disconfirmed or refined) in future research on study to explore how technological change
other instances and forms of organizational influences how work is done. Barley sought
succession. to describe and explain how sales encounters
The research was designed with Schutz’s in the ‘work system’ of auto sales changed
(1973a) framework in mind and reflects when the traditional face-to-face showroom
many features of the interpretive social sci- sales approach was supplemented by the new
ence method. In particular, the data were ‘online’ (or Internet) approach, where cus-
coded and interpreted to discover members’ tomers used websites to research autos, select
concepts and theories and were used to a dealer and negotiate pricing (pp. 37–8).
develop a narrative of the development of the Role theory and dramaturgical analysis, two
organization. Bittner’s (1974) second order interpretive frameworks, were used to under-
conceptualizations of models of organization stand ‘how new technologies become entan-
and Garfinkel’s (1956) ideal type process gled with the social’, such that they
model of status degradation were compared reconfigured what Goffman (1983) called an
to the data describing the observed processes. ‘interaction order: the situated, patterned and
The research also used first order data to pro- recurrent ways of interacting associated with
duce: (1) a grounded ideal type scheme of a particular context’ (Barley, 2015, p. 34).
‘components of an organizational status deg- The argument is that technologies trigger
radation ceremony’ (p. 569), (2) a schematic change by altering the tasks workers perform
process model of the degradation process and and how they perform them (p. 32). The con-
(3) ideal type models of members’ first order cept of roles is both a commonsense concept
models of organizational reality. of actors and a second order, social science
For example, denouncers constructed concept that connects subjective meanings of
the organization as a model of compliance individuals with shared, commonsense mean-
(Bittner, 1974) by claiming that all rules ings conceived collectively as ‘ways of work-
demanded compliance, whereas defenders’ ing together’ (Barley, 2015, p. 34). Changes
construction was that rules were incomplete to roles change meanings and behaviour and
and could be disregarded or elaborated to thus change work systems.
meet contingencies. The models were shown Barley (2015, p. 35) also used a drama-
to reflect the postulate of subjective meaning turgical approach termed ‘frame analysis’
and the postulates of logical consistency and (Goffman, 1959, 1974) to highlight sense-
adequacy. Variations in the model emerged at making based on a ‘definition of the situa-
different stages of the unfolding degradation – tion’. A frame is defined as a general scheme
i.e. a series of prior, unsuccessful degradation of meaning that carries shared social mean-
attempts – that led to different outcomes for ing. Once people frame the situation, they
interaction. Previous sociological concep- can invoke the frame to interpret behav-
tions of organizational status degradation iour and can construct a ‘line of action’ to
were shown to be useful in describing many guide their behaviour. For example, fram-
features of the current degradation. The study ing certain places as auto show rooms both
findings showed the limits of past research guides and limits the roles and appropriate
on organizational succession and provided behaviours in each setting. Participants use

their background knowledge to assemble a of a floor versus an Internet sales encounter

tacit ‘script’ – the plot of a recurrent activ- and constituted the encounter’s script (p. 39).
ity that defines essential features of the parts The researchers also noted two action types
or roles people play and establishes loosely – ‘sales moves’ and ‘customer moves’ – that
prescribed expectations for behaviour in involved any talk or action the role players
actors concerning how an interaction should made to influence their role-others or shape
go. When an encounter’s dramaturgical ele- how an encounter would unfold. ‘Awkward
ments change, scripts may change and if moments’, defined as interactions that dis-
scripts change, the interaction order has, by rupted turn taking or involved disrespectful
definition, changed (Barley, 2015, p. 35). behaviours, were also coded. A grounded
This approach to technological change shifts theory analysis was done, based on actors’
attention from technology to the system of commonsense terms and interactions. This
actors, actions and interaction in which the produced an ideal type second order model
technology is embedded. of the life history of each type of encounter
Participant observation was undertaken in (pp. 40–8) and general models of each action
two California auto dealerships: a Chevrolet schema – sales moves, customer moves and
dealer and a Toyota dealer. The dealerships awkward moments. Frequencies of occur-
had separate sales staff for floor and Internet rences of different types of moves and awk-
sales. The initial study focus was a compari- ward moments were compared.
son of different manufacturer-based sales The analysis revealed that the floor sales
cultures (Barley, 2015, p. 38). But initial encounter cast salesmen and customers
data analysis found no important differences as antagonistic negotiators (Barley, 2015,
in dealerships. The researchers had also p. 48). Salesmen showed vehicles to custom-
documented several Internet sales encoun- ers and took them for a test drive before nego-
ters that provided strong evidence of differ- tiating a price. Floor salesmen were prone
ences between floor and Internet sales that to employing moves designed to pressure
were consistent across the dealerships. For customers. In contrast, Internet salespersons
example, Internet sales encounters ‘evinced assumed the role of price and information
little of the tension and animosity that often providers and customers assumed the role of
marked floor encounters’ (p. 38) and the price takers: the sales encounter resembled a
‘price seemed to be the first topic of conver- common retail sales encounter (p. 48). Thus,
sation in Internet sales while it was usually the scripts of floor and Internet sales were
the last topic of conversation during a floor inversely structured and the tenor of the floor
encounter’ (p. 38). The researchers then col- sales was more tense and disputatious. Floor
lected additional data comparing floor versus sales were considered by floor customers to
Internet sales encounters. Encounters were be more stressful, contentious and threaten-
tape-recorded, transcribed and integrated ing than were Internet sales encounters.
with field notes. Internet sales customers found a more
A second analysis was then done to deter- favourable experience than expected and felt
mine whether the presence of a technology more in control and less intimidated than
had reconfigured the scripts, stage, props and expected (p. 50). Thus the Internet sales
moves the actors made in ways that sustained encounter ‘transformed the work system
a different line of action (p. 36). The com- in which cars are sold’ (p. 51). It removed
parative analysis used Goffman’s ideas as a the encounter from face-to-face interaction,
guide to code (1) lines of action and (2) the since it was only at the point of purchase that
major steps in the flow of the encounter, e.g. the customer and salesperson met. This re-
greeting a customer, taking a test drive. This scripted the sales encounter by removing the
produced a conception of the typical stages showroom stage from sales and substituting
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 47

telephone conversation for floor encounters. also provides data on the frequency of occur-
This re-configuration of the sales encounter rences of moves and moments for each role
‘changed the definition of the situation in that substantiates the inferences made about
ways that required salesmen and allowed cus- the differing social meanings of the encoun-
tomers to play their roles differently’ (p. 51). ters (Barley, 2015, p. 39, fn 13). Barley
The Internet sales encounter was no longer addresses the relevance of his approach to
a negotiation, since the customer’s informa- past and future research on technological
tion was gleaned outside the encounter and change and confirms that Goffman’s drama-
both salesmen and customers had similar and turgical approach can be usefully applied to
accurate information. Salesmen offered rea- the study of the social meaning and implica-
sonable and competitive prices and had no tions of technology.
need to pressure customers who arrived com-
mitted to buying a vehicle at the price quoted
on the phone. New Product Development
Barley’s (2015) paper displays key fea-
tures of the interpretive social science Dunne & Dougherty (2016) explore ‘how
approach. Data collection involved obser- innovators use abductive reasoning to create
vations of actual discourse between sales new products in the context of complexity’
people and customers in these settings. (p. 143). They define abduction as the ‘the
Members’ concepts and theories, as well as process of reasoning in which explanations
subjective meanings, were documented and a are formed and evaluated’ (Dunne &
richly detailed first order description of auto Dogherty, 2016, p. 135) and a ‘style of
sales was prepared. The study evolved when research based on discovery and understand-
the initial hypothesis was not supported and a ing, not prediction and testing’ that is used to
new hypothesis about technologically differ- make sense of puzzling facts (p. 135).
ent sales methods was tested. Abduction involves creating hypotheses
Ideal type models of the scripts and stages based on mental models, making predictions
of the two types of sales encounter (floor and adjusting models to accommodate devia-
and Internet) were constructed from first tions from predictions then reframing
order coded data (pp. 40–8). The tenor of problems.
the encounters was confirmed by the talk The researchers conducted 85 interviews
and other behaviours constituting the actual with scientists, technologists and managers
‘moves’ and ‘awkward moments’ of sales- doing scientific work developing new drugs.
people and customers. Analysis of these The goal was to understand how pharmaceu-
interaction segments provided insights into tical and biotechnology company scientists
the different meanings the encounters had formulated tentative hypotheses or models
for participants in each encounter type. The of the innovation process, evaluated them
detailed and repeated coding (p. 39) ensured and reframed them. The interviews elicited
members’ meanings were captured and pre- accounts of how the scientists and co-workers
served. The concepts used to code data at conceived their work activities and provided
the analytic level were comprehensible in ‘people’s stories of how they do their work
commonsense terms and referred back to of drug discovery’ (p. 138). These accounts
the first order constructs. The two models were used to discover the first order and
show how the varied scripts lead to different intermediary models (p. 137) that develop-
interactions and outcomes. Further, the data ment workers used to build better models of
on moves and awkward moments reveal the new drug development (Dunne & Dougherty,
‘in-order-to’ and ‘because’ motives of sales- 2016). The researchers also describe their
persons and customers. Barley (2015, p. 49) own ‘cycles of abductive reasoning that

we used to figure out the role of abductive product elements that might produce a new
reasoning in complex innovation’ (p. 137). drug. The third category was a dynamic of
Although Dunne & Dougherty’s (2016) for- ‘elaborating’ and ‘narrowing’ of options
mal conception of abduction varies from by focusing on one category of compounds
Schutz’s depiction (Schutz, 1973a & b; rather than looking at diverse structures
Blaikie, 1993), their research approach is (Dunne & Dougherty, 2016, p. 139). The
similar to Schutz’s description of the abduc- researchers used abductive reasoning as a
tive process, where social scientists develop label because it seemed to describe the pro-
second order concepts and theories based on cesses they had observed (p. 142) better than
descriptions of first order everyday knowl- other theories.
edge among lay actors. The final model involved three second
The interview data provided the ‘rationales order social mechanisms that enabled the
and understandings of why things unfold as use of abductive reasoning to create new
they do, rather than “objective” depictions of products: (1) using clues, (2) elaborating and
what they actually do’ (Dunne & Dougherty, narrowing, and (3) iterating across discipli-
2016, p. 139). The approach is suitable for nary boundaries to reframe the configuration
interpretive social science because inter- of interactions (p. 143). For example, the use
views can elicit members’ conceptions and of clues led members to construct first order
‘inside information’ that guides their actions models of hypothetical drug development
and can convey members’ subjective mean- processes that their natural science back-
ings more directly than inferring these from ground suggested might work. Elaborating
observations where the researchers need to and narrowing were driven by clues that
figure out what informants are doing and may made some hypothetical configurations
impose their own interpretations on what is more plausible than others. For example,
observed (McCurdy et al., 2005, p. 11). Also, a biology team leader described a break-
‘the interviews comprise people’s rationales through in developing a drug to treat a seri-
for how they work and reflect their reason- ous side effect of kidney disease. The team
ing processes, which is what we build theory imagined a plausible configuration in which
about’ (Dunne & Dougherty, 2016, p. 139). a smaller molecule could bind with a very
The analysis involved grounded theory large molecule and succeeded in ‘imagining
(Glaser & Strauss, 1967), itself ‘a process of a new kind of drug’ (p. 145). Finally, reiter-
abductive reasoning’ (Dunne & Dougherty, ating and reframing the imagined configura-
2016, p. 137). Grounded theory is not nec- tions occurred when disciplinary boundaries
essarily interpretive, since its concepts do were crossed and information was provided
not need to be derived from lay language from different perspectives: ‘it is a reitera-
(Blaikie, 1993), but it can be used to create tive process where the biologists will not
scientific concepts from members’ concepts only provide the data but can also tell us a
as Dunne & Dougherty (2016) did in build- lot about our molecules that we could not
ing their theory from everyday language use. foresee’ (p. 149).
The researchers sought first order catego- Dunne & Dougherty (2016) display key
ries that captured facts of data on new prod- features of the interpretive social science
uct development. One category was the use framework. They collected data on the work-
of clues to imaginatively conceive of a con- place practices, first order constructs and the-
figuration of interactions ‘between a drug ories of new drug development processes of
possibility, a disease, and the human body’ their informants. They undertook interviews
(p. 142). A second category was the con- and analysed their data with grounded theory
tent of what innovators were looking for – methods to uncover members’ theories of
a plausible pattern of interactions among how to successfully develop new drugs. They
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 49

developed second order concepts to integrate There are several issues that qualitative
and explain the concepts and working theo- interpretive social science needs to address
ries of their informants. Members’ theories to become more influential in organizational
tended to involve imagining hypothetical research. One issue is that the foundations
configurations of drug development-related of interpretive social science are based in
features that provided plausible paths to suc- phenomenological philosophy and sociol-
cess. The second order framework involved ogy, areas that are difficult to comprehend
‘mechanisms’ that propelled abductive rea- for scholars who are not familiar with them.
soning forward and that both members and It is important for organizational scholars
researchers came to see as promising bases to become familiar with the foundations
for successful drug creation. Repeated and of social science research methods and to
extensive comparisons of first order data with be trained to use this knowledge to further
second order emergent concepts were under- develop existing methodological approaches
taken to ensure the second order constructs as an alternative to using an ‘anything goes’
captured and preserved members’ first order approach to developing new methods for
concepts and meanings and were logically qualitative research. Also, the methodology
consistent in relation to one another. of ideal types has a problematic label, since
The researchers substantiated their analy- these models are not ‘ideal’ as in perfect, but
ses through presentation of extensive data are ideal by being abstract, parsimonious
that reveal the patterns of meaning and action schemata that capture key features of actor
in their second order concepts that were con- and action types. Thus, a better understand-
sistent with first order data. The research- ing of the methodology of ideal types would
ers also extended their framework beyond be helpful for developing more explicit and
the current data to hypothesize ‘barriers to systematic model building processes that are
abductive reasoning that, if removed, might effective for descriptive and theorizing pur-
enhance implementation’ (p. 153). They poses. A further opportunity is to improve,
described an ideal type drug creation process clarify and refine features of the interpretive
and conceived of hypothetical configurations social science process and to better under-
that differed from those observed in the study stand and explain how one moves from com-
to suggest alternative variations that might monsense reasoning to scientific theory and
influence the outcomes of the innovation then back again.
process. They also discussed how their emer- Also, it is important to adapt research
gent framework differed from many frame- methods to problems at hand rather than using
works previously developed in the innovation rigid templates (Langley & Abdullah, 2011)
literature. and to be transparent in describing what was
really done, rather than offering stylized
depictions of methods that omit information
about actual research practices. As Malterud
CONCLUSION: THE FUTURE OF (2001, p. 486) notes in the context of inter-
INTERPRETIVE SOCIAL SCIENCE pretive medical science, ‘A thorough, well-
prepared and well-documented analysis is
This chapter describes the interpretive social what distinguishes [the] scientific approach
science method that originated in early soci- from superficial conjecture’. Silverman
ology and that has been refined in recent (2006, p. 276) and Malterud (2001, p. 485)
years. Features of the method have been used offer criteria for assessing scientific aspects
in a wide range of important organizational of interpretive research and constructing
research, although its use has often been transparent accounts of qualitative research
more implicit than explicit. methods that can help interpretive social

science scholars articulate the details of their of members and second order constructs for
methods. These methods are the foundations theory building. Further, the Gioia method
of social science practices and knowledge. uses ‘box and arrow’ representations of
Finally, it is important to note that the theory (p. 22) and prefers to avoid formal
interpretive social science conception of propositions and hypotheses. In contrast, the
first and second order concepts differs from interpretive science approach uses ideal type
other conceptions of these terms. The ‘Gioia models presented in narratives and tables,
method’ (Gioia et al., 2012) exemplifies this as well as formal propositions, to portray
difference. The ‘Gioia method’ focuses on theory. Finally, the Gioia method focuses
concept development, not construct develop- on the convincingness of research to readers
ment (p. 16). The proponents see concepts as a foundation for rigor in contrast to the
as precursors to constructs and ‘believe that interpretive social science focus on the logic
focusing too much on refining our exist- and integrity of research methods. These are
ing constructs amounts to sharpening the not all the differences, but this discussion
wrong tools’ (p. 16). The Gioia method cre- should encourage readers to examine how
ates distance between first order concepts terms such as first and second order con-
and second order themes and separates the cepts are used in different methods.
commonsense view from the scientific view To conclude, the debate concerning the
by labelling one view ‘informant centric’ appropriate methods for a social science of
and the other ‘researcher centric’ (p. 18). organizations has led many scholars to remain
Themes trace a unidirectional path from data relatively silent about the prospects of devel-
(first order) to theory (second order) (Goia, oping an interpretive social science, although
et  al., 2012). This contrasts with interpre- many scholars have quietly used features of
tive social science, which develops second the interpretive social science method to do
order constructs from members’ first order innovative research. Many organizational
concepts and ensures that second order con- scholars view quantitative and qualitative
cepts preserve members’ meanings and are positivism as better choices to ensure publi-
understandable to them. The Gioia method cations in major journals and hence positivist
also focuses on description, explanation and perspectives remain dominant approaches to
prescription (p. 16), whereas the interpretive research. This belief leads to the privileging
social science method includes description, of positivist logics, quantitative data and nat-
understanding, prediction and verification, ural science-like methods over interpretive
and de-emphasizes prescription. logics, qualitative data and phenomenology-
Further, the Gioia method uses traditional informed social science methods.
grounded theory coding, hence coding cat- To offer a counterpoint to current beliefs,
egories are not necessarily developed from this chapter endorses Schutz’s view of the
members’ terms and meanings (p. 20). And primacy of interpretive methods over posi-
the Gioia method is portrayed as an induc- tivist methods and views qualitative data
tive approach to concept development, in and analyses as foundational for – not sub-
contrast to interpretive social science which servient to – quantitative data and analyses
uses formal logic, induction, deduction, (Gephart, 1988). Put simply, one cannot
retroduction and abduction to develop con- measure something without first knowing
cepts and constructs. Another difference is about the qualities of the measured entity,
the emphasis the Gioia method places on hence quantitative research cannot be under-
‘data structure’ as the basis for theory build- taken without prior qualitative knowledge
ing versus the interpretive social science of phenomena. More broadly, Schutz notes
emphasis on using the subjective meanings that the methodological problem of how
Qualitative Research as Interpretive Social Science 51

knowledge is possible through natural sci- ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

ence is a special case of the broader quali-
tative question of how scientific knowledge Special thanks to Anne Smith for very help-
itself is possible. He argues that phenom- ful comments and feedback that greatly
enology has prepared the grounds for an improved the manuscript. Thanks also to
essentially qualitative investigation of the Gina Grandy for her patience, helpful com-
principles that govern all human knowledge, ments and encouragement.
including quantitative, positivistic knowl-
edge. Further, he asserts that the qualita-
tive, methodological devices of interpretive
social sciences – the abductive method and REFERENCES
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Pragmatism: A Philosophy of
Barbara Simpson

The word ‘pragmatism’ is commonly used Henceforth, I will signify this specifically
in the English language to denote the prac- philosophical meaning with an initial capi-
ticalities of just getting on and doing what tal letter, Pragmatism. As philosophies go
the situation demands. It seems to invite easy though, it is unusual because it rejects for-
compromise, short-term expediency and tak- malisms and abstractions in favour of a genu-
ing the path of least resistance without the ine concern for how our worlds continuously
encumbrance of theoretical principles or val- unfold through our collective efforts to cope
ues. In the context of research, it has often with the day-to-day exigencies of modern
been used to imply an anodyne alternative life. Pragmatism thus has considerable poten-
that might be adopted when there appears tial to inform those aspects of business and
to be no clear paradigmatic preference to management research that are concerned with
guide the process of inquiry; in effect, it is the dynamics of human and social practice.
presented as philosophically neutral, a ‘non- The beginnings of Pragmatism can be
philosophy’ that skims over the surface rather traced to intellectual movements that were
than trying to resolve ambiguities in any of emerging globally in the mid-nineteenth cen-
the assumptions underpinning different tury (Bernstein, 1972). These were exciting
research questions and approaches. This is a times when new developments in science,
vulgar conception of pragmatism that offers such as Darwin’s (1859) theory of evolu-
little reason for confidence in any knowl- tion and Maxwell’s (1865) theory of elec-
edge claims that it may produce. By com- trodynamics, were firing the imaginations
parison, Classical Pragmatism, which is the of scholars across all disciplines, opening
subject of this chapter, is a thoroughly elabo- up new ways of thinking about the ‘bloom-
rated philosophy that accounts for the social ing, buzzing confusion’ (James, 1890 [1952],
experience of living and working together. p. 318) of our world. It was a time of great
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 55

flourishing, not only in philosophy and sci- same coin. They developed a future-oriented
ence, but also in the arts and literature. instrumentalism that starts from doubt, and
Pragmatism arose in the specific context of proceeds through an experimental attitude of
the post-Civil War United States of America. inquiry to construct emergent futures. At the
It proposed radically different ways of think- same time, they were reformist intellectuals
ing about the future, the lives that citizens committed to the improvement of society.
would live, how they should be educated, Both Dewey and Mead worked with Jane
how they could give voice to their views Addams, another recognised Pragmatist from
and how they might engage in political pro- this period, on the Hull House project. This
cesses. Democracy, education, liberty and exemplary model of the settlement-house
justice were the central planks of the original movement was directed towards improving
Pragmatist movement, and arguably they still the lives of workers in the rapidly industrial-
remain at the heart of contemporary culture ising city of Chicago by promoting activism
in the USA (Menand, 2001). However, it is at the local level. To support this agenda, they
also fair to say that the reach of Pragmatism developed a method of participatory democ-
now extends far beyond its geographic ori- racy, which they described as a community of
gins, as a living philosophy that addresses inquiry (Shields, 2003).
human practice in any situation, regardless of Commentaries on Pragmatism often map
its cultural or historical context. out a ‘rise, fall, and rise again’ pattern that
As with any movement of thought, the pre- saw these ideas relegated to dusty book-
cise origins of Pragmatism are buried in the shelves by the mid-twentieth century, but then
myriad conversations amongst intellectuals re-emerging in the neo-pragmatism of Richard
of the day. However, four key contributors Rorty (1980) and his student, Robert Brandom
are generally recognised: Charles Sanders (1994). Whilst this narrative undoubtedly
Peirce, William James, John Dewey and reflects the rise of analytic philosophy and
George Herbert Mead. They most certainly the subsequent linguistic turn in social the-
knew each other and discussed each other’s ory, it neglects developments in Pragmatist
work, but it was never their intention to form thinking that were ongoing throughout the
a ‘school of thought’ called Pragmatism. twentieth century, as evidenced in works as
The differences between them were con- diverse as those by Blumer, Cooley, Follett,
siderable, leading to a certain amount of Lewis, Miller, Rescher, Schiller, Sellars and
ridicule amongst the philosophers of their Thayer, to name just a few. Today, Classical
day. For instance, Lovejoy (1908) claimed Pragmatism, which is distinguished from
to have identified 13 distinct interpreta- Rorty’s linguistic neo-pragmatism by its
tions of Pragmatism from his own limited attention to the situated doings, rather than
reading of Peirce, James and Dewey, while just the sayings, of practice, continues to
Chesterton (1908, p. 62) complained that if develop as a living philosophy (see for
pragmatism ‘is a matter of human needs … instance Aboulafia, 2001; Bernstein, 2010;
[then] one of the first of human needs is to Joas, 1993; Rosenthal, Hausman et al., 1999;
be something more than a [P]ragmatist’. On Talisse & Aikin, 2008) that is continuously
closer examination though, there are numer- on the move. It is futile, therefore, to try to
ous threads that tie these Pragmatist philoso- pin down a definitive definition of exactly
phers together as a coherent group (see the what Pragmatism is; it is perhaps better
list of classic Pragmatist readings provided understood as a celebration of pluralism that
at the end of this chapter). They were all offers a multiplicity of enticing options for
concerned with the effectiveness of think- researchers who are seeking more dynamic
ing/doing, where in their view, thinking and and more processual ways of engaging with
doing are as inseparable as two sides of the their research contexts and questions.

Doing full justice to all this rich diver- the rationalist tendency to partition experi-
sity is an impossibility, especially within the ence into discrete and unconnected things,
constraints of a book chapter such as this, which produces a static snapshot of the
so in what follows I will attend specifically world in an instant of time. For James, a
to those elements of Pragmatism that I have radical empiricist attitude
found most useful in my own research in the
business and management domain. This is must neither admit into its constructions any ele-
very much a personal perspective that is in ment that is not directly experienced, nor exclude
from them any element that is directly experienced.
no way intended to preclude alternative takes
For such a philosophy, the relations that connect
on what Pragmatism has to offer; indeed, I experiences must themselves be experienced rela-
would encourage others to mine their own tions, and any kind of relation experienced must be
interpretations from this philosophically rich accounted as ‘real’ as anything else in the system.
vein. I begin in the next section with an anal- (1912 [2006], p. 20, italics in original)
ysis of where Pragmatism ‘fits’ in relation to
other philosophical positions that commonly This emphasis on continuity and process is a
appear in the social sciences. I then go on to unifying theme in Pragmatist thinking, albeit
tease out a set of six inter-related theoreti- that individual writers express and explore it
cal concepts that have potential to directly in their own unique ways. Pragmatism may
inform the study of organisational and man- thus be subsumed under the umbrella of pro-
agement practice as thinking/doing. The cess philosophy, which is an area of grow-
chapter concludes with a brief survey of how ing scholarly interest in organisation studies
Pragmatism has already been used in some of (Helin et al., 2014).
the disciplines of business research. An immediate corollary to this naturalis-
tic view of a world-in-process is the rejec-
tion of foundationalist assumptions about
knowledge as ultimately founded on justified
THE PHILOSOPHICAL DIMENSIONS beliefs and immutable laws of nature. For
OF PRAGMATISM researchers working from a reductive per-
spective, these laws are understood as essen-
The underpinning assumptions that charac- tial building blocks that permit truths to be
terise Pragmatism may be summed up as a revealed about the complexities of nature.
radical commitment to a non-reductive nat- However, if nature is perpetually evolving,
uralism, which is anti-foundationalist, anti- not only can there be no enduring laws, enti-
dualistic and emergent. From this ties, nor indeed any other pre-determined
perspective, we are always already active in stabilities, but also there can be no begin-
the natural world, so the meanings that we ning nor end point to the process. Nature
attach to life are never independent of our is then understood in terms of the dynamic
own actions and collective histories, and inter-plays between its co-evolving aspects,
neither can they be reduced to entities that where both the whole and the parts are in
have any independent ontological reality. continuous, co-constructive engagement. The
William James (1912 [2006]) argued that particular insight that the Pragmatists bring
empirical engagement with a world that is in to this evolutionary dynamic is to under-
continuous motion entails direct experience stand the continuity of nature not only as a
gained through immersion in the situation mere product of history, but also as a func-
of concern, unmediated by theoretical con- tion of what we anticipate may happen next.
structs or abstractions. It is continuity in the In other words, we make bets on how the
flow of experience that, in his view, defines world will be tomorrow, and it is these bets
the reality of nature. He contrasted this with that shape our actions today (Menand, 2001).
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 57

This idea was first articulated by Peirce in entities, which at best offer a greatly simpli-
what has come to be accepted as the original fied representation of the objects and ideas,
Pragmatist maxim: the ‘things’, that constitute meaning. The
anti-dualistic stance in Pragmatism is a criti-
Consider what effects, which might conceivably cal response to this ‘thingification’ of lived
have practical bearings, we conceive the object of
experience in a world-in-process. Dewey, in
our conception to have. Then, our conception of
these effects is the whole of our conception of the particular, took up this cause, reworking and
object. (1878, p. 293) refining his arguments throughout his long
working career. For instance, in his early cri-
In an ever-changing, probabilistic world tique of the reflex arc, Dewey (1896) chal-
then, far from being the immutable facts pro- lenged the familiar stimulus and response
posed by Descartes, the beliefs that guide our dualism in psychology. Using as an exam-
actions are our best guesses, or bets, about ple a child reaching out to a burning flame,
how things will turn out if we act this way Dewey protested that an analysis which starts
or that. Whereas rationalists assume a strong with the sensation of light as a stimulus,
teleological view in which outcomes are which then elicits the response of grasping
largely pre-determined, Pragmatists adopt the flame, which in turn results in a burn-
a more fallible, short-term, non-intentional ing sensation that stimulates the response of
teleology that blends outcomes and actions withdrawing the hand, and so on, provides
as co-evolving aspects of a world-in-process nothing more than ‘a patchwork of disjointed
(Simpson, 2009). By rejecting the philo- parts, a mechanical conjunction of unallied
sophical claim that knowledge must have processes’ (1896, p. 358). In his view, the
foundations, Pragmatism challenges the epis- stimulus/response dualism slices across the
temic principles that are commonly used to dynamic unfolding of the situation, reduc-
describe how knowledge may be objectively ing it to a contrived series of discrete and
grasped and represented (Talisse & Aikin, static instants in time. He offered an alter-
2008). It offers instead a view of know- native perspective in which the movements
ing as a social and situated accomplishment of sensory-motor coordinations are taken
that both shapes, and is shaped by, the lived to be ontologically prior to both stimulus
experience of knowers; in other words, epis- and response, so it is these movements that
temology and ontology cease to be distinct reveal the empirical qualities of experience.
philosophical categories. In order to capture unfractured continuity
Dualisms distinguish between two epis- then, rather than defining ‘things’ in dualistic
temological categories of nature that are terms, Dewey conceived them as unfolding
seen as mutually excluding opposites. For and interweaving histories, or trajectories,
instance, Descartes’ distinction between that are made manifest within the possibili-
mind and body and Aristotle’s separation of ties afforded by any given situation (Dewey
practical action (praxis) from scientific rea- & Bentley, 1949[1960]). ‘Things’ may then
soning (theoria) are examples of dualisms be re-conceptualised as performative adjust-
that have profoundly influenced Western phi- ments within the ongoing flow of practice.
losophy. Also in the social sciences, dualisms Pragmatism’s commitment to continu-
such as micro and macro, individual and col- ity calls for ways of theorising practice as a
lective, change and stability, art and science, never-ending process of transformation that
are all well established. The making of such weaves stability and change together into
distinctions is, of course, an essential func- some sort of unified but ephemeral fabric.
tion of language, but when a linguistic clari- Stability and change are not conceived here
fication becomes fixed as a habit of thinking, as alternative or competing ‘pictures’ of the
the world is reduced to a set of bounded world, but rather as complementary tools that

work together to facilitate action. It is in their although no description of the world can be
interplay that novelty emerges and situations inherent in nature, it can still matter to the
are transformed, and without emergence there extent that it serves human interests and
can be no possibility of emancipation or social purposes. It is inevitable that what serves
improvement. This notion of emergence as as real will emerge over time and as situa-
fundamental to the Pragmatist project is most tions vary, which in turn challenges conven-
clearly evidenced in Mead’s thinking about tional notions of causality. Putnam coined
the function of creativity in evolutionary pro- the term ‘pragmatic realism’ to capture the
cesses (see Joas, 1996). Mead set out firstly to non-reductive pluralism of this mild form of
counter classical foundationalist assumptions realism, and its capacity to accommodate the
that for emergents to appear in an evolution- continuity of emergence. He was at pains to
ary process, they must have been immanent emphasise, though, that pragmatic realism
from the outset, and secondly to challenge does have explanatory significance in the
vitalist assumptions that emergence implies day-to-day unfolding of practice, so it must
mysterious forces at play. For him, creativity not be dismissed as unfettered relativism.
emerges in the social dynamics of practice. It To appreciate the philosophical differences
is when we figuratively stand in the shoes of implied by a Pragmatist approach to research,
someone else, ‘taking the role of the other’ it is helpful to compare it to other approaches
(Mead, 1934, p. 254), that we reflexively commonly used in the business and man-
realise alternatives for further cooperative agement domain. Burrell & Morgan (1979)
action; and equally it is when different past mapped out what they saw as the range of pos-
and future trajectories interact in the present sible paradigms available to organisational
that new directions emerge as turning points, analysts. They used a 2x2 matrix that differ-
or qualitative changes in the flow of action entiates between Functionalist, Interpretive,
(Simpson, 2014). Practice is thus conceived Radical Humanist and Radical Structuralist
as a social and improvisational process that is paradigms, each of which is defined in terms
accomplished within the spatial and temporal of its own unique combination of ontology,
dimensions of living contexts. Mead’s unique epistemology, assumptions about human
contribution to the Pragmatist understand- nature and methodologies. In the interven-
ing of emergence lies in his radical depar- ing years, this matrix has been widely used
ture from classical ideas of time in order to by researchers as a philosophical positioning
develop a social temporality in which trajec- tool, but it is also increasingly criticised as
tories of movement are works in progress, an over-wrought and incomplete image of the
continuously re-constructed in the activities world – one that privileges modernist assump-
of social engagement (Garud et al., 2015). tions about the nature of reality at the expense
The picture I have painted here of the of more postmodern sensibilities in research.
philosophical underpinnings of Pragmatism, Although Burrell and Morgan did locate a
although resonating comfortably with the number of different theoretical approaches
lived experience of practice, is neverthe- on their paradigm map (see 1979, pp. 29–30),
less quite distinct from more familiar ‘para- they did not include Pragmatism in their
digms’ of research. What then is ‘real’ from original analysis. Given, however, that their
a Pragmatist perspective, and how can we framework is based on two dualistic distinc-
know this reality? Putnam (1990) argued that tions (between Objective and Subjective, and
Pragmatism’s ontological commitment is between Regulation and Radical change) and
constructed within conceptual frameworks, a representational rather than a performative
the continuing relevance of which is depend- logic of inquiry, it is difficult to see any pos-
ent upon their pragmatic value in guiding our sibility of a fit for Pragmatism, with its anti-
best bets on what will happen next. Thus, foundationalist and anti-dualistic orientation.
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 59

This lack of fit invites researchers to liberate that complements and extends deduction and
themselves from the constraints of Burrell induction. It is, he argued, the process of
and Morgan’s framework in order to appreci- forming an hypothesis to explain a given sit-
ate other philosophical perspectives that may uation; abduction is a creative leap, ‘an act of
be more sensitive to the postmodern prob- insight’ that ‘comes to us like a flash’ (1965:
lematics of continuity and flow (Chia, 1995). Volume 5, para. 181). It is the only conceiv-
able source of novelty in thinking/doing as it
suggests the possibility ‘that something may
SOME KEY CONCEPTS IN be’, while ‘Deduction proves that something
PRAGMATISM must be [and] Induction shows that some-
thing actually is operative’ (1965: Volume 5,
para. 171, italics in original). Peirce illus-
In the preceding section, I have laid out the
trated the syllogistic differences between
distinctive philosophical features of the
these three logics using the example of a bag
Classical Pragmatist project. I now turn to
of beans (1965: Volume 2, para. 623):
examine six theoretical concepts in
Here, the logic of deduction proceeds
Pragmatism that I have found useful in the
empirical study of practice in business and from a general rule (all the beans in this
management – abduction, inquiry, habit, bag are white) to the prediction of a particu-
social selves, gestural conversation and lar outcome (these beans are white), while
trans-action. The presentation of each of inductive logic works in the opposite direc-
these as a discrete concept must, however, be tion, drawing a general rule from particular
understood as a purely heuristic device; in observations. By contrast, abductive logic
practice, they are better understood as inter- lacks the certainty of deduction or induc-
weaving and co-constructing dynamics. tion; rather, it brings new insight by sug-
gesting a possible explanation for observed
events (these beans are [may be] from this
bag). Whilst deduction and induction are
adequate inferential tools for a world that
Much of Peirce’s writing on Pragmatism was already exists, the emergence of a world-
concerned with eliminating ideas that are in-process cannot be accounted for without
doubtful or unclear, and clarifying ideas that the logic of abduction. Returning to Peirce’s
may be difficult to apprehend (Peirce, 1965: original Pragmatist maxim, the practical
Volume 5, para. 206). As part of this process, effects that any object may have are antici-
he proposed abduction (sometimes also pated abductively as hunches, or bets that we
known as retroduction) as an inferential logic place on the future. ‘[I]f we are ever to learn

Table 4.1  Three logics of inference

Deduction Rule All the beans from this bag are white
Case These beans are from this bag
∴Result These beans are white
Induction Case These beans are from this bag
Result These beans are white
∴Rule All the beans from this bag are white
Abduction Rule All the beans from this bag are white
Result These beans are white
∴Case These beans are from this bag

anything or to understand phenomena at all, this doubt is resolved. It is a learning process

it must be by abduction … every single item in which meanings are reconstructed in the
of scientific theory which stands established continuously evolving relationship between
today has been due to Abduction’ (Peirce, practice and context. Doubt signals some sort
1965: Volume 5, paras 171–2). of deficiency in the continuity of practice/
Peirce likened abduction to detective work, context, which in turn invites the generative
which depends not only on observing the fine action of inquiry. Whereas Peirce saw it pri-
details of the situation, but also on formulat- marily as a logical process for clarifying
ing plausible explanations for these details. ideas, Dewey took the concept of inquiry
much further, developing it as an existential,
I perform an abduction when I so much as express rather than merely cognitive, process that
in a sentence anything I see. The truth is that the transforms what he called ‘the situation’,
whole fabric of our knowledge is one matted felt which is the whole set of conditions out of
of pure hypothesis confirmed and refined by induc-
tion. Not the smallest advance can be made in which actions emerge, into something new.
knowledge beyond the stage of vacant staring, ‘Inquiry is the controlled or directed transfor-
without making an abduction at every step. (Peirce, mation of an indeterminate situation into one
quoted by Sebeok & Umiker-Sebeok, 1988, p. 16) that is so determinate in its constituent distinc-
tions and relations as to convert the elements
The skill of the detective, as exemplified for of the original situation into a unified whole’
instance by Sherlock Holmes, is to gather (Dewey, 1938 [1986], p. 108). He maintained
many small observations and to abductively that inquiry is pervasive in all human experi-
infer their possible consequences within this ence. ‘In everyday living, men examine; they
ever-changing fabric of knowledge. By testing turn things over intellectually; they infer and
each of the logical components of an hypoth- judge as “naturally” as they reap and sow,
esis one at a time, the detective meticulously produce and exchange commodities’ (1938
reduces the uncertainty of the situation. It is [1986], p. 106). The difference between
precisely this reduction of doubt that Peirce common-sense inquiry and scientific inquiry
saw as necessary if we are to ‘make our ideas is, in Dewey’s view, simply a matter of their
clear’ (1878). Within the domain of business respective subject matters; both, he argued,
and management research, the importance share the same basic structure of inquiry. It is
of abductive logic has been recognised in valuable then, for us as researchers to delve
generating new theory (Locke et  al., 2008) deeper into what this structure is.
and indeed, as a critical element in all scien- Inquiry begins with doubt, which is experi-
tific reasoning (Mantere & Ketokivi, 2013). enced as an existential unease, or a felt sense,
Whilst it is not a research methodology in its that arises when our bets on what will happen
own right, abductive logic is always required next prove to be inadequate. The first phase
when researchers seek explanations for the of inquiry involves finding an explanation
unexpected and surprising events in their for this sense of unease by structuring it as a
experience (Agar, 2010). To the extent that problem of some sort. In this sense, inquiry
practice is understood as emergent then, the precedes more familiar ‘problem-solving’
inherently creative concept of abduction is processes or techniques, for which the prob-
what links practice to theory (Joas, 1996). lem is given at the outset. Using abductive
logic, explanatory hypotheses are inferred;
their veracity is then tested using deductive
logic; and, finally, inductive logic confirms
that the hypothesised relations are indeed at
For Peirce, ‘inquiry’ is a process that is initi- work. Thus, from beginning to end, inquiry
ated when there is doubt, and completed when is grounded in the temporal unfolding of
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 61

practice. All three of the inferential logics, fixed features of an individual’s conduct.
abduction, deduction and induction, are here Defined in this way, it is difficult to integrate
involved in a continuous interplay that pro- the notion of habit into the dynamic
duces what Dewey called ‘warranted asser- continuity of inquiry as an emergent process.
tions’, a term that acknowledges the tentative The Pragmatists, and once again particularly
nature of all knowledge as it is continually Dewey, set about re-defining habit as alto-
challenged in emerging situations. This gether more fluid, more lively and more
understanding of the provisional nature of social than the commonly held understand-
knowledge is a clear rejection of ‘spectator’ ings. For them, habit is not a mechanical
epistemologies that seek certainty by locat- response to a given stimulus, but rather it is
ing the observer in a fixed position outside an acquired and mutable predisposition to act
the flow of action. Rather, the researcher is in certain ways in certain situations; it is ‘an
invited to plunge in as a participant in the attitude of response’ (Mead, 1938, p. 3), not a
emerging inquiry. In contrast to much of rigid prescription for action. As such, habits
the contemporary advice on research meth- are only ever loosely teleological, never fully
ods, which advocates either an exclusively determining how practice will unfold. In
deductive, or inductive, or sometimes even addition, they are themselves continuously
a purely abductive approach, inquiry offers modified as they are re-assessed in the
a more comprehensive understanding of moment-by-moment situational contexts of
human experience and practice in which all inquiry.
three logics of reasoning are engaged. It is Although this is a very different interpreta-
the interplay between these logics that gives tion of ‘habit’, Dewey preferred to continue
inquiry the dynamic potential that has been using this term, arguing that
recognised and valued by business and man-
we need a word that expresses that kind of human
agement scholars working in organisational activity which is influenced by prior activity and in
learning (Elkjaer, 2004), experiential learn- that sense acquired; which contains within itself a
ing (Miettinen, 2000), and routines theory certain ordering or systematization of minor
(Cohen, 2007; Winter, 2013). ­elements of action; which is projective, dynamic in
quality, ready for overt manifestation; and which is
operative in some subdued subordinate form even
when not obviously dominating activity.
Habit (1922/1957, p. 31).

Every inquiry involves habits of action that A crucial feature of the Pragmatist view is
function as both a resource and an outcome of that habit is an inherently social concept.
the process. It is habits that allow us to antici- Habits are not immaculately conceived; they
pate what will happen next, and they guide us are acquired as we engage with other actors
in taking actions appropriate to the current in a variety of situations that influence both
situation. The ‘what next of chief importance our own and others’ choices about what to do
is the one nearest the present state of the one next. Dewey argued that the customs and insti-
acting. … Now the thing which is closest to tutions of society exist not as agglomerations
us, the means within our power, is a habit’ of ‘individuals’ habits’; they arise because
(Dewey, 1922/1957, pp. 36–7). In theoretical our predispositions to act are both formed
terms, habits are commonly thought of as and exercised in situations that are always
automatic reflexes that require no conscious already social. This active quality of habit
thought; they are seen as mechanical, recur- provides a basis for moral society, where the
rent and predictable patterns of behaviour values embedded in habits are always open
that are idiosyncratically individualistic; and to reflexive revision and cultivation. From
once established, they remain as permanently a Pragmatist perspective, the values we live

by are warranted not by pure reason, nor by ‘I’ and the ‘me’ as dualistic opposites on a
external fiat, and neither are they intrinsic to common dimension of ‘selfness’; rather they
nature, but rather they arise in human conduct should be understood as a duality; that is,
and the choices we make about what to do two completely different ways of experienc-
next. For Dewey then, if society is to thrive, ing the self. This distinction between dual-
it needs an education system that develops an ism and duality is crucial to the Pragmatist
experimental habit of mind to foster the criti- project; whereas dualisms are epistemologi-
cal intelligence required to respond in ever- cal phenomena that arrest the continuity of
changing circumstances. process, a duality identifies two ontologically
different orientations that are incommensura-
ble (Dewey, 1917). For instance, a common
Social Selves duality in the business and management lit-
erature is the distinction between ostensive
It should, by now, be apparent that the and performative (or structure and agency)
Pragmatists were not seeking to theorise at perspectives, where the ostensive view seeks
either individual or collective levels of analy- to represent reality, while the performative
sis. Indeed, they rejected this dualistic form view enacts reality in practice (Latour, 1986).
of thinking in favour of a more holistic and This same distinction is evident in Mead’s
dynamic approach that sees individual selves presentation of the ‘I’ and the ‘me’ as differ-
and their social situations as inseparable in ent aspects of the self (1934, pp. 173–8). He
the continuity of just getting on with living. described the ‘me’ as the embodied habits of
In his social psychological theorising, Mead conduct that have been accumulated through
(1934) developed this idea of selves as ine- social engagement, where habit is understood
luctably social by considering the self not as in the predispositional Pragmatist sense as
a discrete identity nor even a suite of inter- mutable and acquired through experience.
changeable identities, but as a social process This is the objective, ostensive aspect of self,
in which the conscious mind progressively which is accessible as an object of deliber-
unfolds and becomes manifest. ate, reflexive examination. The ‘I’, on the
other hand, is the spontaneous, performative
It is absurd to look at the mind simply from the
standpoint of the individual human organism; for, response of the self to the present moment.
although it has its focus there, it is essentially a It is an anticipatory gesture that may either
social phenomenon; even its biological functions reinforce the habits of the ‘me’, or intro-
are primarily social. … We must regard mind, then, duce novel alternatives. Whatever the conse-
as arising and developing within the social process,
within the empirical matrix of social interactions.
quences generated by the ‘I’, these ultimately
(1934, p. 133). may become embedded in the habits of the
‘me’. In the process of inquiry both the ‘I’
He argued that it is only through the social and the ‘me’ are involved, with the ‘I’ intro-
dimensions of living that we can become ducing the abductive logic of what might be,
conscious of the self, because it is only by and the ‘me’ reflecting the inductive logic of
participating in social situations that we are what is. ‘The self is essentially a social pro-
able to stand back and see the self through the cess going on with these two distinguishable
eyes of others as an object located within the phases. If it did not have these two phases
social process. there could not be conscious responsibility,
Mead further elaborated this notion of ‘the and there would be nothing novel in experi-
self as social process’ by invoking two differ- ence’ (Mead, 1934, p. 178). It is in the inter-
ent aspects of the self, which he called the ‘I’ play between the ‘I’ and ‘me’, then, that both
and the ‘me’. Here he does not construct the selves and situations emerge.
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 63

Gestural Conversation toward themselves is the existence of a uni-

verse of discourse, as that system of common
The vehicle for this interplay, Mead argued, or social meanings which thinking presup-
is ordinary everyday conversation, in which poses at its context, rendered possible’ (1934,
signs and symbols including spoken and p. 156). It is clear, then, that for Mead the ges-
written language are used as communicative tural conversation must not be reduced to a
gestures in the ongoing construction of social purely inter-subjective, micro-phenomenon;
meaning. Every such gesture anticipates a rather, it is the motive force in the processes
response by in some way participating in the of building communities, institutions and
other, by taking the other’s role or by stand- societies.
ing in the other’s shoes; the response that is Taking the role of another, whether this be
then called out is itself another anticipatory a specific other or a generalised other, admits
gesture. It is in the to-and-fro of gesture and the possibility of at least temporarily stand-
response that we not only come to a clearer ing in different shoes and experiencing the
idea of the world-in-process, but we also current situation differently. It is in perceiv-
develop the capacity for collaborative action. ing differences between self and other that
[T]aking the rôle of the other, an expression I have
doubt arises, and this in turn may trigger a
so often used, is not simply of passing importance. process of inquiry. For Mead, the experience
It is not something that just happens as an of simultaneously occupying two different
incidental result of the gesture, but it is important roles, or frames of reference, is a necessary
in the development of co-operative activity. The requirement for any event to be consid-
immediate effect of such rôle-taking lies in the
control which the individual is able to exercise
ered social. He coined the term ‘sociality’
over his own response. (Mead, 1934, p. 254; see to describe ‘the capacity for being several
also Mead, 1925) things at once’ (1932, p. 75). This capacity
appears not only as an ability to simultane-
The consequences of this control thus rip- ously occupy different standpoints, but also
ple out across social situations, whilst at the it has a temporal dimension, which Mead
same time diffracting the rippling effects of described as being ‘betwixt and between the
other conversations. In Mead’s view, com- old system and the new’ (1932, p. 73). Thus,
munity can take on ‘an institutional form’ doubt may also be triggered when we are con-
(1934, p. 167) by means of ‘the generalized fronted with changing situations where the
other’ (1934, p. 154), which is the attitude of old and the new are not in sync. By weaving
a whole social group. This is what allows an temporality into the conversational dynamics
individual to participate in the attitudes held of sociality, Mead has constructed a compre-
in common in a community or organisation. hensive theory of practice that focusses on
For instance, Mead gives the example of play- relational movements across time and space.
ers in a baseball game, for whom it is not suf-
ficient to anticipate the moves of individual
players; they must also be able to assume the
attitudes of the whole team in order to impro-
vise together in a coordinated way as the In this final phase of my selective review of
play proceeds. Without the generalised other, the complex jigsaw of Pragmatist thinking, I
there is also no possibility for internalised turn to the 1949 book that John Dewey co-
conversations of gestures to occur, and thus authored with Arthur Bentley, late in the
no opportunity for abstract thinking. ‘And careers of both of them. They were interested
only through the taking by individuals of the in exploring differences between the various
attitude or attitudes of the generalized other ways in which action may be theorised. In

particular, they recognised trans-actions as For example, although Pragmatism has

philosophically distinct from inter-actions often been criticised for its neglect of issues
(see also Emirbayer, 1997; Simpson, 2016). of power and authority, a central concern of
For them, ‘inter-action’ refers to a dyadic business and management scholars, the inter-
mode of engagement that is characteristic of action/trans-action distinction, does invite
the modern, rational, Western world. It some new ways of thinking about this peren-
describes movements in terms of ‘particles or nial problem. The inter-action model repre-
other objects organized as operating upon sents the commonly accepted view that the
one another’ (Dewey & Bentley, 1949[1960], force to act resides within specific individ-
p. 73) in a controlled environment that is ual entities, whether these be billiard balls,
independent of any wider context of space CEOs, political leaders, top-performing com-
and time. This is a mechanistic image of panies or dominant nations. This force to act
action in which outcomes are produced by is expressed as ‘power over’ (Follett, 1996,
forces that act between objects, but which p. 103); that is, more powerful entities exert
also leave the objects themselves unchanged. power over others. Power, then, is an attribute
The game of billiards is the classic image of of individuals that may be acquired and pos-
this form of action, where balls can influence sessed. By contrast, the trans-actional view is
each other’s movements but remain always already saturated in power, which is
unchanged in their own essential nature. By then manifest in the changing movements of
contrast, Dewey and Bentley’s notion of flow as socially coordinated actions emerge.
‘trans-action’ engages with the world-in- Here, power is in the situation rather than in
process by privileging flow ahead of ‘objects’ individuals, and is itself constantly morphing
or ‘things’, which are always necessarily as an expression of coactive ‘power with’
provisional and tentative. They sought a (Follett, 1996, p. 103).
holistic account of lived experience such that
Our task is not to learn where to place power; it is
‘“thing” is in action, and “action” is observ-
how to develop power. … Genuine power can
able as thing’ (1949[1960], p. 123). For only be grown, it will slip from every arbitrary hand
them, trans-action is ‘unfractured observa- that grasps it; for genuine power is not coercive
tion – just as it stands, at this era of the control, but coactive control. Coercive power is the
world’s history, with respect to the observer, curse of the universe; coactive power, the enrich-
ment and advancement of every human soul.
the observing, and the observed’ (1949[1960],
(Follett, 1996, p. 119)
p. 104). Here the actor is continuously emer-
gent within the flow of the integrated whole, The function of management development,
which is itself emerging. Some interpreters then, is less to develop specific attributes in
of Mead’s ‘conversations of gestures’ have specific managers, and more about building the
treated this dynamic in inter-actional terms habit of working together as situations evolve.
(e.g. Blumer, 1969), but his thinking is actu-
ally better accommodated by a trans-actional
understanding of the relational and proces-
sual movements of meaning-making. Trans- PRAGMATISM IN BUSINESS AND
action suggests a post-modern sensibility MANAGEMENT STUDIES
(Chia, 1995) that demands new ways of
thinking and talking about experience and In the preceding section I have mapped out
practice. In Dewey and Bentley’s view, any just a few of the theoretical concepts that are
effort invested in developing these new ways encompassed within the scope of Pragmatist
will be worth it, because it will open up the thinking. This breadth of vision has been
types of questions that are increasingly cen- taken up and continues to be developed in
tral to researchers today. numerous disciplines including philosophy,
Pragmatism: A Philosophy of Practice 65

education, jurisprudence, public administra- and commitment to the emergent ephemer-

tion, social theory and political science, but ality of ‘things’, Pragmatism offers a fresh
surprisingly its impact in business and man- perspective on the dynamics of change and
agement studies remains muted. It does complexity in organisations, which is both
appear occasionally as a source of conceptual richer and more realistic than alternative
inspiration in sub-disciplines such as strategy accounts drawn from rationalist and struc-
(Powell, 2001, 2002), operations research turalist theories. To illustrate this point, they
(Ormerod, 2006), innovation (Nooteboom, demonstrated how Pragmatist concepts may
2012), creativity (Adler & Obstfeld, 2007; be used to address specific challenges in the
Arjaliès et al., 2013 ), new product develop- organisation studies literature such as the
ment (Carlile, 2002), ethics (Martela, 2015; agency/structure problem, and the boundary
Wicks & Freeman, 1998), gender studies problems associated with defining conceptual
(Rumens & Kelemen, 2010), routines categories. However, they also acknowledged
(Cohen, 2007; Dionysiou & Tsoukas, 2013; that Pragmatism has even greater depths that,
Winter, 2013), human resource management as yet, remain unplumbed by those organi-
(Watson, 2010), and also in the philosophical sational scholars questing for more dynami-
underpinnings of sensemaking and organisa- cally informed theoretical ideas.
tional learning (Elkjaer & Simpson, 2011). Whereas theoretical concepts offer ways
At the same time, scholars are increasingly of framing inquiries into the thinking/doing
seeking better ways to engage process- and of situations, Pragmatism goes beyond this
practice-based views in areas such as to seek a synthesis of theory with the radi-
strategy-as-practice (Jarzabkowski & Spee, cal empiricist possibilities of practice. It is
2009), organisational knowing (Nicolini in engaged practice that performative mean-
et  al., 2003), leadership-as-practice (Raelin, ings are brought to life, shaping the ongoing
2016) and entrepreneuring (Steyaert, 2007), continuity of social action. Empirical work in
all of which call for more performative ways this performative tradition requires a close re-
of working that can better engage with the examination of all the usual methodological
flexibility and creativity of living organisa- assumptions that we bring to bear in doing
tional experience (James, 1912 [2006]; qualitative research, and in particular, it urges
Latour, 1986; Lorimer, 2005). Whilst us to go beyond the static classifications and
Pragmatism clearly offers an appropriate and foundational assumptions of representational-
useful way of approaching the dynamics of ism. In my own work, I have approached this
human conduct in social situations, there are problem by exploring the specific concepts
still questions to answer about how to develop that I have developed earlier in this chapter,
more relevant theories of organising, and but as sensitisations that influence my inquir-
how to conduct empirical work that engages er’s gaze rather than as reductive theoretical
more fully with the performative dimensions constructs for elaboration. So for instance,
of social practice. Philippe Lorino and I have investigated the
Recent theoretical developments include performance and implications of routines in
an article by Farjoun et  al. (2015), which the practical context of a manufacturing busi-
outlines an approach to new theory develop- ness that had recently introduced a computer-
ment that focusses specifically on Dewey’s integrated manufacturing system (Simpson &
(1922[1957]) book, ‘Human nature and con- Lorino, 2016). We accounted for an unfold-
duct’. In so doing, the authors have acknowl- ing series of events by tracing the emergence
edged there is a task of translation to be and transformation of habits in a socially and
undertaken in bringing Dewey’s ideas alive in temporally extensive process of inquiry. We
the domain of organisational theorising. Their identified the abductive turning points in this
argument is that through its recursive logic inquiry, probed the conversational dynamics

of thinking/doing and revealed the trans- James, W. (1907[1975]). Pragmatism’s concep-

actional engagements amongst the various tion of truth. In Pragmatism: A new name
actors, both human and material. Taking this for some old ways of thinking, Chapter 6.
approach allowed us to expand our thinking Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press,
beyond the well-known surface features of pp. 95–114.
Dewey, J. (1896[1972]). The reflex arc concept
Pragmatist philosophy to demonstrate how
in psychology. In J. A. Boydston (Ed.), Early
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Critical Management Studies
Wharerata Writing Group1

Li Min is a Chinese national studying in New and, particularly, whom research is in aid of.
Zealand.2 To make ends meet she has held numer- In some instances, critical study also attempts
ous part-time jobs in the hospitality and retail sec-
to change the conditions of organized life
tors where she been sexually harassed, bullied,
unpaid, poorly paid and illegally paid by various that are in question. Marx’s popular apho-
employers. Her experiences have led her to work- rism that the job of ‘philosophers’ – whom
ing voluntarily for the ‘unite’ union and lately she we take to be all those deeply concerned with
has been picketing Burger King Restaurants over the conditions by which we live – is to
their zero hours contracts (Treen, 2015).
change as well as understand the world,
offers important historical steerage. In the
Li is considering applying for a scholarship to study spirit of Marx’s words, our contribution to
for a PhD in management. She is keen to see her this volume maps the influential qualitative
studies contribute to addressing the problems she research traditions in the critical study of
has encountered in her part-time work experi-
organizations and management and sets out
ences. Her contact at the university’s school of
management has suggested she look for inspira- how these traditions attempt to challenge and
tion for her research project in some of the influen- change the conditions they study. We do this
tial traditions that inform the critical study of from the perspective of a student, Li Min,
management. who, as the brief narrative above notes, is
about to set out on PhD studies.
In what follows, we discuss how Li Min’s
research work would be located in contem-
INTRODUCTION porary forms of five key traditions of criti-
cal study of management. We offer brief
The critical study of management begins methodological and axiological guidance in
with questions about the purpose of inquiry each case. Our format borrows from Marta

Calás and Linda Smircich’s influential free food store in the Manawatu. Significantly
chapter on feminist analysis in The SAGE different to a food bank and normal food
Handbook of Organization Studies (2006) shops or retailers, the free store is a charity
and from Prichard et al.’s presentation of organization that gives away surplus food
the methodological choices available to donated by retailers and cafes to everyone
those undertaking organizational discourse who comes to the shop. The free store
analysis (2009). Where our chapter differs seemed to Li Min a very interesting example
is that as well as discussing the mode of of an alternative form of organizing based
inquiry that Li Min might adopt if she were around food (re)distribution. She wondered
to embrace each of the traditions, we also about the organizational and social dynam-
discuss the mode of influence that that tradi- ics of this example of alternative economic
tion might suggest. organizing as well as its transformative
There are many potential research tra- impact. She decided to volunteer as a worker
jectories in each tradition. Given the space for the free store and the organization
constraints, we have attempted to locate agreed to let her study it as a research topic
Li Min’s work in contemporary examples for her PhD.
of each of our five traditions, which are: Considering the deadlocks and unsustain-
Marxism, postcolonialism, discourse theory, ability of dominant forms of organizing in
psychodynamics and feminism. Each section neoliberal capitalist economies, there is an
begins with a short paragraph that adds a few ongoing but growing interest among critical
extra details surrounding Li Min’s PhD pro- scholars in alternative forms, such as coop-
ject and introduces the broad priorities and eratives, social movement organizations and
commitments of each tradition’s mode of even communes (Parker et al., 2014). Within
inquiry before locating the work alongside this field, Li’s study needed to question the
a key contemporary example. We conclude nature and formation of exchange relations,
the chapter with a discussion of the various and (re)distribution processes, and to under-
subjects positions the critical ‘philosopher’ stand how alternatives can co-exist in a capi-
of management and organizations might talist economy alongside its tensions and
occupy when in search of both illumination contradictions. In what follows, we assume
and the reconstruction of the object of that Li Min took the diverse economies
critical study. framework as the entry point for her PhD and
decided to do a critical ethnography of this
free store. Her purpose was to understand
and contribute to the development of non-
FROM DIVERSE ECONOMIES capitalist economics and we now set out the
TO ALTERNATIVE FORMS OF priorities and commitments she took from

Researcher’s Location Diverse Economies Framework

Li Min’s part-time work exposed her, in Capitalism is an economic system based on
intimate detail, to the insecure working con- private accumulation to capital of the sur-
ditions and exploitative class relations of the pluses realized through commodity-based
food and retail sector. This led Li Min on a production and market exchange. As is rather
search for alternative forms of exchange obvious, capitalism is global and directly
relations, economic processes and organiz- and indirectly shapes much of our lives
ing forms. A friend recommended she visit a and the planet upon which we depend. It

underwrites childhood and child rearing 2016), for example, is mostly concerned
(Langer, 2002), shapes how we experience with the political processes within capitalist
time (Smith, 2015), orchestrates the nature corporations.
of our learning (Olsen, 2006) and organizes Gibson-Graham followed up their decon-
how we come to earn a living (Willis, 1977). structive analysis of the discourse of capi-
It’s easy to think of capitalism as a totally talism with their work A postcapitalist
inclusive economic system; a system where politics (Gibson-Graham, 2006), where they
lives involve a series of movements from one set researchers and activists the challenge
opportunity for capitalist exploitation to of demonstrating how non-capitalist activi-
another. However, the more we assume that ties co-exist alongside capitalist activities in
our economic relations are fully maintained order to (re)think, (re)imagine and (re)create
by capitalist dynamics, the more we are performative alternatives that serve the needs
stuck with the assumption of the unity, sin- of communities.
gularity and totality of capitalist hegemony So, what kind of critique of capitalism is
(Gibson-Graham, 1996). this and what kind of research practice does
One consequence of such an assumption it suggest? The authors argue that a diverse
is that only ‘way out’, if imagined at all, is economies framework is simply a technology
through some dramatic overthrowing of capi- that ‘reconstitutes the ground upon which we
talism, in some hoped-for class war. Most can perform a different economy’ (Gibson-
activists and social scientists regard this as Graham, 2008, p. 619). It is unashamedly
utopian fantasy (Graeber, 2012). Prominent an example of ‘weak theory’ that ‘contains
among the group are the post-structuralist minimal critical content’. But what Gibson-
economic geographer Gibson-Graham. In Graham suggest is a politics of possibility
their 1996 book, The End of Capitalism (as for searching and enacting alternatives rather
we knew it), they argue that the job of the than simply negating and resisting what is
social scientist (PhD students like Li Min, given to us as ‘Capitalism’. For instance, by
for example) is to challenge the discourse of analysing the free labour of academics and
capitalism. Such work involves revealing the subscription fees in the capitalist industry
signifiers (meaning systems that structure our of publishing journal articles, as communi-
assumptions) that the discourse of capitalism ties of scholars we can search or enact non-
needs to function, but which are carefully capitalist alternatives based on open access
forgotten. The discourse of capitalism, for articles, online journals, cooperative models
example, requires, and often forgets, family or open review policies to perform our schol-
labour, public services and the long history arship as examples of non-capitalist labour,
of cooperative organizing, where people’s enterprise, transaction and property.
lives are the purpose of economic relations
rather than simply the source of surplus
for capital. For Gibson-Graham, it is this Transformative Effects
capital-o-centricism that has the effect of
making non-capitalist economic processes The purpose of this critical theoretical
(cooperatives, family work, public goods, framework is quite simply to challenge and
etc.) marginal and peripheral (Gibson- change the hegemonic presumptions about
Graham, 1996, pp. 253–9). the economic system that surrounds us. In
This approach is significantly different Gibson-Graham’s own words, this ‘involves
from other Marxian-inspired theoretical posi- making credible those diverse practices that
tions in the critical study of organizations and satisfy needs, regulate consumption, generate
management. The labour process tradition surplus, and maintain and expand the commons,
(Braverman, 1974; Cushen and Thompson, so that community economies in which

interdependence between people and environ­ LI MIN AND POSTCOLONIAL THEORY

ments is ethically negotiated can be recog­
nized now and constructed in the future’ If the above strand of contemporary Marxism
(Gibson-Graham, 2008, p. 623). sends Li Min on a search for alternatives to
Gibson-Graham’s projects often involve capitalist organizations, then Postcolonial
participatory action research (see Gibson- theory sends Li Min on a search for a new
Graham, 2006, Chapters 6 and 7). In Li Min’s form of global subjectivity. For this tradi-
case, a critical ethnographic approach might tion, capitalism is one part of a world consti-
be used (see Ybema et al., 2009), where the tuted under colonialism, initially at least in
aim is to challenge the taken-for-granted the name of a ‘civilising mission’ through
assumptions shaping social relations, mean- ideological hegemony and violence. Much
ings and identities in the given organizational of this tradition remains. Many argue that
context and, if possible, to transform organi- since the Second World War, with its world
zational and social relations by acknowl- policies of development and modernization,
edging the central role of actors and asking
our subjectivity has been shaped by the dis-
‘what could be rather than what is’ (Jordan &
courses of globalization and the project of
Yeomans, 1995; Nyberg & Delaney, 2014).
multiculturalism (Said, 1978; Spivak, 1988;
In the case of the free food store, it may
Escobar, 1995).
be neither an ideal/model organization, nor
Such discourses could be said to govern
a pure non-capitalist organization. While the
Li Min’s life. They make her relocate from
store is an example of non-capitalist commu-
China to New Zealand, to pursue educa-
nal charity enterprise, it relies on the dona-
tion under the authentic English curricu-
tions from retailers of over-produced food.
lum, almost essential for the career she is
While analysis of the free store highlights
the over-production and waste at the core of hoping to secure. They make her subject
capitalist consumerist society, and the devel- to the detailed immigration rules imposed
opment of responsible business practice by on a student visa and, consequently, she
some retailers, the free gifting of surplus fears becoming ‘illegal’; she is unwilling
food through volunteer labour also helps to report exploitative employers and more
us to rethink capitalist labour and exchange readily accepts work on a cash basis. But
relations. Normal relations involve wages this does not necessarily mean that Li Min is
for labour and money for commodities. The being defined by this subjection. Her work
free food store shows how differences can on the Burger King protest brought her into
develop in opposition to common assump- contact with other students, and together
tions and practices. Thus, as a part of diverse they formed a group aiming to support
economy, studying a free store may have international students involved in employ-
various outcomes for transformative poten- ment disputes.3 But the question for her was
tial, such as reconsidering and experiment- how to develop a research topic around such
ing with the roots and terms of the capitalist concerns?
economic processes including marginal cost, Li Min’s PhD research is inspired by post-
economies of scale, waste, profit, consump- colonial theory. It problematizes our relations
tion, surplus and distribution. In the process, to specific spaces and locates our-selves in
such research might help to contribute to historical, social and cultural conditions. In
changing exchange relations in the capitalist other words, postcolonialism problematizes
economy that fit the needs of the community identity, subjectivity and agency. Particularly,
and support alternative political and ethical it works with those who – through the discur-
agendas (See Gibson-Graham et al., 2013; sive practices of the West (Said, 1978; Spivak,
Cameron & Healy, 2013). 1988) – were once homogenized as ‘Others’

(non-Western) and categorized as fixed and subordination are located. This work thus chal-
incomplete, but who are now ‘speaking back’ lenges Spivak’s assertion and shows that the
(Calás & Smircich, 2006, p. 317). subaltern, the colonized, can (actually) speak.4
This is not to assume that colonial con-
ditions have ended. Colonial hegemonies
continue in real-life politics, in economic Transnational Postcolonialism
relations with the surpluses of far-flung
global value chains accumulated by the Alternatively, Li Min might turn to
West – rather than the rest – and around the Transnational postcolonial theory. This
politics of knowledge (cf. Ahmad, 1995; locates the colonized subject as a series of
Awatere, 1984; Foly, 2011). factions, such as: indigenous communities,
immigrants, refugees, undocumented people
living in border areas and precariat workers.
Li Min and other international students fall
Subaltern Postcolonial Studies
into this category. As temporary immigrants,
So, what kind of speaking back is possible they work and pay taxes, which implies they
and what kind of research practice does this are in active relations with the state and busi-
involve? Some scholars (Bhabha, 1994) point ness (Mir & Mir, 2014). Such a ‘factions’
to the hybrid responses to neo-colonial eco- approach would explore the politics of multi-
nomic and epistemological domination; culturalism of neoliberalism, with its politics
others are less certain and point to ambiva- of multiplicities of locations and entities –
lence and mimicry as expressions of the local, national, regional, and global, as well
mind-set of the colonized. Celebrated post- as state and stateless condition – and how
colonial scholar Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak both interact with class, gender, race, ethni­
argues that for the colonized, the ‘subal- city and sex – social sub categories – within
terns’, their political agency needs to be the axis of a single global economic regime.
associated with dominant groups; therefore, Such an approach would investigate the
homogenizing factors of identifications interplay of neoliberal regimes and how they
become essential for them. She concludes impose gradations on individuals’ status.
that subalterns cannot represent themselves Such work might address the differentials in
(1988; cf. Mir & Mir, 2014). the agency and vulnerability of particular
According to subaltern studies, cultural dif- groups; for example, women as contingent
ferences and institutionally produced divisions workers (Brah, 1993; Calás & Smircich,
such as ‘citizen’, ‘immigrant’ and ‘refugee’, 2006; Chio 2005; Holvino, 2010; Ong 1987).
are inherent features of social relations of Transnationalism claims that an international
postcolonial states. Therefore, the collective division of labour is entangled with the
identity of subalterns (colonized workers, for issues of gradation of citizenship rights and
example) emerges as a category or community flexible citizenship. Evidence of this is found
in response to everyday cosmopolitan poli- in the conditions of workers employed in the
tics of life (Chakrabarty, 1989; Guha, 1989). Special Economic Zone in the case of the
This line of inquiry is concerned with theo- South, or, for example, employees recruited
rizing communities’ actions and alternative from Asia in the USA’s Silicon Valley (Ong,
discourse. Drawing from this perspective, the 2006). Workers employed in a global fast-
researcher is drawn to work on how solidar- food chain, for example, are in a similar
ity and political action by the colonized is situation.
constituted – such as with the Unite Burger In that sense, Li Min might connect her
King protest mentioned above – and other work situation with that of the suicides
areas where deviations from conventional among workers at Foxconn iPhone factories

located in the Special Economic Zone of groups (Banerjee, 2011) and highlights the
Shenzhen province in China. But Li Min’s process of defining globalization from below.
actions in forming an International Students But even more local effects are possible.
Committee, and thus taking part in political Postcolonial theory and its research strate-
society, allow some redefinition of active gies offer insights into how we are subjects
relations with the state and business, both of political and economic systems within the
locally and globally, and theorize such work contextual realities of neo-global order; how
as forms of multiple location resistance our labour is exploited and how our voices
(Escobar, 2011). become repressed by such order. This explo-
ration of the individual’s formation as a sub-
ject of subordinating orders is at the core of
Research Strategies and our next, and linked, critical perspective.
Transformational Effects
Such traditions of theorization suggest
research strategies and tactics that involve LI MIN AS SUBJECT AND AGENT OF
close investigation and political action with DISCOURSE
subordinated groups. Inevitably, they suggest
ethnographic and action research strategies Li Min is an Asian woman. She is a migrant
with the purpose of creating transformational retail worker who has been bullied, harassed
effects for those involved. In other words, the and exploited. Turning to the work of French
purpose of such research is to support the social theorist Michel Foucault can help Li
agency of the subaltern/colonized with a pri- Min understand that her experiences are not
mary focus on interrogating and challenging merely bad luck but, rather, a ‘logical’ conse-
ideological constructions and highlighting quence of her placement in the categories
and expressing resistance. While such per- ‘Asian’, ‘woman’, ‘migrant’ and ‘retail
formative research might not, in and of itself, worker’ – a cluster of categories which, as
redefine the cultural logic of global capital- presently constructed, demand of her a mode
ism, it may bear productively on individuals’ of being in which subservience to others is
mobility and on their scope for making legiti- routinely expected and through which she is
mate claims. Moreover, it might, perhaps, readily positioned as an ‘easy’ target of abu-
help to create conditions for the emergence sive treatment. Foucault offers Li Min meth-
of new legal norms of global citizenship. But ods and concepts for interrogating this process
more immediate effects are also possible. Li of categorization and its effects, from which
Min’s demonstration as a casual worker opportunities for change can be identified.
exposed her to union politics, and through A Foucauldian approach enables us to
this to the strength of collective organization. question whatever is claimed to be true, right
The formation of the aspiring Committee for and proper about the world. Knowledge itself
International Students might highlight for is the object of Foucauldian analysis and this
her that fragmented individuals can be coor- is understood as being imbued with power
dinated, globally linked and able to translate such that to interrogate (or claim) knowl-
their individual agendas into a collective one. edge is, simultaneously, to interrogate (or
Zapatista movements and the actions of claim) power (Foucault, 1980). Deploying
South Korean farmers during the WTO this approach, claims to speak the truth can
(World Trade Orgazation) summit in Hong be examined for their assumptions, processes
Kong are examples. These movements are of formation, underpinning rules and for
now globally connected; their organization the effects that discourses of truth generate
strategy is understood to involve translocal for our sense of self, how we are to relate to

others and how society is to be arranged (see about what it is to be ‘Asian’, the habits of
Foucault, 1977, 1978, 1985). Viewed through mind, of demeanour, of self-hood and of
a Foucauldian lens, then, we may understand relating to others which it expects of those it
Li Min to be subjected to those particular speaks of. These are also matters which can
discourses that claim to speak the truth about be interrogated, thereby drawing attention to
what it is to be ‘Asian’, ‘woman’, ‘migrant’ what possibilities for being are afforded and
and ‘retail worker’ and, rather than treating prescribed by this discourse. To explore these
these categories as self-evident truths, they dimensions of discourse, Li Min could go
become the focus of our inquiry. beyond official documents and explore eve-
Deploying Foucault, whenever we encoun- ryday talk about or by ‘Asians’ and draw out
ter something which is said to be ‘true’, from this talk its underpinning assumptions,
‘right’ or ‘proper’, we shall understand this rules and requirements for being.
as a social construction. We cannot assume Importantly, for Foucault, discourse is
that there exists some objective, certain con- not simply talk and text. It also includes
nection between what we encounter in the social practices which both give effect to
world and the knowledge/truth that exists in and inform what is being accounted for in
relation to that. Rather, it is the discourses talk and text, and can therefore be found in
that we call on to account for our experiences institutional routines and bodily practices
which continuously bring reality into being, (1972, 1977). As a retail worker, then, Li
through and in the very accounts we give of Min is expected to adopt prescribed ways
it, a process which simultaneously has the of talking to customers and preparing their
effect of denying or limiting other possible food; techniques likely written into training
realities (Foucault, 1972, 1977). manuals and which a trainer has then used
Consequently, what is routinely claimed as to verbally instruct Li Min on those dimen-
being true in respect to the category of per- sions of what it is ‘to be’ a ‘good employee’.
sons defined as (i.e. constructed as) ‘Asian’, As she goes about her work, she enacts and
for example, forms a discursive regime which embodies that very discourse, she has that
constructs reality. This regime has a history discourse inscribed upon her bodily move-
that can be examined, exposing how it has ments (Foucault, 1977). Discourses are, thus,
been shaped and developed over time, and highly productive in the sense that they have
identifying whose and what interests are many effects: Li Min is simultaneously the
served during the formulation of this category subject of, is subjectivated by, is subject to
of being at any given point in time. In a New and disciplined by the discourse of what it
Zealand context, this could involve Li Min is to be a ‘good employee’. What Foucault
investigating official documents about immi- proposes is that by analysing discourses and
gration policy and procedure, and looking their processes of development, we can come
for change and continuity in the criteria gov- to understand how it is that we have been
erning entry – how ‘Asian’ is defined, what constructed into being who and what we are.
social function the policy serves and what From this analysis we can begin to make
demands are made of those subjected to it. choices for ourselves as to who and what we
Discourses also rely on assumptions and wish to become (e.g. Foucault, 1985).
underpinning rules which govern what they Discourses, then, construct social reality
regard as appropriate and relevant, and these and our sense of self; what is said and what
can be interrogated. They deploy a grammar is intelligibly sayable provides the ways in
of terms and definitions that can be unpicked which we categorize, explain and seek to
to expose gaps, contradictions, requirements act in the world and form our very selves
and expectations. The discourse of ‘Asian’, (e.g. Foucault, 1985). This can be read to
in the New Zealand context, makes claims imply that discourses are determinative of

what we can think, say and be (Alvesson & Foucault’s second (and complementary)
Karremann, 2000). Contra this, however, method, genealogy, ranges more widely,
Foucauldian analyses also demonstrate that looking to the social context in which dis-
whatever is constituted by a given discourse courses develop, identifying connections
as ‘reality’ or ‘my self’ remains open to between what was seen as problematic at a
change through exposing the very process of given point in time and how discourses which
reality construction as one which is social, claim to speak the truth form in response to
and hence neither natural nor inevitable (e.g. these perceived problems (Cummings &
Foucault, 1977, 1978). Moreover, wherever Bridgman, 2011; Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1983).
power is found, so too is resistance (Foucault, Genealogy involves examining the networks
1980). Foucault’s efforts show us, then, that of relationships, strategies and tactics that
through understanding the discourses which have facilitated certain ideas and practices
inform our experiences we become empow- coming to the fore (e.g. Foucault, 1977,
ered to craft alternative frames of action, 1978). Power is central to such an analy-
sense-making and subjectivity, an ethical sis (Alvesson & Deetz, 2000; Dreyfus &
process which Foucault understood as ‘care Rabinow, 1983). Attention is paid to how
of the self’ (e.g. Foucault, 1985, 1986, 2008). social practices emerge and develop to shape
In Li Min’s case, through examining the dis- who we are, and how power relations influ-
courses which generate expectations for her ence the ways people use and experience
as ‘Asian’, ‘woman’, ‘migrant’ and ‘retail their selves and their bodies (e.g. Foucault,
worker’, she can identify opportunities to 1977, 1978, 1980). Whatever effects or ways
craft a self that is shaped by those elements of being are created, constrained or disci-
of these discourses which she sees as pro- plined in some way in a given discourse, and
ductive, setting aside those which she sees whatever is held up in that discourse as laud-
as problematic. Other discourses of ‘care’, able or abominable, are matters of particular
‘equality’ and ‘respect’ can also be called on interest in a genealogical analysis. It exam-
in this process of crafting a self that is not ines both the effects of a given discourse on
merely an object of discourse. persons and interpersonal relationships and
Foucault developed two methods of inquiry how this situation developed (e.g. Foucault,
for examining discourse. The first, ‘archae- 1977, 1978).
ology’, comprises two components. First, it Foucauldian discourse analysis can exam-
analyses what has been claimed to be ‘the ine a wide variety of talk/text/practices and
truth’ of a topic, paying particular attention the focus of analytic effort can attend to
to the assumptions and effects of those claims whatever is the subject of a given discourse.
for our sense of self and for relations between Combining archaeology and genealogy,
persons (e.g. Foucault, 1970, 1972). Second, attention can contribute to understanding
it postulates the underlying ‘structure of what the categories and terms of a given
thought’, or episteme, which make it possi- discourse routinely imply; the assumptions
ble for those ‘truths’ to be considered intel- embedded in such categorizations; how these
ligible and plausible at the time they arose, categories are called on to justify certain
even if they later came to seem nonsensical actions and practices; their effects for our
(Foucault, 1972, p. 191). Archaeology thus sense of self; and how those categories have
seeks to identify and analyse the form of a emerged and developed over time.
set of claims to know the truth, a form which Examining the everyday language use of
has two levels: that of particular truths about individuals to identify patterns and themes in
a specific topic, and that of the general truth, how the issues under examination are framed
which underpins and governs all truths in a and justified could be another approach. The
given period. analysis could consider how claims about

what is ‘right’, ‘true’ and ‘proper’ are pre- position of the university (as we will discuss
sented and justified, seeking to identify the below), to the first person to simulate, at
unwritten, unstated, implicit ‘rules’ that gov- least, the critical psychoanalytic tradition’s
ern what is said. Any subject positions gener- commitment to engagement and empower-
ated in such talk could be examined for their ment of the other.
claimed characteristics, rights, duties, powers We imagine that you are thinking that psy-
and limitations. choanalysis might seem an odd place to look
The Foucauldian discourse analyst can for a critical approach to organizations and
also turn to official texts, accounts given management. It is most often understood in
by experts and institutional sources, tracing our society as being ‘useful’ only in the clini-
developments in the discourse over time. cal setting. So how can something that hap-
From this, the analyst may identify not only pens between a therapist and a patient help us
the form of a given discourse but also how dig into the underside of organizational life?
it came to be instituted and regularized into One way to answer this question is to first
rules, procedures, laws, practices, norms and put aside, for a moment, ‘the organization’ as
routines, enabling measurement, training and institution, and replace it with ‘the relation-
enforcement, all of which function to create ship’, or rather what we would call the ‘social
disciplined ways of being. bond’. So, instead of organizing/organi-
Foucauldian discourse analysis, then, zation, we have the social bond between,
offers multiple routes for a critical examina- for example, the therapist and patient, the
tion of what is routinely taken for granted teacher and the student, the manager and the
about what is real, true, right and proper. workers; between the master and the resist-
Foucault’s methods of inquiry, and his con- ant slave. We have the bond between any two
ceptual apparatus, offer a fertile means of people and between the self and the other.
interrogating what are otherwise commonly These are the places where a ‘social bond’
accepted and sanctioned ways of talking resides (Malone, 2008).
and acting, revealing how what we take as In this critical organizational analysis of
‘reality’ and our ‘self’ has been socially social bonds, psychoanalysis is an important
constructed and is thus open to change. In theoretical resource. It is a resource that has
Li Min’s case, this kind of analysis offers been appropriated in the study of organiza-
insight into the systemic forces shaping her tions and management since at least the
experience and will aid in the development of mid-twentieth century – famously with the
ideas for how to challenge these. And one of classical tradition of the Tavistock Institute
the ways in which we might challenge these (Jones & Spicer, 2005, p. 228) – and most
forces is to change the academic discourse in recently, and perhaps this is now the domi-
which we become located as researchers and nant form of critical organizational analysis,
the researched. from the Lacanian psychoanalytic tradition
(cf. Arnaud, 2002; Contu & Driver et  al.,
2010; Costas & Taheri, 2012). So, rather than
survey all the various critical psychoanalytic
LI MIN ENGAGES THE traditions, we focus here on this now very
PSYCHOANALYTIC TRADITION prominent Lacanian tradition. In particular,
we focus on what we regard as the summa-
Dear Li, please excuse us. In this segment tion of Jacques Lacan’s work on the social
we speak to you in the first person. Our bond found in his presentation of ‘the four
reasons for this will become clear, but suf- discourses’.
fice to say we switch here from the familiar Lacan introduced the ‘four discourses’
third person academic voice, the voice and during a seminar series he gave in 1969 and

1970 – the series was entitled The other side relationally together gives us a structure for
of psychoanalysis (Lacan, 2007) –where he critical analysis. The four discourses, which
sought to theorize the dominant organizing might be your chapters entitled the master,
social bonds of the current epoch through his the university, the hysteric and the analyst,
lens as a psychoanalyst. Lacan proposed four may well offer up some ‘Truth’ that resides
discourses, and thus four social bonds: the on, if you like, the ‘Other Side’ of your
master, university, hysteric and analyst. research question.
In what follows I am going to position
Li: Professor, what am I to you? Am I just a
you, Li, as ‘the hysteric’ and myself as, in
recruit? Someone to discipline with your truth?
sequence, the master, university, analyst. This Lacan doesn’t sound like he knows me, does
Through this, hopefully, we will have a he understand what I need? What I demand?
chance to talk about some of the other influ- What I desire? Do you? What am I to you? (Note:
ential traditions but also, and more impor- Li, being quick to grasp the nuance of the
engagement, has effortlessly adopted the posi-
tantly perhaps, to practice the technique of
tion of the hysteric).
psychoanalytic inquiry – to demonstrate the L’Université (author as the university):
practicability of it’s questioning nature – Perhaps I didn’t adequately cover your options.
and to explore its mode of influence. But to To be fair, seminar 17 is only one of more than
understand Lacan’s critical form of organiza- 20 seminars, and then there is the Ecrits (Lacan,
1977) and many other vitally important texts.
tional psychoanalysis, we need to go back to
You should read widely throughout the oeuvre
Freud. of Lacan and his interpreters, and particularly
become intimate with the registers RSI (Real,
Symbolic, Imaginary), desire, jouissance and of
course the objet a (see Copjec, 1994; Grigg,
Le maître (The Master) 2008; and Zizek, 1990 for a range of positions
on these devices) and the intricate twists and
Freud is the master of psychoanalysis; this is turns of the psychoanalytic process and how it
an indisputable fact. His discovery, the has become something of note for the field of
unconscious, revolutionized our understand- management and organization studies. How it
ing of individual human suffering and the enables us to reveal the emptiness of certain
signifiers (Jones & Spicer, 2005); how organiza-
malaise of civilization (Freud, 1976; Freud &
tions operate at a symbolic level (Arnaud, 2002);
Strachey, 1962). It is impossible to under- how the imaginary register creates disciplining
stand human relationships without recogniz- regimes (Roberts, 2005); how Lacan can help us
ing the role of the unconscious, in his view, understand burnout (Vanheule et  al., 2003);
and if you try, you are only tinkering on the how choice is an elaborate and dangerous fan-
tasy (Fotaki, 2007); and, importantly, how the
conscious surface. But Freud had his prob-
Lacanian lack is implicated in identity formation
lems, the biggest being his structural biologi- (Driver, 2009). But this is just scratching the
cal determinism (think penis envy and surface; there is also all the important work
infantile sexuality). But this was resolved building on Lacan’s later work, including his
through the ‘turn to language’ that swept the famous twentieth seminar, Encore. Here you can
delve into the theory of sexuation, discover the
social sciences in the 1960s and 1970s
difference between phallic and feminine jouis-
(Parker, 1989). Jacques Lacan picked up sance (Dickson, 2011; Fotaki & Harding, 2012)
Freud and re-birthed his theory through a and consider the dark side of passion (Kenny,
post-structural lens. So, the first step into 2010).
Lacan’s critical psychoanalysis of organiza-  But I haven’t even begun to introduce your
other psychoanalytic options – what some might
tion/bonds, is through his seventeenth semi-
call the ‘Freudians’ – those who remain close to
nar, The other side of psychoanalysis. Lacan’s Freud’s original work, or follow Melanie Klein’s
ability to trace the (post-)structural founda- interpretations of Freud. Of particular note here
tions of the social bonds that hold us is Manfred Kets de Vries and colleagues’ work on

the psyche of the entrepreneur and executive it does all start with hysteria (Alakavuklar
(1985, 1993, 1991), Michael Diamond’s excellent et al., 2016)?
book The unconscious life of organizations
(1993) and Yiannis Gabriel’s works – including on Li: [we do not get to see how Li responded to
happy families (1999) and his book with col- this section as the analyst would never directly
leagues Organizations in depth: the psychoanaly- intervene with the signifiers of their symbolic.
sis of organizations (Gabriel et  al. 1999). The analyst must suppress their supposed ‘knowl-
Contrasting Lacan’s rather oblique style is edge’ of Li’s symptom and instead make room
Melanie Klein’s object relations theory. To gauge for Li to position them as the object of desire].
the importance of this, I would suggest Stephen
Frosh’s excellent text The politics of psychoanaly-
sis (1987).
  That should provide you with a better ground- Final Note from the Author
ing – your next stop is the library. I believe you
have (at least) 11 books and many more journal
Above, we have attempted to apply one of the
articles to read. critical Freudian traditions (Lacanian psy-
Li: Thank you Professor! That’s an enormous choanalysis and particularly the four dis-
amount of reading. But, really, how close does courses) as a research framework. The key
this bring me to formulating a research question? point is that it problematizes the very process
Do you really think that the psychoanalyst has it
all figured out? Do you really think that if I learn
of research, the form of critical knowledge
the details of the theory and its method I will be and the agent of that knowledge. Within this
able to theorize my suffering in a helpful (maybe tradition, the various questions of ‘research
even cathartic) way? Or are your motivations less strategies’ and ‘modes of influence’, as
pure than they seem? Will I write for you, sir? always, are set with the four discourses. In
What am I to you?
other words, Li Min’s research strategies,
from the position of the hysteric at least, will
be those that resist, challenge and pour sand
L’analyste (The Analyst) into the gears of the dominant (masterly/
fatherly?) research traditions of the university
The job of the critical student is the job of (e.g. positivism, constructivism, interpretiv-
the hysteric. To be a relentless ‘pain in the ism). If, however, we locate Li Min’s work in
backside’ for the various hierarchical struc- the discourse of the analyst, her research
tures they encounter; to never stop challeng- and its ‘transformational effects’ involve
ing the doctrine; and to refuse the up-ending the subject’s (whomever that
assimilation of the university. This is what might be) unconscious chains of signifiers,
psychoanalysis offers. It is heaving with and replacing them with a revised (and one
theoretical density, and encumbered with would hope more bearable and emancipa-
impregnable terminology and obscure con- tory) set of signifiers; a new, unspoken code
cepts. It erects playgrounds in the dark that organizes the subject’s desire. This is not
space between the material and the philo- to say that the other traditions (Freudian and
sophical. It asks the questions others repress. Kleinian particularly) are not equally (or
But all this only works if the hysteric is in more!) useful in this regard. Remember:
charge – in other words it only works if the resist the doctrine!
student never fails to ask the question of the
university: what am I to you? The danger, of
course, is that when the student approaches
the psychoanalytically minded university LI MIN (FEMINISM)
researcher, the researcher attempts to enrol
the student into ‘their’ symbolic register – The bullying, harassment, underpayment,
how can the academy be analytical? Perhaps poor payment and in some cases no payment

that Li Min confronted in a string of and women workers? Li Min could hardly
seemingly disastrous casual retail and hospi- imagine such a place. Discovering this struc-
tality jobs led her, inevitably, to two ques- ture sounded like a worthy target for her PhD
tions. First, was there a more lucrative and studies. But was there a more direct answer to
reliable way for a young Chinese woman to the question of women’s subordination – one
support her studies? Second, did she have that didn’t rely on an elaborate archaeological
these experiences because she signified as a dig into the social unconscious? Perhaps Li
‘woman’ and ‘foreign’? Did the combination Min was looking in the wrong direction.
of these two inevitably position her as subor- Across the now-crowded student café, Li
dinate and exploitable? She pondered these Min’s gaze fell on a women attending to two
points, sipping tea and watching a group of preschool children who were busy eating their
her well-heeled male contemporaries at the lunches of fruit, sandwiches and yoghurt. The
next table tease each other over the relative woman fed one child with a spoon, calmed the
size and power rating of their cars and com- other, organized more food for both and went
puters. They, it seemed, did not have the on talking to both the children and her compan-
same problems. But her academic advisers, ion across the table. The man, dressed in the
who had been priming her to do a feminist smart casual attire of a university lecturer, was
critique of foreign women workers in New busy looking at his phone and nodding as she
Zealand, were themselves rather split on the talked. He then gathered up his papers, stood
question of inevitability. Citing Marianna rather stiffly, touched her hand softly, and left.
Fotaki (2011), an exponent of psychoanalytic The woman then turned her attention to the
feminism, one had proclaimed that ‘phallo- children and, as she did, ate the sandwiches the
centric discourse’ was the enemy of women children and her partner had left behind.
and men. Signification is all very well, thought Li
We are dealing with a deep cultural uncon- Min. But isn’t the core of women’s subordi-
scious organized around the phallus, the nation found in the work done, in the actual
symbolic penis, Fotaki claims. What women labour of women; labour that includes car-
confront is not men as a class – who system- ing, feeding, cleaning up and supporting oth-
atically and explicitly orchestrate a regime of ers. Was this subordination more ‘objective’,
oppression, a patriarchy – but rather a sym- material and ‘in plain sight’ than Fotaki and
bolic and unconscious structure that organ- the theorists of deep structures were prepared
izes and confirms the power of ‘the Boss’, to recognise? One of her advisers had been
‘the team leader’, the ‘father’, and hierarchi- saying as much. Women’s positioning was a
cal management relations more generally. function of the grip that the feudal patriarchal
Power, in this sense, is not built on the threat family had on their labour (Fraad et al., 2009).
of violence or the removal of rewards, but on The problem lay in the intimate, individual-
the unconscious significance given to various ized and personal relations of marriage and
linked terms and concepts that link back to a family life that deliberately obscured from
core signifier (the phallus). It is the universal- both men and women her relative position-
ity and strength of this ‘phallocentric order’, ing as feudal labourer – a positioning where
as Li Min had become aware, that gives men the woman’s practical, sexual and emotional
permission to enact what seemed to her a labour is appropriated by her partner (‘lord’?),
kind of sexualized domination of women in her children and others (Fraad, 2003). The
workplaces. argument is that what works in one sphere,
But how would it be possible to ‘turn off’ or the home, has a tendency to also work in oth-
re-route such a symbolic structure or ‘turn on’ ers. The upshot of this would seem to be that
a symbolic structure that exposes and affirms unless a woman can find a man to act as a
femino-centric relations between both men ‘woman’, as a feudal serf and as a source of

surplus family labour, then she will struggle Li Min gasped again. Gemma explained
with this feudal positioning in the workplace. that working at an exclusive and expensive
But isn’t this changing? Li Min thought of hotel with a group of likeminded and support-
her friends on similar paths to her, moving ive women had helped liberate her emotion-
away from a traditional roles in the patriar- ally, politically and financially. After Gemma
chal feudal families which now seemed to her left, Li Min quickly sketched out a further PhD
to be in crisis. Topic and labelled it: ‘Prostitution as feminist
‘You look thoughtful!’ It was her friend performance; a critical organizational ethnog-
Gemma. ‘Yes, trying to think my way out of raphy’ (Kessler, 2002; Scoular, 2004). She
a couple of PhD questions.’ ‘What are they?’ could hardly breathe at the thought of it. She
Gemma asked. ‘The easiest one is what imagined her supervisors’ nervous support
should be the target of my PhD. The tough one for the topic, while steering her firmly clear
is how to make a reasonable living and not get of a participatory research strategy. But per-
screwed by some greedy boss or corporation.’ haps her performance might be in finding a
Gemma had just completed a master’s way to work for and with Chinese immigrant
degree in religious studies. They met a year prostitutes (Coy, 2009; Liu and Finckenauer,
before, serving beer to rugby fans while 2010; Spanger, 2011), and perhaps she would
working for a temping agency. They shared find a way to support through her research
a few drinks after work and Lin Min thought other students (Roberts et al., 2007) who were
their relationship might be headed for inti- working ‘under the covers’?
macy. But Gemma stopped working for the
temping agency and neither of them had fol-
lowed up. Li Min saw Gemma occasionally
around campus and noted her transformation. CONCLUSION
The traditional student garb of tired jeans and
tee shirts had become light, wafer-thin silk Critical forms of organization and manage-
shirts; expensive, elegant boots; and heavily ment inquiry begin with the aim of changing
pleated cotton trousers and skirts. She looked as well as investigating the conditions that
incredible and invincible, Li Min thought, as are the topic of study. Of course, each of the
Gemma swept into the seat beside her. major research traditions makes different
‘How do you do it?’ Li asked. Gemma objects the target of such inquiries. The
paused, weighing her answer carefully. She Marxist aims at redirecting the flows of
looked at Li Min thoughtfully and then spat value, the postcolonialist seeks to reconstruct
out: ‘I screw them back.’ colonial subjectivitiy, the Foucauldian is
Li Min gasped! It was one thing to resist engaged in shifting discourses, the psycho-
or reject traditional marriage, and partner- analyst is re-ordering signifiers, and the
ships with men, and to speak the discourse of feminist is upending existing structures. The
feminism around campus, but quite another challenge for researchers is developing
to regard prostitution as a chance to exploit research strategies that fit these dual aims.
men by way of return. Drawing selectively on particular strands of
Gender is a performance, right? I’m quoting work in these five traditions, we have
Butler here (1990). Do we have to perform as sketched out how critical, qualitative, but
a victim, as slave, as the subordinate of men? change-focused work might be done. From a
Do we have to put men on a pedestal and work critical ethnography of the free store, to the
for them? Or can we perform differently? Can feminist participatory action research with
we perform our gender, our sexuality and the immigrant prostitutes, we have identified a
things we like about being a woman and make set of strategies that in various ways
a living out of that? Is that OK? necessarily reshape the participants, the

researchers and the wider conditions as part Alamgir, F. & Cairns, G. (2015). Economic ine-
of the research studies. The implication, and quality of the Badli workers of Bangladesh:
main conclusion, one might draw from such Contested entitlements and a ‘perpetually
research is that for the most part it is not temporary’ life-world. Human Relations,
concerned with the extractive production of 68(7): 1131–53.
commodified knowledge, but rather it regards Alvesson, M. & Deetz, S. A. (2000). Doing criti-
cal management research. London: Sage.
making changes to the lives of the people
Alvesson, M. & Karreman, D. (2000). Varieties
involved in the inquiry as the main ‘output’.
of discourse: On the study of organizations
through discourse analysis. Human Rela-
tions, 53(9): 1125–49.
Notes Arnaud, Gilles. (2002). The organization and
the symbolic: Organizational dynamics
 1  The Wharerata Writing Group is a collective
viewed from a Lacanian perspective. Human
author that includes (in alphabetical order): Ozan
Alakavuklar, Fahreen Almagir, Andrew Dickson,
Relations, 55(6): 691–716.
Craig Pritchard and Suze Wilson, all of the School Awatere, D. (1984). Māori sovereignty. Auck-
of Management, Massey University, Palmerston land: Broadsheet.
North, New Zealand. Bakan, J. (2012). The corporation: The pathologi-
 2  Li Min is a composite character developed from cal pursuit of profit and power. Hachette UK.
our engagement with a series of women working Banerjee, S. B. (2011) Voices of the governed:
and studying in New Zealand. Towards a theory of the translocal. Organiza-
 3  Li Min is aware of Improving Dream Equality tion, 18(3): 323–44.
Access and Success (IDEAS) – a support group
Bhabha, H. (1994). Location of culture. London:
formed in 2003 by the undocumented students of
the University of California of Los Angeles. IDEAS Routledge.
played a vital role in organizing a campaign on Brah, A. (1993). ‘Race’ and ‘culture’ in the
the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien gendering of labour markets: South Asian
Minor (DREAM) Act in 2010. She and her new young Muslim women and the labour
friends are planning to form a group linked to market. Journal of Ethnic and Migration
IDEAS and all such Committees around the globe. Studies, 19(3):441–58.
 4  Despite Li Min’s identity as a privileged migrant Braverman, H. (1974). Labor and monopoly
student in relation to China, she has experience
capital: The degradation of work in the
of living in the margin; hence Nkomo’s (2011)
twentieth century. New York: NYU Press.
arguments may help Li Min in theorizing her lived
experience, and political views, and thus to chal- Butler, J. (1990). Gender trouble and the sub-
lenge the assumption of whether representation version of identity. New York and London:
is possible. Subsequently, she can draw from Imas Routledge.
and Weston’s (2012) analyses, which illustrate the Calás, B. M. & Smircich, L. (2006). From ‘the
experience of the organization of people who lack woman’s’ point of view: Ten years later:
civil stance and their contested and chaotic reality. towards a feminist organization studies. In
S. R. Clegg, C. Hardy, T. B. Lawrence & W. R.
Nord (Eds), The Sage Handbook of Organiza-
tion Studies (pp. 284–346). London: Sage.
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Angelo Benozzo

INTRODUCTION of scientism, foundationalist epistemology,

instrumental reasoning, and the philosophi-
The term qualitative research denotes a cal anthropology of disengagement that
movement developing in academia at the has marked “mainstream” social sciences’
beginning of the 1970s which brought (Schwandt, 2000, p. 190). Scholars who
together various approaches from differing gravitate to this arena may have very differ-
ontological, epistemological, methodologi- ent perspectives and interests, but each one,
cal, political and ethical origins, all of which be it consciously or unconsciously, grounds
were critical of the traditional ways of doing her/his research in some branch of philoso-
research: the strategies of the survey, and of phy, such as phenomenology, hermeneutics,
the experimental and quasi-experimental critical theory or social constructionism,
study. This movement then also fed into or, perhaps, postmodernism and poststruc-
managerial and organizational studies. In turalism. Science and research, after all,
1979, a turning point came when a special are concepts subject to different views and
issue of the prestigious academic journal conflicting interpretations, and their mean-
Administrative Science Quarterly appeared, ing may vary according to the philosophical
entitled ‘Qualitative methodologies’, which approach adopted and the political, as well as
gave scholarly legitimacy to qualitative historical, moment.
research in the field of management Poststructuralism, then, is just one of the
studies. numerous philosophical movements that
Qualitative research has been described as has influenced social research and manage-
a comprehensive site or arena in which schol- ment studies, and my task here is to present
ars share a mutual rejection ‘of the blend the reader with an outline of this movement,
Poststructuralism 87

dwelling on a few key philosophical concepts ‘POSTS’ – INCLUDING

so as to make clear how these are reconceived POSTMODERNISM AND
in poststructuralism. I offer just one of many POSTSTRUCTURALISM
possible ways to ‘settle’ things: no easy task,
given the complexity of the topic and the Although the Latin word post, meaning
number of studies which have been inspired ‘after’, is often used in the purely chrono-
by poststructuralism, both in the social
logical sense, this is not its sole meaning in
sciences and in organizational studies. I apol-
the words ‘poststructuralism’ and ‘postmod-
ogize in advance if the reader is left with the
ernism’. The prefix ‘post’ highlights a differ-
impression that my chapter fails to do justice
ent logic or the overcoming of an obstacle,
to such a rich and complex philosophical field.
and should not simply be taken to mean
I begin by attempting to outline poststruc-
something coming after modernism and
turalism by placing it within the broader
structuralism chronologically: in fact, the
movements of ‘posts’. I then explore some
emergence of postmodernism and poststruc-
of the key issues that characterize post-
turalism was not the consequence of the end
structuralism: structure and difference; the
of modernism and structuralism, because the
subject and power; language and decon-
latter did not disappear. Instead, poststructur-
struction. In the final pages, I reflect upon
alism and postmodernism take certain key
the implications of these key issues for those
doing qualitative research and make a con- themes of structuralism and modernism and
nection with the ongoing debate on post- rework them in the light of new theories and
qualitative research, which appears to be insights.
one of the most promising frontiers in the Postmodernism and poststructuralism are
field of qualitative inquiry. Despite being part of a whole series of ‘posts’ (such as
aware of how useful it can be to provide postcolonialism, postcritical, posthumanist,
cases to illustrate a point, I have chosen not postFordist, postpositivist1, postfeminist, post-
to give too much space to examples of post- foundational, postemancipatory, postmem-
structuralist pieces of research. To do this ory, postrevolutionary, posteverything …)
would mean, on the one hand, reinforcing which, together with a plethora of ‘turns’
the idea that there is a ‘proper’ way to do (the linguistic turn, the interpretive turn, the
qualitative research, and, on the other, going narrative turn, the critical turn, the reflexive
against the very spirit of poststructuralism, turn, the turn to affect …) have come to inhabit
a spirit (as we shall see) that questions any the landscape of the social sciences over the
normative, prescriptive model. last forty years. Every ‘post’ rejects the idea
It is my firm conviction, however, that, of the ‘stable structure’, and takes as its start-
in order for qualitative research to interact ing point a break with the assumptions typi-
creatively with data (Benozzo et  al., 2013), cal of Western Enlightenment (Crotty, 1998).
it needs to be rooted in philosophical theory. Some scholars argue that it is impossible
To ‘produce different knowledge and to to clearly distinguish postmodernism from
produce knowledge differently’ (St. Pierre, poststructuralism (Sarup, 1993). Indeed, they
1997, p. 175), we need to read hard and do have many points in common, but there
ground our work in a theoretical perspective, are also differences (Alvesson & Sköldberg,
whether this be phenomenology, social con- 2009). Lather (1993), for example, distin-
structionism, critical theory, feminist theory, guishes between the two terms by arguing
poststructuralism, new materialism, posthu- that postmodernism ‘raises issues of chronol-
manism or even something new and still to ogy, economics (e.g. Post-Fordism) and aes-
be ‘discovered’. thetics, whereas poststructural[ism] is used,

more often in relation to academic theorizing the cultural movement of the unmaking, of
after structuralism’ (p. 688). the collapse of the antithesis, of the elimi-
Some scholars consider poststructural- nation of distinctions, and it is this idea of
ism to be a specific way of thinking belong- unmaking which brings postmodernism and
ing to the broader movement that goes by poststructuralism closer together.
the name of postmodernism. According to As said above, it is over-simplistic to state
them, the latter is a geographical and con- that poststructuralism is what comes after
ceptual movement, which appeared after structuralism. In fact, poststructuralism is
and in opposition to modernism. First a French term used primarily to describe a
coined with regard to an architectural move- philosophical movement emerging in the
ment rebelling against what was seen as 1960s which not only influenced philosophy,
a-historic, super-rational functionalism, but also literature and the arts, and politics,
it was applied in the 1960s to a group of sociology and psychology. Poststructuralism
American literary critics and spread to other brings together a set of French philosophers
areas, for example economics and the arts. (principally Derrida, Deleuze, Foucault,
Postmodernism owes its fame to Lyotard’s Lyotard and Kristeva), who, while express-
book entitled The postmodern condition ing very different ideas, were united by a
(1979), in which the author distances him- dissenting position with respect to science
self from the following: the values and prac- and established moral values. The works of
tices of the Enlightenment; an unconditional these authors,
faith in Reason, Freedom, Progress, History
show poststructuralism as a thorough disruption
and Man; metatheories that aspire to build of our secure sense of meaning and reference in
totalitarian theories of physics and science; language, of our understanding of our senses and
and the notion that there are ‘some rational, of the arts, of our understanding of identity, of our
global solutions and explanations, some sense of history and of its role in the present, and
of our understanding of language as something
general principles which guarantee progress
free of the work of the unconscious. (Williams,
in the development of knowledge’ (Alvesson 2005, p. 3)
& Sköldberg, 2009, p. 180). Lyotard calls
these totalizing theories ‘metanarratives’ and Despite their significant differences, these
describes the postmodern condition as an philosophers’ works can be read as a reac-
‘incredulity towards metanarratives’ (Lyotard, tion, on the one hand, to the structuralism
1979, p. xxiv). prevailing in those years, and, on the other,
Crotty (1998) describes postmodernism to an idea of the human being deriving from
as a response to the cultural transforma- humanism, which endured until French exis-
tions taking place in the present age. These tentialism. The humanist idea of the sub-
changes, which involved many spheres of ject had proved mistaken, and this led those
human activity – including literature, phi- French philosophers to question any acquired
losophy, the social sciences, art and archi- certainty and explore how philosophical and
tecture – basically produced a need for new scientific practices had produced that subject
ways of thinking and understanding and new of Western culture that had caused such mas-
forms of representation and communica- sive destruction during the two World Wars.
tion, all of which resulted in postmodernism. Later, I will be taking a close look at their
In the 1980s, when the works of the French critique of the humanist subject; I shall now
poststructuralists finally became available in examine their critique of one of the corner-
English, postmodernism found its philosoph- stones of structuralism: the idea of structure.
ical support in poststructuralism. In line with But before continuing, it is useful to explain
Wolin (1992), Crotty sees postmodernism as the connections between poststructuralism
Poststructuralism 89

and management and organization studies. selection, performance evaluation, reward

Since the mid-1980s, the works of Foucault and/or training and development), as well as
have played a central role in that area of stud- the relations between each stage in the
ies grouped together under the term Critical model. However, there may be limits (differ-
Management Studies (CMS) (Alvesson et al., ences and variations) to the normal model
2009). (the sequence and content may change and
A first wave of CMS was inspired by the may look like this: recruitment, selection,
concept of power – see later in this chapter – selection, performance evaluation, selec-
Foucault proposed (Knights, 2009) and, tion). The existence of a normal, regulatory
in particular, many scholars of CMS have model implies that any exception is con-
been influenced by Foucault’s book (1977) ceived as a deviation from the norm, and
Discipline and punish, where work organiza- once we have defined what is normal, the
tions, institutions, schools and military appa- limit (difference and variation) can also be
ratus are seen as something akin to prisons measured and corrected if necessary.
‘insofar as they involve hierarchical observa- Normalization produces the objects of
tion, normalizing judgment and the exami- knowledge by creating hierarchies, by com-
nation as technologies of correct training, paring and homogenizing, by differentiating
discipline, and surveillance’ (Knights, 2009, and excluding.
p. 157). Poststructuralism rejects this framework
The first wave of poststructuralism in and restores dignity to the limit (the excep-
CMS was followed by a second, more tion from the norm, the difference, the vari-
recent wave, which developed poststructur- ation). In essence, the starting point for an
alism in different directions (Jones, 2009). understanding of poststructuralism would
For example, Contu (2008) and Vidaillet seem to be this: the differences and limits
(2007) have drawn on Jacques Lacan in of a model/structure have an important crea-
their work, while other authors (Willmott, tive role to play. They are not to be devalued
2005; De Cock and Böhm, 2007) have or considered as something to be negated
turned to thinkers like Ernesto Laclau and or avoided. For poststructuralists, the limit
Slavoj Žižek, who were in turn inspired by (or difference) is no longer constantly com-
and revisited some of the key concepts of pared to the model, but becomes the centre,
poststructuralism. the core; something good in its own right.
‘The limit is the core’ writes Williams
(2005, p. 2), which means that any form
of stable knowledge is defined by its limits
STRUCTURE AND DIFFERENCE and cannot be conceived of without them.
While structuralism privileges a model that
The dissenting position towards structural- is repeated identically over time, thereby
ism starts by subverting the traditional hier- becoming the norm, poststructuralism over-
archical relationship between structure (a turns this hierarchical relationship between
model or pattern which is both descriptive and pattern and difference, making the exception
prescriptive) and difference (or limit), as well more important.
as rejecting any possibility of arriving at ‘the These philosophers ask what happens when
Truth’ (true knowledge). For structuralism, a what is important is not what is repeated, but
structure is what is regularly repeated. For what is different – the difference, the differ-
example, the normal ‘life cycle’ in human entiation? What might happen if we upset the
resource management describes a repeated hierarchical order of structure and limit and
pattern made up of different stages (recruiting, if a model is disempowered of its descriptive

and prescriptive force, so as to make room indetermined and elusive, almost impossible
for what always changes? Within the field to understand using modernist conceptual
of management and organization studies, categories. They all investigate the effects
for example, poststructuralism has led some of differences in different areas, and follow
scholars to rethink the historical oppositions the traces of these differences.
between organization and change, order and Poststructuralism challenges our certain-
disorder, organization and disorganization ties; it introduces movement and disorder
(Chia, 1999; Cooper, 1986). Cooper (1986) into a world that seeks stability, and since
views organization as being in conversation these thinkers are focused on removing the
with disorder and disorganization. Following categories and metanarratives of science, it
Deleuze’s philosophy of difference, Linstead follows that poststructuralism has been, and
and Thanem (2007) reconceptualize the rela- still is, influential in fighting discrimination
tionship between change and organization as based on sex, gender and sexual identity;
not being ‘opposed in any straightforward it has enhanced awareness of those forms
way … [they] are imbricated in each other of inclusion or exclusion related to social
in a continuously responsive conversation class and race. It is a form of resistance to
between organization and the “objects” it tries the implicit or explicit forms of violence
to organize, i.e. between organization and exercised through science and research and
non-organization’ (p. 1485). through values and morals, not to mention
With this focus on difference instead artistic canons and the law.
of normality, what takes centre stage is The starting point, therefore, is to begin
not the recurring structure (the model that to dismantle these oppositions, categories
always repeats itself) but whatever varies and meanings, and uses, habits and beliefs,
and changes. If we shift our attention from making room for those differences that have
centre to periphery, from the structure to been removed from history and showing that
the limit, from the model to the difference, there is no obligation to enact these forms
then we realize to what extent the notion of of behaviour even if they are stratified and
normality (or what structuralists call a struc- consolidated in human affairs. For exam-
ture) draws a demarcation line, positioning ple, the categories of identity (race, class,
differences or deviation as far away as pos- ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender,
sible from the centre. Difference should not etc.), with their hierarchical relationship
be understood as diverging or departing between two extremes, are the result of a
from a model: for poststructuralists, lim- process; they were a way of solving certain
its or the differences resist identification, problems that humanity was facing. These
because otherwise they themselves would arrangements have been repeated and strati-
become the norm. In itself, a limit is elu- fied over time, but they are not binding in
sive, but we can try to look at its effects, and character. The way we relate to each other,
above all we can problematize normality and the categories we use to describe our-
(the centre) and challenge its claim to ‘natu- selves, or our organizational practices, are
ral’ truth. The new questions become: what the result of mere historical circumstance,
would happen if life took on different forms where the pressing need was to solve certain
than those described and prescribed by the problems that humanity (or Western culture,
model? What would happen if fixed, sta- or its institutions) was facing. This way of
ble truths became unstable? Consequently, thinking has two consequences: (1) struc-
how we can create new things, unexpected tures are discontinuous and entirely contin-
forms of life, different situations? What the gent; (2) structures consolidate and congeal
poststructuralist French philosophers share over time, to the point that they are deemed
is this ‘description’ of limit as something necessary and natural.
Poststructuralism 91

THE SUBJECT AND POWER more important, because ‘a text’s unity

lies not in its origin but in its destination’
In philosophy, a ‘subject’ is a generic word (p. 148), the author’s demise means the read-
used to indicate a human being or person, er’s identity disappears as well: ‘… the reader
what psychologists call ‘the individual’. is without history, biography, psychology’
Together with words such as subjectivity and (Barthes, 1968, p. 148). Foucault too (1969a)
subjectification, the concept of subject stands returns to the same idea when he asks: ‘What is
at the centre of poststructuralist philosophy. an author?’ and, recalling Beckett, ‘What does
Because of their French origin, when these it matter who’s speaking?’ Naming the author,
concepts migrated to the English-speaking for Foucault, characterizes the text’s presence
world, translating them was no easy feat and marks the edges of the text. The author
(Gherardi, 2016; Henriques et al., 1984). For is ‘a certain functional principle by which, in
example, because the French verb assujettir our culture, one limits, excludes, and chooses’
means both ‘to produce subjectivity’ and ‘to (Foucault, 1969a, p. 119). The notion of the
make subject to’, and the English language author is a product of discourse: ‘The author
has no single word which conveys both function therefore is characteristic of the mode
meanings, scholars had to use two words to of existence, circulation, and functioning of
translate the French assujettissement: subjec- certain discourses within a society’ (p. 108).
tivity and subjectification. This movement, aimed at destabilizing the
By dethroning the subject once and for all, notion of the author (Benozzo et  al., 2016),
poststructuralism disempowered one of the runs parallel to the one declaring the death of
most influential concepts of the modern age, the subject constructed by humanism.
together with the notions of power, constitu- The humanist subject is a unified, self-
tive subjectivity and agency. Of course, the founded, rational individual – stable, coher-
subject had already been partially decentred ent, self-conscious, knowing and outside
by Marx’s description of the human being of history. The subject of the modern era
as a product of society, by Freud’s theory of is Cartesian man who, having uttered the
the unconscious, by Nietzcshe declaring that ‘magic’ sentence Cogito, ergo sum, became
God was dead, and by Gramsci, who pro- the source of truth and knowledge. By defin-
vided the basis for understanding how sub- ing as ‘object’ everything that is not ‘subject’,
jectivity comes into being with his concept Descartes established a series of binarisms
of hegemony. The poststructuralists worked (self/other, subject/object and identity/differ-
through these positions, distancing them- ence) which have come to underpin Western
selves from some of them at the same time, epistemology. Once what is external has
especially from Marxism. been defined as an object, then the outside
Criticism of the humanist subject is can be studied, measured and controlled.
bound up with the criticism of the notion ‘Real’ knowledge about the outside can be
of the ‘author’ found in two short essays produced: the subject can make predictions
by Barthes and Foucault. In 1968, Barthes and carry out changes. This subject appeared
declares the death of the author and states on the scene of Western culture in the seven-
that the author’s identity is a construc- teenth century, and coincides with the notion
tion of French rationalism, empiricism and of the human being used in bureaucracies,
the Reformation. He concludes that ‘the in organizations and in the narratives of the
author is never more than the instance say- social sciences. There are traces of this sub-
ing I’ (p. 145), whose identity is a particu- ject in the legal system, granting rights, obli-
lar configuration within all the possibilities gations and responsibilities, and he is also the
offered by language. While the absence of citizen subjected to forms of normalization,
the author might seem to make the reader discipline and punishment.

Foucault’s famous announcement of the is that the subject has the illusion of being
‘death of man’ (1966) must be interpreted the author of its subjectivity, when it is actu-
as a rejection of the notion of constitutive ally ideology, which interpellates the subject
subjectivity that found its final expression through language and constitutes its subjec-
in German Idealism (Mascaretti, 2013). tivity. For Althusser, the subject is ‘always-
This notion refers to the subject who dic- already’ made subject to in language.
tates the conditions of experience, who is Foucault focused much of his work on
the motivating force behind civilization, this theme of how the human being is made
the protagonist of history; he is the source subject, and one of his important contri-
of the moral values that guide action. His butions was to help us understand that
symbolic representation is to be found in what we call subject is a concept that has
the Vitruvian man who is the measure of changed over time. His work can be seen as
all things: an adult white male, reared in a continuous study into the compulsory and
Western culture, positioned at the centre of coercive forms that constitute the subject,
the Universe. He is the subject who creates and his main interest consisted of creating
the object of knowledge (nature, society, ‘a history of the different modes by which,
organizations, the Other) in his own image in our culture, human beings are made
and stubbornly projects his own categories subject. My work has dealt with three modes
onto the objects that he has constructed. of objectification that transform human
His being in the world is guided by a sense beings into subjects’ (Foucault, 1983,
of purpose, which is the emancipation and p. 208). The first line of inquiry was related
liberation of humanity. The humanist sub- to the ways in which the subject becomes the
ject is free and has agency; he can escape object of science. For example, the subject is
oppression to pursue his ambitions and constituted as a speaking subject – in general
intentions. Through reason and self-control, grammar, philology and linguistics – or as a
this man can free humanity from its errors subject who labours in wealth and econom-
and archaic beliefs. Whoever is truly able to ics. The second line of research investigated
overcome unexpected difficulties becomes a how the subject is objectified through divid-
model for the rest of humanity. ing practices that set up binarisms such as
This rejection of the notion of constitu- self/other, sane/insane, criminal and ‘good
tive subjectivity found an echo in the work boy’, and the third line of research consisted
of Althusser (1971), for whom the subject of the ways of objectification through which
is interpellated – hailed and positioned – men ‘have learned to recognize themselves
through ideological systems, which operate as subjects of “sexuality”’ (Foucault, 1983,
silently, in ways of which we are unaware. p. 208).
Through interpellation, the ideological appa- In poststructuralism, then, the modern
ratuses of the state (such as schools, the notion of the subject is replaced by that of
Church and the family, and the legal and an emerging or fragmented one, constantly
political systems and trade unions) govern ‘becoming’ in relation to the positions
people in the interest of the ruling class and occupied simultaneously within discourses.
with the assistance of law enforcement (the Discourses circulate in written or oral form:
police and armed forces). Althusser uses the they exist in social practices and in the layout
example of when a policeman hails a particu- of institutions (school, family, organizations,
lar person: ‘Hey, you there!’ and the latter homes, churches) and require the agency
responds (or turns towards the source of the of the subject to be enacted. Discourses are
shout). The policeman creates the subject, also beyond-text – in so far as they are also
who may in turn feel like a scoundrel, or an comprised of non-textual elements (e.g.
upright citizen. The consequence of this view the visual, the spoken, etc.) (Parker & The
Poststructuralism 93

Bolton Discourse Network, 1999) – and they completely subject to them2. The positions
‘… authorize what can and cannot be said; available clearly represent a limitation of
they produce relations of power and com- agency, but at the same time make available
munities of consent and dissent, and thus dis- certain kinds of knowledge and actions that
cursive boundaries are always being redrawn would not be possible if the subject took on
around what constitutes the desirable and different positionings.
undesirable and around what it is that makes In other words, in poststructuralism there
possible particular structures of intelligibil- is a twofold (dual) movement in the construc-
ity and unintelligibility’ (Britzman, 2000, tion of subjectivity3. The subject exhibits
p. 36). This means that discourses make the agency by taking up certain discourses and
subject intelligible and legitimate; they offer simultaneously, those same discourses force
him different and, at times, contradictory him to take up a certain kind of subjectivity.
positions that he may take up in social con- Subjectification has a dual nature, and should
texts, organizations, the family and so on. not be understood solely as a coercive force
Positioning confers rights and duties, defin- operating on the subject – and it is this posi-
ing the obligations that an individual has tion that distances poststructuralism from
towards other individuals as well as those Althusser. The subject is ‘subjected to the
of the latter toward the former (Harré & regime of meaning of a particular discourse
Moghaddam, 2013). and enabled to act accordingly’, but is at the
Together with this reconceptualization of same time ‘a site for possible forms of sub-
the subject, poststructuralism (and in par-
jectivity’ (Weedom, 1997, p. 34). The subject
ticular Foucault) involves a reworking of
may also resist the power that determines
the notion of power. In humanism, power is
him and counteract discourses to which he is
something a person owns. Man is born with
made subject, but at the same time and neces-
agency, and therefore with power, which he
sarily, he depends on being subjected to be
may use as he likes. Power is a prerogative
intelligible and recognizable. The subject is
of the individual who can exercise his will
simultaneously forged by external forces, but
over others by forcing those less powerful to
do things they do not want to do. Foucault it is precisely within these forces that agency
criticizes this view and instead of the word finds space. Agency is always taken up within
‘power’, writes of ‘power relations’, for a given framework.
example, in the family, in society, in organi- In the field of management and organi-
zations and institutions. This means, first, zation studies, some researchers have
that power is a system of relations preva- investigated the multiplicity of subjec-
lent in society (not a relationship between tivity as well as its contradictions, ambi-
oppressor and oppressed) and, second, that guities and discontinuities. Scholars have
individuals are not the recipients of power, theorized and analysed how organizations
but the space where power is enacted or (mainly through regulatory discourses)
resisted. Weedom reminds us that ‘Power can forge the subjectivity of individuals or
is a relation. It inheres in difference and is how different subjectivities emerge from
a dynamic of control, compliance and lack surveillance-based organizations (Ahonen
of control between discourses and the sub- et al., 2014; Baack & Prasch, 1997; Benozzo,
jects constituted by discourses, who are their Pizzorno et  al., 2015; Boje et  al., 1996;
agents. Power is exercised within discourses Calás & Smircich, 1999; Collinson, 2003;
in the way in which they constitute and gov- Cooper & Burrell, 1988; Fleming, 2007;
ern individual subjects’ (1997, p. 110). We Ford, 2006; Harding et al., 2011; Hassard &
must not have an over-deterministic view Parker, 1993; Linstead, 2004; Pizzorno
of discourses, because the subject is never et al., 2015; Prasad, 2012).

LANGUAGE AND DECONSTRUCTION other identity categories such as class, ethnic-

ity, gender or age. Moreover, since the homo-
Basically, humanism and structuralism can sexual category is weak, we are forced to fix,
be read as an attempt to define the essence of or define the essence both of the thing itself
things, the factor that can identify something (the homosexual category), and of the real,
or someone and group them together with live homosexuals inhabiting the world, so
others of the same type, so as to create an that the category and the individuals can be
order, a system of classification, within an matched. This activity, consisting of a search
existence dominated by chaos and disorder. for sameness (not for difference), which
In the Archaeology of knowledge (1969b), combines entities only apparently similar, is
Foucault reconstructed how human sciences carried out through language.
used language to build binarism, categories, For poststructuralists, language does not
classification schemes and tables/grids that mirror the world. A significant starting point
reflect an ‘innate’ order of things. These deep for their critique is Derrida’s revision (1967)
structures were supposed to provide the of the linguistic theories of Ferdinand de
framework within which to control the unti- Saussure (1916). Humanist theories of lan-
diness of life. Poststructural theories, femi- guage conceived words as signs representing
nist poststructural theories and queer theory a presence that exists somewhere else in the
(Butler, 1999, 2004; Halperin, 1995) have world, and there are traces of this idea also
troubled those structures, and it was pre- when we wonder about the meaning hidden
cisely the poststructuralist critique of lan- behind words in ordinary language, as if the
guage and, in particular, deconstruction, meaning existed somewhere else. Saussure
which brought to light how language func- changes this framework, because he claims
tions by producing structures which we that the meaning resides in the sign and
believe to be real, but are actually very primi- nowhere else. To arrive at this point, he makes
tive, and which create forms of privilege. a distinction in the sign between the signified
Poststructuralism rejects those humanist and the signifier. The first is the meaning
theories of language, which generally posit and the second is the sound or image of the
the correspondence between a word and written sign. The point that Saussure clari-
something out there in the world – words cor- fied is that the relationship between the two
respond to things existing in the world, and elements of the sign is arbitrary; the signifier
language therefore mirrors what we encoun- does not express the signified and the signi-
ter. These are significant issues, because the fied does not reflect a sound or form. The
huge variety of things that happen in the world meaning of a sign ‘is not intrinsic but rela-
makes it impossible to find a correspondence tional. Each sign derives its meaning from
for everything in language; in other words, it its difference from all the other signs in the
is difficult to invent the words which might language’ (Weedom, 1997, p. 23). For exam-
match everything that exists in the world. ple, there is nothing intrinsic in the signifier
For that reason, using the humanist idea of homosexual that gives it its meaning; what
language leads us to group together into cat- gives meaning to homosexual is its difference
egories, classes and so on, certain things and from other signifiers referring to sexual iden-
behaviours, ideas and people, which may tity, such as heterosexual or transsexual.
seem similar, but are in fact very different. Poststructuralism agrees with, but at the
A good example is the category homosexual. same time distances itself from, Saussurean
In an attempt to create order and coherence, theories. The poststructuralists accept the
some people are included in this category, but idea that there is no correspondence between
this obscures their differences in relation to words and things, that signs have no intrinsic
Poststructuralism 95

meaning, and find meaning instead in the present and self-identical in the immediacy
differences from other signs in the linguis- of our experiences’ (Chia & King, 2001,
tic chain: meaning is thus generated through p. 318). However, things and events are not
differences rather than through similarities. fully present and it is not true that we can
However, poststructuralists distance them- understand them through unmediated experi-
selves from Saussure because his theory ence. The yearning for the ‘thing in itself’,
does not explain the presence of different writes Spivak (1974), is the desire for a cen-
meanings for the same signified; Saussure’s tre that is transcendent and timeless, which
theory is logocentric in the sense that ‘signs ‘spawns hierarchized oppositions. The supe-
have an already fixed meaning recognized by rior term belongs to presence and the logos;
the self-conscious rational speaking subject’ the inferior serves its status and marks a fall’
(Weedom, 1997, p. 25). Poststructuralism (p. lxix).
operates a radical change in Saussure’s In On grammatology, Derrida elucidates
theory by arguing that the meaning is never brilliantly how language works because of
fixed forever but is constantly deferred. difference, and not because sign and thing
Jacques Derrida invented the neologism dif- are identical (not because of presence).
férance (with an ‘a’) to explain that meaning Again, Spivak explains that ‘[t]he structure
is never stable, but changes constantly, so of the sign is determined by the trace or track
that the meaning can always be questioned. of that other which is forever absent’ (1974,
The word différance contains the combined p. xvii) and in this way, Derrida builds the
meanings of the words difference and defer- foundations for the undoing of structures
ral. Therefore, if meaning is always changing (centred on sameness and presence), in short,
and ephemeral, then representation can only for deconstruction, an approach that has
be a temporary retrospective that unfortu- enjoyed great success in poststructuralism
nately fixes the meaning, but we can never and beyond. It should be made abundantly
know exactly what something means; we clear that deconstruction is not demolition:
can never get to the root of things. The point it is not a nihilistic or annihilating practice.
is that poststructuralism is not interested in It should rather be described as a practice of
‘meaning’; this can never be pinned down reconstruction in order to understand how a
and must always be deferred, being always structure, an essence, a centre were built and,
incomplete and lacking an origin. above all, what they produce. Deconstruction
One of the most influential poststructur- ‘is to dismantle our preconceived notions
alist critiques of language is to be found in and expose the absent presence. The absent
Derrida’s book Of grammatology (1967), presence is that which has been ignored in
which attacks logocentrism as the defining an attempt to preserve the illusion of truth as
mode of Western thought, based on what a perfectly self-contained and self-sufficient
he calls a ‘metaphysics of presence’. The present’ (Jackson & Mazzei, 2012, p. 18).
logic of presence refers to a transcendental Deconstruction makes us more aware of
order which exists in itself and is manifested how language traps us in binary forms of
by ideas such as essence, consciousness, thought, in categories and in grids of intel-
rationality, unified subject, logos and so on. ligibility, highlighting what we normally pay
Western thought is rooted in this idea of pres- little attention to, not only in what we read on
ence: ‘a relatively unexamined set of philo- a page, but also in the text of the ‘self’ and
sophical assumptions underpinning much of in organizational and social practices; decon-
the natural and social sciences, in which it struction, then, should not be understood in
is implicitly believed that things and events the restrictive sense, as merely a tool for tex-
are unproblematically given to us as fully tual analysis or literary criticism. Derrida’s

famous saying, ‘There is nothing outside of being labelled sentimental, weak, irrational
the text’ (Derrida, 1967, p. 158), could be and so on. Then the privileged term (man)
taken to mean that the only thing that we needs to be displaced and a new one created
should pay attention to is language, but it which can no longer be understood using the
could also be understood, perhaps more cor- original binary (man/woman). In this way,
rectly, as meaning that everything is text, or we support a way of thinking in favour of
that outside there is another text, other struc- something different happening. This kind of
tures and assumptions – we are inseparable research would be différance, not repetition.
from the text through which we constitute One of the main consequences of decon-
ourselves and things. struction is that it allows us to look at how
Derrida stressed that ‘deconstruction is not language does not indicate pre-existing
a method’ and cannot ‘be reduced to some things; it constructs the world we know,
methodological instrumentality or a set of meaning that we assign words to the world
rules and transposable procedures’ (Derrida, and there is nothing natural about what we
1988, p. 4). He later wrote that deconstruc- produce, and if the world is constructed
tion ‘is neither a theory nor a philosophy. through language and cultural practices, then
It is neither a school nor a method. It is not it can be deconstructed and reconstructed.
even a discourse, not an act, nor a practice. Structures, models and regularities are not
It is what happens, what is happening today necessary and do not pre-exist our capacity
in what they call society, politics, diplo- to give them a name: they are contingent and
macy, economics, historical reality, and so
open to change. It follows too that we have a
on’ (Malabou & Derrida, 2004, p. 225). A
great responsibility towards the structures we
poststructuralist question does not ask what
have constructed. This responsibility cannot
deconstruction means, but what deconstruc-
be assigned to a presence outside of ourselves
tion does: it puts a structure ‘under erasure’
which makes us state ‘That’s how things are’,
(sous rature), meaning ‘to write a word, cross
because that would actually be shirking our
it out, and then print both word and dele-
responsibilities, along with the intellectual
tion’ (Spivack, 1974, p. xiv). In this sense,
we continue to use categories that allow us and political challenges involved in embrac-
to describe the world (and organizations), ing the ambiguous, contingent nature of
because they seem necessary, but at the human existence. Deconstruction also has
same we cross them out because we think ethical aspects, offering new opportunities to
they are inadequate. For example, we would rewrite ourselves and our cultural practices,
write management and organization to make our organizations and the way of life that we
it clear that we are questioning a structure ourselves have produced, in a never-ending
but at the same time not rejecting it. We are process.
working both within and against it. Poststructural theories of language have
Deconstruction not only works within and migrated and influenced management studies
against a structure, but displaces the structure and produced subversive analyses of organi-
so that something different can be thought zations. Jones (2004) has identified three
and done. If we look at some of the classic possibilities in the adventure of deconstruc-
(and injurious) categories of Western cul- tion in organization studies: (1) the possibil-
ture (self/other, man/woman, white/black, ity that deconstruction might be a ‘method’;
Western/Eastern, heterosexual/homosexual), (2) the possibility that deconstruction might
deconstruction begins by reversing the order be negative or some form of ‘critique’ and
of the binary, so that in the binary man/ (3) the possibility that deconstruction might
woman, for example, women take the privi- result in relativism or ‘the indeterminacy of
leged position and men feel the discomfort of meaning’ (p. 36).
Poststructuralism 97

POST-QUALITATIVE RESEARCH AND research attracted more interest from scholars

METHODOLOGIES working in the qualitative field, because
it offered a creative launch-pad for new
Qualitative inquiry in general, and in man- methodological journeys. Numerous spe-
agement and organization studies in particu- cialist journals have dedicated whole issues
lar, is greatly indebted to humanism. For this specifically to post-qualitative research:
reason, once the classical humanist structures (1) Qualitative Inquiry – Qualitative Data
were undone by poststructural theories, the Analysis after Coding (2014/6); (2) Cultural
difficulty for researchers was how to ‘work Studies ↔ Critical Methodologies – Data
the ruins’ of qualitative research: ‘Once (2013/4); (3) The International Journal
of Qualitative Studies in Education – Post
those philosophical categories have shifted,
Qualitative Research (2013/6); and (4)
methodology will shift as well. If human-
Qualitative Inquiry – Concept as Method
ism’s inscription of reality, knowledge, truth,
(2017/9). In addition, approaches like new
rationality, and the subject are dangerous fic-
materialism and posthumanism (Barad,
tions, then its “science” also becomes prob-
2007; Braidotti, 2013; Koro-Ljungberg,
lematic. If this is the case, what might a
2015; Lather, 2013; MacLure, 2013;
different science look like?’ (St. Pierre &
Massumi, 2002) have made some unex-
Pillow, 2000, p. 10).
pected words available to research (such as
In recent years, a movement inspired by
assemblage, entanglement, movement, appa-
poststructural theories has entered the arena
ratus, intra-action, diffraction, rhizoanalysis,
of qualitative inquiry, seeking to trouble line of flight, nomadic, affect, event, space-
humanistic research assumptions and go time-matter, onto-epistemology, etc.) which
beyond conventional humanistic qualita- resist attempts to construct yet another clear,
tive research (St. Pierre, 2011). This disrup- consensual regulatory alternative.
tive action is aimed at the kind of qualitative The ‘post’ in post-qualitative research can
research that has become all too predictable be understood, then, not only as what comes
in book after book, article after article, con- after neopositivism, interpretivism and lin-
ference after conference: it is a reliable and guistic turn, but also as the ongoing process
stable structure, and it is also dangerously of deconstruction, and many of the key con-
regulatory. Indeed, qualitative research has cepts of the neopositivist and interpretative
become so regulated and standardized that frameworks (such as sameness, voice, expe-
it risks losing the critical mass that charac- rience, ‘I’, analysis, coding, data, field, inter-
terized its origins. The disruptive movement view, narrative, research design, reflexivity
originated in education studies, in poststruc- and many more) have been put under erasure
tural feminism and in the methodological and using this process. Indeed, they have some-
epistemological debates surrounding qualita- times been completely abandoned because
tive research, but the field of management and they tend towards fixity.
organization studies still seems untouched by Post-qualitative inquiry and methodology
these developments. cannot be described in precise terms, and
Scholars have started to deconstruct much of the methodological rule-following
some of the classic categories of qualita- used in conventional qualitative research can-
tive research, such as interview (Scheurich, not be used in the post-qualitative field or
1995), validity (Lather, 1993) and data may seem inadequate. For example, terms
(St. Pierre, 1997), and more recently, to such as qualitative, methodology, ethics and
trouble other keystone concepts: reflexivity so on are labels with no stable identity for
(Pillow, 2003) and voice (Jackson and post-qualitative scholars and are therefore
Mazzei, 2009). Subsequently, post-qualitative always, at least in part, becoming. Research

and the work of the researcher thus become Notes

something ‘not-yet-thought’, something dif-
 1  Lather and St. Pierre (2007) use the term postposi-
ferent. As outlined above, structuralism thinks
tivism to indicate that group of theories that rejects
of difference as difference from something, the assumptions of positivism and which may be
while Deleuze (1994) urges us to think of dif- hereinafter referred to as: neopositivism, interpre-
ference-in-itself, intent on freeing difference tivism, critical theory and poststructuralism. Within
from the dominance of identity by making organization and management studies, we find the
difference primary, and identity only second- use of two terms: postpostivism (Prasad, 2005) and
ary. This might also be read as meaning that post-positivism (Miller, 2000). In the first case, post-
positivism is used in its most popular sense, that is,
it is difference that creates something, rather
in line with Lather and St. Pierre. In the second case,
than commonality or sameness, or that dif- post-positivism is suggested by Miller (2000) to
ference is in constant dynamic tension with describe a meta-theoretical position, which derives
commonality or sameness. In this perspec- from functionalism (Burrell and Morgan, 1979) or
tive, what a thing is fluctuates constantly, so by modernism (Deetz, 1996), that ‘does not require
that there is really no being, but only becom- a rejection of realism, objectivity, and the scientific
ing (Koro-Ljungberg et al., 2016). goal of value-free inquiry. However, these scholars
do reject the notion of absolute truth, the unassail-
Post-qualitative theories and the accom-
able foundation of observation, and the assump-
panying methodological moves can also tion of an always steady and upward accumulation
be seen as political moves (Lather, 2007) of knowledge’ (Miller, 2000, p. 58).
against normative science, especially by  2  Poststructuralism implies a rethinking of agency.
scholars interested in experimental ontolo- Once the subject is decentred, he is no longer the
gies and surprising methodologies. Similarly, free spirit of humanism.
when a methodology is seen as changing and  3  Weedom describes subjectivity as follows: ‘subjectivity
[in poststructuralism] is used to refer to the conscious
‘becoming’ (Deleuze and Guattari, 1994) –
and unconscious thoughts and emotions of the indi-
when it is endowed with elements of the vidual, her[his] sense of herself[himself] and her[his]
unknown and unanticipated – it seems to ways of understanding her[his] relation to the world’
offer scholars greater opportunities of open- (Weedom, 1997, p. 32). Subjectivity refers to self-
endedness and creativity. awareness and individuality, and not to an intrin-
The task of rethinking qualitative research sically human feature present in our personal
in general (and research in management stud- narratives.
ies in particular) is challenging because we
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Mixed Methods
J o s e F. M o l i n a - A z o r i n

INTRODUCTION were qualitative studies. In any case, for

these three journals, and for most other busi-
The choice between quantitative or qualita- ness and management journals, quantitative
tive methods has been the subject of contro- designs dominate.
versy in business and management research. Although the use of qualitative methods
Although business and management research- has lagged behind the use of quantitative
ers employ both qualitative and quantitative approaches, significant contributions to man-
approaches, the use of large sample, quanti- agement theory and practice have also come
tatively operationalized research designs from qualitative studies (Barr, 2004; Cassell
dominates (Phelan et  al., 2002; Molina- & Symon, 2006). Moreover, an important
Azorin, 2011). There are some differences methodological trend is to integrate qualita-
between the European, more pluralistic, tra- tive and quantitative research methods in the
dition, and its acceptance of qualitative same study; that is, to employ a mixed meth-
research, and that of North America. For ods approach (Molina-Azorin, 2007). The
example, in the field of entrepreneurship issue need not be quantitative versus qualita-
research, Molina-Azorin et al. (2012) found tive methods, but rather how to combine the
that in the Journal of Business Venturing and strengths of each in a mixed methods approach.
Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice, two Although researchers have combined qual-
leading US-based entrepreneurship journals, 12 itative and quantitative data for many years,
per cent and 8 per cent were qualitative papers, current conceptualizations of mixed meth-
respectively. However, in Entrepreneurship ods research did not emerge until the 1980s
and Regional Development, a leading (Bryman, 1988; Greene et al., 1989). Mixed
European journal in this field, 36 per cent methods research has developed rapidly in
Mixed Methods 103

these last few years, emerging as a research role in the development of our field because
methodology with a recognized name and results obtained from different methods have
distinct identity ((Denscombe, 2008), espe- the potential to enrich our understanding of
cially in some fields such as education, business and management problems and
health sciences, psychology and sociology. In questions. In fact, there are calls for using
these fields, this methodological approach is mixed methods in business and management
becoming increasingly articulated and recog- research (Jick, 1979; Hitt et  al., 1998; Lee,
nized as the third methodological movement, 1999; Currall & Towler, 2003; Armstrong &
along with qualitative research and quantita- Shimizu, 2007; Edmondson & McManus,
tive research (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003). 2007; Molina-Azorin, 2007, 2011, 2012;
Scholars from these fields have published Molina-Azorin & Cameron, 2015; Molina-
specific books on mixed methods research Azorin & Lopez-Gamero, 2016), but more
(Tashakkori & Teddlie, 2003; Niglas, 2004; knowledge about this methodological
Mertens, 2005; Creswell & Plano Clark, approach is needed in our field.
2007; Greene, 2007; Andrew & Halcomb, The aim of this chapter is to examine
2009; Morse & Niehaus, 2009; Teddlie & the main characteristics of mixed methods
Tashakkori, 2009; Tashakkori & Teddlie, research. An important objective of this paper
2010; Creswell & Plano Clark, 2011; is to help business and management scholars
Creswell, 2015; Curry & Nunez-Smith, to become more familiar with mixed methods
2015; Plano Clark & Ivankova, 2016). research, studying why and how to use this
However, the attention devoted to mixed approach. This chapter may be relevant for
methods in our business and management researchers who want models of how other
field has been relatively low in comparison scholars effectively apply this approach.
to the disciplines from within the social and Thus, several examples of mixed methods
behavioural sciences identified previously studies published in our field in three impor-
as championing the mixed methods move- tant journals (Academy of Management
ment. For example, at the moment, there Journal, Strategic Management Journal and
is not any specific book on mixed methods Journal of Organizational Behavior) are
research published in our field. In addition, examined. In addition, recommendations
although there are articles that have used regarding the adequate application of mixed
a mixed methods approach, the expres- methods research are indicated.
sion ‘mixed methods’ is not usually used This chapter is organized as follows. First,
in the title of these mixed methods studies. the foundations and main characteristics
Furthermore, the literature base of this meth- of mixed methods research are indicated,
odological approach is rarely included in the emphasizing why and how to conduct a
references sections of mixed methods arti- mixed methods study. Next, several examples
cles published in business and management in the business and management field that
journals (Molina-Azorin, 2011). On this evi- use a mixed methods approach are examined.
dence, it seems likely that the terminology, Finally, the last sections offer some implica-
advantages, purposes and designs of mixed tions and recommendations, and a summary
methods research may be unknown to busi- of the main conclusions.
ness and management researchers, and con-
sequently our field may not exploit the full
potential for mixing methods. Therefore, we MIXED METHODS RESEARCH
have much to learn about this methodological
approach from other fields. In this section, several important aspects,
The use of mixed methods research in busi- characteristics and methodological advances
ness and management may play an important in mixed methods research that have been

made by other fields are examined. the identification of pure mixed, qualitative
Specifically, definition, barriers to conduct- dominant and quantitative dominant as the
ing this type of research, purposes, types of three types that fall into their mixed methods
designs and philosophical positions are definition.

Barriers to Conducting Mixed

Definition of Mixed Methods Methods Research
There are several barriers to carrying out
Greene et  al. (1989) defined mixed methods mixed methods studies (Plano Clark, 2005;
designs as those that include at least one quan- Bryman, 2007; Creswell & Plano Clark,
titative method (designed to collect numbers) 2007). Mixed methods studies require exten-
and one qualitative method (designed to col- sive time, resources and effort, and research-
lect non-numeric data). Tashakkori & Teddlie ers must develop a broader set of skills.
(1998) pointed out that mixed methods studies Creswell & Plano Clark (2007) pointed out
are those that combine the qualitative and that conducting mixed methods research is
quantitative approaches into the research not easy. Mixed methods studies are a chal-
methodology of a single study. Johnson & lenge because they are perceived as requiring
Onwuegbuzie (2004) indicated that mixed more work and financial resources, and they
methods research is the class of research take more time. Increased time demands
where the researcher mixes or combines quan- arise from the time it takes to implement the
titative and qualitative research techniques, quantitative and qualitative parts of the study
methods, approaches, concepts or language (Niglas, 2004).
into a single study. Plano Clark (2005) stated In addition, mixed methods research also
that mixed methods research combines quali- requires that researchers develop a broader
tative and quantitative data collection and data set of skills that span both the quantitative
analysis within a single study. and the qualitative. Many scholars have spe-
Johnson et al. (2007) asked 21 researchers cialized in their research training in either a
to define mixed methods and obtained 19 def- predominantly quantitative or qualitative tra-
initions. These definitions differed in terms dition, and this issue may militate against the
of what was being mixed (methods or meth- application of mixed methods studies. One
odologies), the stage of the research process way to overcoming this limitation in trained
in which mixing occurred (data collection, capacities of researchers that might hinder
data analysis, inferences) and the purpose for their ability or inclination to conduct mixed
mixing (breadth, corroboration). As a result methods research is to develop teams than
of their review, these authors offered a com- can bring together specialists in both kinds of
posite and broad definition (Johnson et  al., methods. However, the presence of skill spe-
p. 123): mixed methods research is the type cialisms may lead to compartmentalization of
of research in which a researcher or team of roles and responsibilities that can hinder the
researchers combines elements of qualita- integration of findings (Bryman, 2007).
tive and quantitative research approaches Another barrier is related to the challenges
(e.g. the use of qualitative and quantitative of publishing mixed methods studies. In this
viewpoints, data collection, analysis, infer- case, researchers face two kinds of problems
ence techniques) for the purposes of breadth (Plano Clark, 2005; Bryman, 2007). One is
and depth of understanding and corrobora- the tendency for some journals to be known
tion. These authors indicated a continuum of to have a methodological bias toward either
several types of mixed methods studies, with quantitative or qualitative research and,
Mixed Methods 105

consequently, researchers may believe that with triangulation: complementarity (elabo-

the presence of such a bias limits their ability ration or clarification of the results from
to publish mixed methods studies. The other one method with the findings from the other
is that the need to describe and discuss two method), development (when the researcher
sets of data collection, data analysis and find- uses the results from one method to help
ings may make it difficult to publish mixed develop the use of the other method) and
methods studies due to the word and page expansion (seeking to extend the breadth and
restrictions that journals impose on authors. range of inquiry by using different methods
for different inquiry components).
Bryman & Bell (2015) also present a
Benefits and Purposes of Mixed wide variety of purposes for mixed meth-
ods research: triangulation (the findings
Methods Research
from one method are cross-checked against
Taking into account previous barriers to con- the results deriving from the other type);
ducting mixed methods research, is it worth qualitative research facilitates quantitative
our time and effort to carry out mixed meth- research (providing hypotheses or informing
ods studies? Some benefits and advantages the design of survey questions); quantitative
of mixed methods research can be indicated. research facilitates qualitative research (pre-
The overall purpose and central premise of paring the ground for qualitative research
mixed methods studies is that the use of through the selection of people to be inter-
quantitative and qualitative approaches in viewed, or companies to be selected as case
combination provides a better understanding studies); static and procedural features (quan-
of research problems and complex phenom- titative research can study the static features
ena than either approach alone (Creswell & and regularities of a phenomenon and quali-
Plano Clark, 2007). Better understanding can tative research can focus on more procedural
be obtained, for example, by triangulating characteristics); qualitative research may
one set of results with another and thereby facilitate the interpretation of the relationship
enhancing the validity of inferences. In fact, between variables (a qualitative study can be
the concept of the triangulation of methods used to help explain the factors underlying
was the intellectual wedge that eventually the broad relationships that are established in
broke the methodological hegemony of the the quantitative part); and analysis of differ-
monomethod purists (Tashakkori & Teddlie, ent aspects of a phenomenon (for example,
1998). Jick (1979) discussed triangulation in the relationship between macro and micro
terms of the weaknesses of one method being levels, or different stages of a longitudinal
offset by the strengths of another. It is often study).
stressed that different methods have different Saunders et  al. (2016) also indicate other
weaknesses and strengths, and therefore the reasons for using a mixed methods design:
main effect triangulation can offer is to over- generalizability (use of mixed methods may
come the weaknesses of any single method. help to establish the generalizability of a
Thus, if we use several different methods for study, its relative importance or its cred-
investigating the phenomenon of our interest, ibility); diversity (use of mixed methods
and the results provide mutual confirmation, may allow for a greater diversity of views to
we can be more sure that our results are valid inform and be reflected in the study); prob-
(Niglas, 2004). lem solving (use of an alternative method
Other purposes, reasons or rationales for may help when the initial method reveals
combining qualitative and quantitative meth- unexplainable results or insufficient data);
ods can be pointed out. Greene et al. (1989) and confidence (as findings may be affected
highlight other additional purposes along by the method used, use of a single method

may make it impossible to ascertain the qualitative data collection precedes quantita-
nature of an effect). tive data collection, the intention may be to
first explore the problem being studied and
then to follow up on this exploration with
Mixed Methods Designs quantitative data that are amenable to being
studied as a large sample, so that the results
A key aspect related to the use of mixed can be applied to a population. Alternatively,
methods research is the type of design; that when quantitative data precede qualitative
is, how to conduct a mixed methods study. data, the intention may be to test variables
There are two main factors that help research- with a large sample and then to explore in
ers to determine the type of mixed methods more depth with a few cases during the quali-
design that is best suited to their study: prior- tative phase.
ity and implementation of data collection These two dimensions and their possible
(Morse, 1991; Morgan, 1998; Tashakkori & combinations can lead to the establishment of
Teddlie, 1998; Creswell, 2003). several designs which are represented using
Regarding priority, the mixed methods the notation proposed by Morse (1991). In
researcher can give equal priority to both her system, the main or dominant method
quantitative and qualitative parts, emphasize appears in capital letters (QUAN, QUAL)
qualitative more, or emphasize quantitative while the complementary method is in lower
more. This emphasis may result from the case letters (quan, qual). The notation ‘+’ is
research question, from practical constraints used to indicate a simultaneous design, and
on data collection, from the need to under- the arrow ‘→’ stands for sequential design.
stand one form of data before proceeding to Thus, the following four groups of mixed
the next, or from the presumed preference methods designs and nine types of design can
of the intended audience. Mixed methods exist using these two dimensions (Johnson &
designs can therefore be divided into equiva- Onwuegbuzie, 2004):
lent status designs (the researcher conducts
the study using both the quantitative and the 1 Equivalent status/simultaneous design:
qualitative approaches, roughly equally, to QUAL+QUAN.
2 Equivalent status/sequential designs:
understand the phenomenon under study)
and dominant–less dominant studies (the 3 Dominant/simultaneous designs: QUAL+quan;
researcher conducts the study with a domi- QUAN+qual.
nant method and a small component of the 4 Dominant/sequential designs: qual→QUAN;
other method). QUAL→quan; quan→QUAL; QUAN→qual.
Implementation of data collection refers
to the sequence the researcher uses to collect There are other classifications of mixed
both quantitative and qualitative data. The methods designs. Thus, three main types
options consist of gathering the information of mixed methods designs are triangula-
at the same time (concurrent, simultaneous tion, exploratory and explanatory designs
or parallel design) or introducing the infor- (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). The purpose
mation in phases (sequential or two-phase of a triangulation mixed methods design is
design). In gathering both forms of data con- to simultaneously collect both quantitative
currently, the researcher may seek to compare and qualitative data, merge the data, and use
them to search for congruent findings. When the results to understand a research problem.
the data are introduced in phases, either the The researcher gathers both quantitative and
qualitative or the quantitative approach may qualitative data, compares results from the
be gathered first, but the sequence relates to analysis of both types of data, and makes an
the objectives of the researcher. Thus, when interpretation as to whether the results from
Mixed Methods 107

both support or contradict each other. The needs qualitative data to explain significant
triangulation design is usually a one-phase (or non-significant) results, outlier results, or
design in which researchers implement the surprising findings. This design can also be
quantitative and qualitative methods during used when a researcher wants to form groups
the same time frame and with equal weight. based on quantitative results and follow up
It generally involves the concurrent, but sep- with the groups through subsequent qualita-
arate, collection and analysis of quantitative tive research or to use quantitative participant
and qualitative data so that the researcher characteristics to guide purposeful sampling
may best understand the research problem. for a qualitative phase. In sum, there are two
The purpose of an exploratory mixed main variants of the explanatory design: the
methods design is the procedure of first gath- follow-up explanations design and the partic-
ering qualitative data to explore a phenom- ipant selection design. Although both models
enon, and then collecting quantitative data to have an initial quantitative phase followed
explain relationships found in the qualitative by a qualitative phase, they differ in the con-
data. Therefore, this design is a two-phase nection of the two phases, with one focusing
(sequential) mixed methods design. In this on results to be examined in more detail and
case, the results of the first method (qualita- the other on the appropriate participants to be
tive) can help develop or inform the second selected.
method (quantitative). This design is based
on the premise that an exploration is needed
for one of several reasons: measures or instru- Mixed Methods Research and
ments are not available, the variables are Philosophical Positions
unknown, or there is no guiding framework
or theory. Therefore, researchers use this The advocates of pure quantitative and pure
design when existing instruments, variables qualitative approaches have engaged in
and measures may not be known or available ardent dispute (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie,
for the population or context under study. It is 2004). Several debates, or paradigm ‘wars’,
also appropriate when a researcher wants to (Datta, 1994) have raged in the social sci-
generalize results to different groups, to test ences regarding the superiority of one or the
aspects of an emergent theory or to explore other of the two major social science para-
a phenomenon in depth and then measure its digms: the positivist approach and the con-
prevalence. structivist (interpretivist or naturalistic)
The explanatory design is also a two- orientation (Tashakkori and Teddlie, 1998).
phase, mixed methods design and it consists Another important aspect examined in those
of first collecting quantitative data and then debates has been the idea of incommensura-
collecting qualitative data to help explain bility and incompatibility, which means that
or elaborate on the quantitative results. This qualitative and quantitative approaches
design starts with the collection and analysis could/should not be used in the context of the
of quantitative data. The second, qualitative same study. This idea is based on the fact that
phase of the study is designed so that it fol- there are quite different epistemological and
lows from the results of the first quantitative ontological assumptions that underpin differ-
phase. The rationale of this approach is that ent paradigms and methods.
the quantitative data and results provide a However, ‘pacifists’ have appeared who
general picture of the research problem, but state that qualitative and quantitative meth-
more analysis through qualitative data collec- ods are compatible. Reichardt & Cook (1979)
tion is needed to refine, extend or explain the countered the incompatibility thesis based
general picture. For example, this design is on the paradigm-method fit by suggesting
well-suited to a study in which a researcher that different philosophical paradigms and

methods are compatible. Moreover, these with one another throughout the research
authors argued that paradigms and methods process. The emphasis is not in joining the
are not inherently linked. Therefore, qualita- two, but instead focuses on the tensions and
tive and quantitative methods can be com- new understandings that arise.
bined within the philosophical paradigms.
Moreover, the increasing use and application
of mixed methods in several fields reflects
this possibility of the combination of quanti- EXAMPLES OF MIXED METHODS
tative and qualitative methods. STUDIES
As indicated by Saunders et  al. (2016),
there are two philosophical positions that To analyse the application of mixed methods
often lead to mixed methods research designs: in business and management research, a
critical realism (Maxwell & Mittapalli, 2010) reading of articles published in the Academy
and pragmatism (Morgan, 2007; Biesta, of Management Journal (AMJ), Strategic
2010). Critical realists believe that while there Management Journal (SMJ) and Journal of
is an external, objective reality to the world in Organizational Behavior (JOB) has been
which we live (realist ontology), the way in carried out in order to identify some mixed
which each of us interprets and understands methods articles. AMJ is one of the most
it will be affected by our social condition- important empirical journals in our field that
ing (interpretivist epistemology). Thus, for publishes studies in several management
example, a researcher may use quantitative areas. SMJ also enjoys a reputation as a
analysis of officially published data followed leader among management journals and
by qualitative research methods to explore focuses mainly on a macro management
perceptions. For pragmatists, the nature of topic (strategy). Finally, JOB is one of the
the research question, the research context most important journals about a micro topic
and likely research consequences are driv- (organizational behaviour). The intention
ing forces determining the most appropriate was to identify papers of broad interest to
methodological choice. Both quantitative and business and management scholars in a vari-
qualitative research are valued by pragmatists ety of speciality areas in the management
and the exact choice will be contingent on the field that can serve as examples of why and
nature of the research. how mixed methods research is used.
Together with critical realism and prag- Therefore, several mixed methods studies are
matism, Shannon-Baker (2016) also analy- described, emphasizing the methodological
ses two additional paradigmatic perspectives characteristics regarding the mixed methods
discussed in mixed methods literature: approach used (purposes, design, combina-
transformative-emancipation and dialectics. tion of methods, main aspects of the quanti-
Mertens (2007, 2010) argues for adopting tative and qualitative methods) rather than
specific goals for research, which can be done the specific findings of each study.
by utilizing the transformative-emancipatory In the Academy of Management Journal,
perspective. This perspective is characterized Grant et  al. (2014) used a QUAL→QUAN
by the intentional collaboration with minor- exploratory design to analyse the psychologi-
ity and marginalized groups or those whose cal implications of self-reflective job titles.
voice is not typically heard on particular The authors combined inductive qualita-
issues. Regarding dialectics (Greene & Hall, tive and deductive experimental methods.
2010; Johnson, 2017), this approach argues Specifically, in the first phase, the purpose
for using two or more paradigms together. was to build theory through a qualitative
Thus, a dialectic perspective brings together study. The authors gathered three different
two or more paradigms in respectful dialogue sources of qualitative data. First, using a
Mixed Methods 109

semistructured interview protocol, they con- 107 individuals, and then they carried out the
ducted 22 interviews with Midwest staff mem- quantitative part.
bers, as well as the president and CEO, board Anand & Watson (2004) used a
chair and several affiliated outsiders. Second, QUAL+quan mixed methods design with the
they conducted 23 hours of observation, main purpose of triangulation to study how
which included attending staff meetings and award ceremony rituals influence organiza-
events as well as observing employees carry- tional field evolution through critical pro-
ing out daily tasks. Third, they also obtained cesses. As they indicated, while the approach
over 100 archival documents, including mis- was primarily qualitative, relying on content
sion statements, chapter newsletters, event analysis of texts in trade periodicals, they also
invitations, weblogs, and meeting announce- used quantitative data and statistical methods
ments and agendas. Regarding data analysis to underscore the significance of their find-
in this qualitative stage, the authors used an ings, trying to confirm the qualitative results.
inductive analytic approach that involved tak- However, in the study by Lavie et al. (2007)
ing iterative steps between the data, existing the main part is the quantitative one, as they
literature and a developing set of theoretical employed a QUAN→qual mixed meth-
ideas. They developed a general conceptual ods explanatory design, with the purpose
model and a set of theoretical propositions to of complementarity, in their analysis of the
explain patterns gleaned from the data. In the performance implications of timing on entry
second phase (the quantitative part), the aim and involvement in multipartner alliances.
was to close the loop in full-cycle research As the authors emphasized, they elaborated
by moving from theory building to theory their main quantitative research design via 12
testing. They designed a quasi-experiment to personal interviews. The qualitative analy-
examine and test the propositions in the con- sis of interview transcripts enabled them to
text of a health care system. Therefore, the gain insights into the causal mechanisms that
mixed methods purpose was development, as drove their quantitative empirical results and
the qualitative part developed the theoretical assisted in the interpretation of these quanti-
propositions (finding of this qualitative part) tative findings.
that then were tested in the quantitative part. In the field of strategy, several articles pub-
Grant et al. (2008) used this QUAL→QUAN lished in the Strategic Management Journal
exploratory design with the purpose of devel- that use and advocate a mixed methods
opment to examine the relationship between approach have also been found. For exam-
employee support programmes and affective ple, an example of a QUAL→QUAN design
organizational commitment. The qualitative (sequential exploratory, equivalent status)
part, through 40 semistructured interviews, with a mixed methods purpose of develop-
helped to contruct and elaborate theory. ment is the article by Sharma & Vredenburg
Thus, the authors developed hypotheses in (1998) about the relationship between envi-
this first qualitative part that then were tested ronmental strategy and the development
with the second, quantitative stage. In a simi- of competitive organizational capabilities.
lar way, Zellmer-Bruhn & Gibson (2006), in These authors carried out a study conducted
their study about the implications of a multi- in two phases within a single industry con-
national organization context for team learn- text (the oil and gas industry). The first
ing and performance, also used a design with phase (exploratory) involved comparative
a first qualitative part and a second quantita- case studies through in-depth interviews
tive part with the purpose of development. As in seven firms in the Canadian oil and gas
they noted, to develop the surveys used for industry to ground the resource-based view
this study and to understand the contexts of of the firm within the domain of corporate
the firms, they first interviewed a sample of environmental responsiveness. Interview

data were triangulated through a qualitative and marketing managers at several pharma-
content analysis of corporate public docu- ceutical companies, as well as with industry
ments such as annual reports, environmental experts. In these interviews, informants were
reports, company newsletters and newspaper requested to identify the types of capabilities
reports. This exploratory study was intended they felt were critical for future success in the
to examine linkages between environmen- industry. Thus, this qualitative phase helped
tal strategies and the development of capa- to carry out the quantitative study, which is
bilities, and understand the nature of any the dominant part of the article. Additionally,
emergent capabilities and their competi- and contrary to what was done by Sharma &
tive outcomes. The first phase ended with Vredenburg (1998), the qualitative part does
two hypotheses based on previous literature not appear in such a deep, systematic and
and this qualitative study. The second phase methodical way, without constructing any
(confirmatory) involved testing the emer- sets of in-depth cases.
gent linkages through a mail survey-based Dyer & Hatch (2006) is an example of the
study of the Canadian oil and gas industry. QUAN→QUAL design. Their study exam-
The final written report was structured in two ined the role of network knowledge resources
main parts: the exploratory study included in influencing firm performance, using a
several sections (qualitative data collection, sample of US automotive suppliers selling
qualitative data analysis and results with the to both Toyota and US car makers. From a
proposed hypotheses) and then the confirma- point of view of mixed methods research,
tory study was carried out (with a quantita- the authors indicated the dual nature of the
tive data collection, quantitative analysis research investigation. The first objective
section and results). The qualitative phase was to empirically examine the relationship
assisted in understanding the industry, and in between customer-to-supplier, knowledge-
developing the theory, hypotheses and meas- sharing activities and the rate of improve-
urement instrument. Therefore, this study ment in supplier network performance. Thus,
used a sequential exploratory mixed meth- this quantitative part tested the hypothesis
ods design. Regarding the issue of integra- that a buyer that provides greater knowledge
tion, in this study the authors integrated the transfers to its supplier network will develop
qualitative and quantitative parts by connect- the suppliers’ production capabilities such
ing the findings of the first qualitative part that the suppliers’ operations for that buyer
to the beginning of the quantitative phase. will be more productive. Through a survey,
Therefore, the quantitative part was built on the findings confirmed that Toyota’s supplier
the qualitative phase. network does produce components of higher
Yeoh & Roth (1999) is an illustrative exam- quality and at lower cost for Toyota than for
ple of a qual→QUAN design, and they tested their largest US customers.
a model of the relationships among firm The second objective (qualitative) was
resources, firm capabilities and sustained to explore why the supplier performs better
competitive advantage in the US pharmaceu- as a member of one network (i.e. Toyota’s)
tical industry. They carried out a quantitative than another network (i.e. GM, Ford or
analysis, though they explained that the varia- Chrysler). Interviews were done at 13 sup-
bles and their measurements used in the quan- pliers to explore quantitative results and
titative analysis were determined through a analyse this second objective. In this study,
qualitative, two-stage process. First, the sec- the authors used different methods to assess
ondary literature was reviewed to determine different facets of a phenomenon, yielding an
the resources and capabilities that are impor- enriched, elaborated understanding of that
tant for competition in this industry. The sec- phenomenon. The second, qualitative part
ond stage involved interviews with product helps explain and clarify the findings of the
Mixed Methods 111

first, quantitative phase. Therefore, this study presented the results of two empirical stud-
uses one of the two variants of the mixed ies related to the geographical mobility of
methods explanatory design, namely, the employees. Specifically, this paper focuses on
follow-up explanations design. the relocation decision-making processes of
The other variant of the explanatory dual-earner couples. The objective is to gain
design is the participant selection design. a better understanding of the complex process
Rouse & Daellenbach (1999) advocate a of this relocation decision-making, and for this
QUAN→QUAL design (sequential explana- reason the authors indicate that two empirical
tory, equivalent status), through this variant studies, one quantitative and one qualitative,
of participant selection design, to determine with two independent samples, were carried
the most valuable resources in a specific out. The first study is a quantitative survey of
industry. These authors emphasize the impor- 155 management-level employees and focuses
tance of qualitative research to stimulate and on the variables likely to moderate the influ-
guide future studies of resource-based com- ence of the spouse (partner) on the probabil-
petitive advantage. Their framework begins ity of accepting or turning down geographical
with a quantitative four-step firm selection mobility. This quantitative part attempts to
process: (1) selection of a single industry; establish whether the spouse’s attitude toward
(2) clustering firms by strategic type or group mobility unconditionally influences the
within this industry; (3) comparing perfor- employee’s likelihood of accepting a reloca-
mance indices within strategic groups and tion opportunity or whether it varies in function
(4) identifying those firms within each strate- as a result of various factors. Specifically, will-
gic group that are the high and low perform- ingness to relocate is the dependent variable,
ers. Then, in a second qualitative phase, these and other variables are used as moderators and
firms would be selected as research subjects independent measures, such as marital quality,
and would be analysed using in-depth field- perceived job alternatives for the spouse, the
work or ethnographic study methods; that is, spouse’s career priority, the spouse’s willing-
a qualitative approach. Given the contention ness to relocate and the employee’s relative
that sustainable competitive advantages are contribution to household income. Hypotheses
organizational in origin, tacit, highly inimi- are tested using a moderated hierarchical mul-
table, socially complex, embedded in process tiple regression procedure. The second study
and often driven by culture, there can be no is qualitative, consisting of 11 in-depth inter-
other way to obtain the data of interest than views of dual-earner couples within which one
using a qualitative orientation. Fieldwork of the partners had been required to decide
which takes the researcher into the organiza- whether to accept relocation or not. It comple-
tion is essential to gain an in-depth knowl- ments the first study by providing a perspec-
edge and understanding of the organization tive on the initial results and attempting to
and its processes. Therefore, in this mixed identify and isolate the dynamics within the
methods explanatory design through the couple when making relocation decisions. The
variant of participation selection design, the authors indicated that this second study consti-
researchers would form groups based on tuted both triangulation across methods (rec-
quantitative aspects, using these quantitative onciling qualitative and quantitative data) and
participant characteristics to guide purpose- complementarity by examining overlapping
ful sampling for a next qualitative phase. and different facets of a phenomenon.
In the field of organizational behaviour, Lilius et  al. (2008) carried out a
some mixed methods studies have also been QUAN→QUAL study about the contours
identified in the Journal of Organizational and consequences of compassion at work. In
Behavior. For example, Challiol & Mignonac the first quantitative stage, the authors con-
(2005), using a QUAN+QUAL design, ducted a pilot survey that captures the nature

of compassion at work and its relationship to IMPLICATIONS AND

positive emotion and affective commitment. RECOMMENDATIONS
The qualitative part is a narrative study that
reveals a wide range of compassion triggers As stated above, other social science fields
and it illuminates ways that work colleagues have more of a tradition of using and analys-
respond to suffering. This narrative analysis ing the application of mixed methods
demonstrates that experienced compassion research, and therefore it is important to
provides important sense-making occasions consider what organizational scholars could
where employees who receive, witness or learn from their experience. Knowledge of
participate in the delivery of compassion the literature base of mixed methods research
reshape understandings of their co-workers, and analysis of empirical papers that use a
themselves and their organizations. As indi- mixed methods approach will help business
cated by the authors, these combined meth- and management scholars to design and con-
ods portray a deepened image of the kinds of duct this type of study. Next, some recom-
suffering experienced, and responses offered, mendations and implications regarding the
in the workplace. Therefore, the authors take application of mixed methods research are
advantage of the mixed methods purposes of examined.
complementarity and expansion. An important challenge for mixed methods
Some mixed methods studies include studies in management research is the explicit
more than two phases. For example, Jones & clarification of several relevant aspects in the
Martens (2009) published a mixed methods written report (Creswell et  al., 2003). Thus,
article with three phases. Specifically, these in relation to data collection, the implemen-
authors used a QUAN→QUAN→QUAL tation decision calls for clearly identifying
design to examine the mediating role of over- the core reasons for collecting both forms
all fairness and the moderating role of trust of data (quantitative and qualitative), and
understanding the important interrelation-
certainty in justice-criteria relationships. The
ship between the quantitative and qualita-
first two phases were quantitative, and here
tive phases in data collection. Moreover, the
the authors derived hypotheses from fairness
choice of implementation strategy has con-
heuristic theory, which proposes that percep-
sequences for the form of the final report.
tions of overall fairness are influenced by dif-
Thus, when two phases of data collection
ferent types of justice and are used to infer
exist, the researcher can report the data col-
trust when trust certainty is low. The first lection process in two phases. The report
quantitative part showed that employees’ may also include an analysis of each phase
perceptions of overall fairness in relation separately and the integration of informa-
to a senior management team mediated the tion in the discussion or conclusion section
relationships between specific types of jus- of a study. In relation to priority, researchers
tice and employee outcomes. In the second need to make informed decisions about the
quantitative part, these mediated effects were weight or attention given to quantitative and
replicated and trust certainty moderated the qualitative research during all phases of their
effect of overall fairness on trust. Finally, the research. In the final written report, a project
last qualitative part, through a content analy- might be seen as providing more depth for
sis, explored how the organizational context one method than for the other through the
may have influenced the quantitative findings length of discussions.
of the second quantitative study. Therefore, Some authors provide guidelines and
a purpose of complementarity was achieved recommendations about how to carry out a
through this last qualitative part. mixed methods research. Creswell (1999)
Mixed Methods 113

offers nine steps in conducting a mixed meth- and analysed. These opportunistic designs
ods study: (1) determine if a mixed methods may be different from those contained in pre-
study is needed to study the problem; (2) con- viously published typologies. The point is for
sider whether a mixed methods study is feasi- the researcher to be creative and not limited
ble; (3) write both qualitative and quantitative by the existing designs. A design may emerge
research questions; (4) review and decide on during a study in new ways, depending on the
the types of data collection; (5) assess the conditions and information that is obtained.
relative weight and implementation strategy Thus, a tenet of mixed methods research is
for each method; (6) present a visual model; that researchers should mindfully create
(7) determine how the data will be analysed; designs that effectively answer their research
(8) assess the criteria for evaluating the study questions (Johnson & Onwuegbuzie, 2004).
and (9) develop a plan for the study. Hanson et al. (2005) also offer some rec-
Similarly, Teddlie & Tashakkori (2006) ommendations for designing, implementing
provide a seven-step process for researchers and reporting a mixed methods study. Thus,
selecting the best design for their projects: they recommend that researchers attend
(1) the researcher must first determine if closely to design and implementation issues,
his/her research question requires a mono- particularly to how and when data are col-
method or mixed methods design; (2) the lected (e.g. concurrently or sequentially).
researcher should be aware that there are a The study’s purpose plays an important role
number of different typologies of mixed here. They also recommend that researchers
methods research designs and should know familiarize themselves with the analysis and
how to access details regarding them; integration strategies used in the published
(3) the researcher should select the best mixed methods studies. Moreover, because
mixed methods design for his/her particular mixed methods studies require a working
study and assume that one of the published knowledge and understanding of both quan-
typologies includes the right design for the titative and qualitative methods, and because
project; (4) typologies may be differentiated they involve multiple stages of data collec-
by the criteria that are used to distinguish tion and analysis that frequently extend over
among the research designs within them, long periods of time, they recommend that
and the researcher needs to know those cri- researchers work in teams. Moreover, in pre-
teria; (5) these criteria should be listed by the paring a mixed methods manuscript, they
researcher, who may then select the criteria recommend that researchers use the phrase
that are most important for the particular ‘mixed methods’ in the titles of their studies,
study he/she is designing; (6) the researcher and that, early on, researchers foreshadow
then applies the selected criteria to potential the logic and progression of their studies
designs, ultimately selecting the best research by stating the study’s purpose and research
design; and (7) in some cases, the researcher questions in the Introduction. Clear, well-
may have to develop a new mixed methods written purpose statements and research
design, because no one best design exists for questions that specify the quantitative and
his/her research project. qualitative aspects of the study help focus the
Regarding the last step, Teddlie and manuscript. Additionally, these authors rec-
Tashakkori (2006) point out that mixed ommend that, in the Introduction, researchers
methods designs have an opportunistic explicitly state a rationale for mixing quanti-
nature. Thus, in many cases, a mixed meth- tative and qualitative methods and data (e.g.
ods research study may have a predetermined to triangulate results, to develop or improve
research design, but new components of the one method with the other, to extend the
design may evolve as researchers follow up study’s results). Another recommendation is
on leads that develop as data are collected that, in the Methods, researchers specify the

type of mixed methods research design used. Moreover, there is a risk of diluting or dif-
By doing this, the field will be able to build a fusing one of the methods (the less important
common vocabulary and shared understand- one or the one less accepted by academia) by
ing of the different types of designs available. trying to do too much within the page limit.
A mixed methods study must be compe- In summary, by limiting space, journals may
tently designed and conducted, and, as a discourage the publication of mixed methods
consequence, management scholars must research.
have the skills and training to carry out both
quantitative and qualitative methods and take
advantage of this type of research (Creswell
et al., 2003). Coupled with traditional statis- CONCLUSION
tics coursework, in-depth training concerning
the discovery process (e.g. qualitative obser- This chapter provides several ideas about the
vational techniques or case studies) has the application of mixed methods designs in
advantage of enabling researchers to think business and management. First, several
fully about what types of research ques- aspects of mixed methods have been exam-
tions are innovative, interesting and practi- ined to make clear what the literature already
cally relevant (Currall et  al., 1999). But the tells us about this type of research. Second, I
key point here is that along with quantitative have carried out a description of several
and qualitative courses, it may be necessary mixed methods articles published in three
to design a specific mixed methods research top management journals, describing the
course. Students should be taught about pur- main characteristics of the mixed methods
poses, designs and the use of mixed methods studies identified. Finally, implications and
research, and they should also be encour- recommendations for an adequate applica-
aged to carry out mixed methods research as tion of mixed methods research have been
part of their training. Academic institutions provided based on previous experiences in
should take this important issue into account. other fields.
An important challenge in mixed methods An important characteristic of mixed
studies is the quality of this type of research. methods is integration (Fetters & Freshwater,
Methodologists in the field of mixed meth- 2015). Business and management research-
ods debate the role of quality and validity in ers that use mixed methods must integrate the
this approach (Bryman, 2006; Dellinger and quantitative and qualitative parts and should
Leech, 2007; Bryman et al., 2008; O’Cathain consider this question: what synergy can be
et al., 2008; Pluye et al., 2009). Their recom- gained by the additional work of using both
mendations will be useful for researchers and qualitative and quantitative methods? This
journals. aspect urges researchers to carefully plan
In addition, there are challenges in pub- their works with intentional choices that can
lishing mixed methods studies that gener- leverage integration. The key point here is to
ally arise from existing constraints such as produce a whole through integration that is
page limits. One of the biggest challenges greater than the sum of the individual qualita-
related to publishing mixed methods research tive and quantitative parts.
is describing the complexity of mixed meth- Finally, I would like to indicate that I agree
ods studies within the page limits. While with the ‘paradigm of choices’ emphasized by
such limits pose a challenge to all research- Patton (1990). A paradigm of choices rejects
ers, they are particularly problematic for methodological orthodoxy in favour of meth-
mixed methods research due to the quantity odological appropriateness as the primary
of information that must be conveyed for criterion for judging methodological quality.
a study combining two different methods. Thus, this paradigm of choices recognizes that
Mixed Methods 115

different methods are appropriate for differ- Bryman, A. (2006). Paradigm peace and the
ent situations and questions (Molina-Azorin, implications for quality. International Journal
2007). The predominance of more quantitative- of Social Research Methodology, 9,
based methodological tools in business and 111–26.
management does not mean that these tools Bryman, A. (2007). Barriers to integrating
quantitative and qualitative research. Journal
are applicable to all research questions. The
of Mixed Methods Research, 1, 8–22.
research question and context should dic- Bryman, A., Becker, S. & Sempik, J. (2008).
tate the choice of the appropriate research Quality criteria for quantitative, qualitative
methods. In any case, we must also take into and mixed methods research: a view from
account the fact that knowledge about qualita- social policy. International Journal of Social
tive and mixed methods research can stimu- Research Methodology, 11, 261–76.
late a researcher to better define and analyse Bryman, A. & Bell, E. (2015). Business Research
innovative problems and research questions in Methods, 4th edn. Oxford: Oxford University
business and management research. Press.
Cassell, C. & Symon, G. (2006). Editorial.
Taking qualitative methods in organization
and management research seriously. Quali-
tative Research in Organizations and Man-
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Resisting Colonization in Business
and Management Studies: From
Postcolonialism to Decolonization
Alia Weston and J. Miguel Imas

INTRODUCTION ‘Americas’, in the sixteenth and seventeenth

centuries. It was not only the Americas, but
Official history has it that Vasco Núñez de Balboa also Africa and the entire global south that
was the first man to see, from a summit in suffered the ignominious effects of colonial,
Panama, two oceans at once. Were the natives imperialist rule. These historical impacts of
colonization continue to influence contem-
Who first gave names to corn and potatoes and porary society, and have led to tremendous
tomatoes and chocolate and the mountains and consequences for the way in which we con-
rivers of America? Hernán Cortés? Francisco ceptualize the other in research. This is most
Pizarro? Were the natives mute? evident in the way we frame marginalized
The Pilgrims on the Mayflower heard Him: God
subjects from a Western point of view. In
said America was the Promised Land. Were the business and management studies, colonial
natives deaf? epistemology has prevailed for decades and
still continues to influence how we describe
Later on, the grandchildren of the Pilgrims seized and engage with the other (Mohanty, 1988),
the name and everything else. Now they are the
Americans. And those of us who live in the other
imposing a sense of superior knowledge in
Americas, who are we? (Galeano, 2008, p. 122) the development of methodologies with
which to ‘study’ them. In this chapter, we
The opening quote alerts us to the key, his- challenge this colonial tradition by exploring
torical concerns of colonialism and imperial- a range of perspectives that resist these injus-
ism. It does so by illustrating the ways in tices and offer alternative ways of construct-
which Europeans physically and ideologi- ing knowledge with the marginalized other,
cally conquered and exploited the land of and bring forward a more encompassing and
Indigenous populations, in this case the grounded understanding of people who have

suffered from colonial rule. This is our con- framework derived from postcolonial theory
tribution to this volume, because we believe to highlight both appropriate and inap-
it is essential for any scholar to be alert to propriate use of methods in research that
the vicissitudes of conducting research in the resist (neo-)colonialism. We highlight the
global south and the fourth world (Restrepo & ongoing debate and give examples of empiri-
Escobar, 2005). cal research to illustrate how methods have
Before we begin, we wish to clarify our been applied in the field. By empirical, we
position on ‘postcolonialism’ and acknowl- mean research that engages with the world
edge the inherent challenges of using this and goes beyond purely theoretical analy-
term. For the purposes of this chapter, we use sis. After our analysis, we explore pertinent
the term postcolonial to encompass an evolv- issues in the field. In particular, we com-
ing tradition of ideas and practices that work ment on key silences and omissions, as well
to resist colonization. We do so with full rec- as practical issues of undertaking research
ognition that postcolonial is not an umbrella in local contexts. We end by pointing to the
term, but an idea that sits alongside a range of future of research in this area, acknowledg-
congruent traditions including: anticolonial ing the inherent challenges and highlighting
thinking (e.g. Grosfoguel, 2011), subaltern the opportunities for researchers moving
studies (e.g. Chakrabarty, 2005), Indigenous forward.
perspectives (e.g. Stewart-Harawira, 2013)
and decolonial practices (e.g. Mignolo,
2009). All these traditions are similar in that
they have cumulatively sought to advance an RESISTING COLONIALISM
ongoing resistance to colonization; however,
each is distinct with its own inherent opportu- There is no unified theory of postcolonial-
nities and limitations. It is, therefore, through ism, but it is predominantly taken to be a set
an ongoing critical dialogue that these tradi- of ideas that are critical of the historical and
tions continue to evolve. Despite the inherent contemporary inequities in power that are
limitations (which we will highlight in this created as a result of colonialism and imperi-
chapter), we have chosen to employ the term alism (e.g. Loomba, 1998). These ideas are
postcolonialism because it is a seminal per- conceived as a way of reclaiming power fol-
spective which, we believe, is still enduring lowing colonial expansion (e.g. Banerjee &
and relevant today. Prasad, 2008; Prasad, 2003a; Said, 1978;
We position this chapter as an invitation Young, 2008). Although the anti-imperialist
to whoever is interested in gaining a broad movement began much earlier, postcolonial-
understanding of postcolonialism and asso- ism as a field of study originated in the late
ciated ideas, how these ideas have developed 1970s through literary and cultural studies,
across business and management, and what following Edwards Said’s work on
constitutes appropriate and inappropriate Orientalism. Through his work, Said empha-
research methods in this area of study. The sized the exaggerated distinctions made
chapter is structured as follows. We start between Eastern and Western cultures and
by explaining the historical origins of post- the ways in which colonially positioned
colonial theory and highlighting associated Western (i.e. European) perspectives were
perspectives. We then note how the concept categorized as superior to non-Western per-
has evolved in business and management spectives. Key concepts related to postcolo-
studies. Following this, we focus on the nialism include ‘neo-colonialism’,
main objective of this chapter, and conduct a ‘hybridity’, ‘liminality’ and ‘mimicry’. Neo-
critical review of business and management colonialism recognizes that colonization has
research methods. We employ an analytical not ended, and explains the ongoing forms of

colonization present in contemporary society colonialism. An example is Frantz Fanon’s

(Spivak, 1999; Young, 2003), while hybrid- seminal work from the 1960s, which situ-
ity, liminality and mimicry articulate the ates an anticolonial struggle for liberation
subversive amalgamation of colonial and (1967/2008; 1963). This history has devel-
local ideologies which produce a space of oped from the work of black and African
resistance in colonized contexts (Bhabha, American writers who wrote against differ-
1994, 1996; Özkazanç-Pan, 2008; Sambajee, ent forms of oppression, and championed the
2015). civil rights and women’s rights movements
Despite its valuable contribution to chal- (Smith, 1999/2005). Subaltern studies origi-
lenging the power inequities inherent in nated through work in South Asia, and typi-
(neo-)colonization, postcolonialism as a field cally refers to the engagements of ‘subaltern’
is not without criticism. We wish to high- groups of people, or marginal populations,
light three key issues. First, it is seen to be who fall outside of colonial domination.
too obscure and theoretical, and thus lacking Work in this area is aligned with postcolonial
in practical, applied relevance to contempo- studies because it critiques colonial domina-
rary society (Abrahamsen, 2003). The second tion by exploring spaces of poverty and forms
issue is the ongoing debate about the mean- of popular agency (Chakrabarty, 2005; Roy,
ing of the term ‘post’ in postcolonial, and 2011; Spivak, 1998/2006, 1999, 2005). Like
whether it is conceivable to talk about mov- anticolonial thinking and subaltern studies,
ing beyond the colonial period (Mbembe, decolonial practices also encompass forms of
2001). Following this line of debate, it has active resistance to colonialism.
been argued that the term is limited since it Although it is not yet a term common to the
only applies to contexts in which Indigenous business and management literature, it is also
persons have gained independence from essential to highlight the work that has taken
colonial rule, for example only in African, place in the field of decolonization studies
Asian and Latin American countries (Perera (e.g. Lugones, 2010; Smith, 2012; Zavala,
and Pugliese, 1998). But even in these lat- 2013). In doing so we recognize this as an
ter contexts, critique is still prevalent. This is area of study that has deep synergy with post-
illustrated by Latin American scholars being colonial studies, particularly because it has
critical of postcolonial theorizing for consti- emerged through the critique of postcolonial
tuting a Eurocentric critique of Eurocentrism theory. Here, we wish to acknowledge the
(Maldonado-Torres, 2011). Finally, a central valuable work taking place which we believe
drawback of postcolonial scholarship in the is useful for advancing colonial resistance in
business and management field is the over- business and management studies. There is
emphasis on theoretical critique (primarily no single decolonial perspective, but it can be
focused on the work of Said, Bhabha and defined as a process of actively dismantling
Spivak), with scant focus on methods. As the colonialist power dimensions that still
such, there is a lack of insight about how to exist in contemporary (twenty-first-century)
conduct first-hand research in this field. society (Ashcroft et al., 2013). It resists neo-
In recognizing the wider limitations of colonization by incorporating activist and
postcolonial theory, we take the opportu- performative methodologies and resisting
nity to acknowledge the congruent areas of colonization in all aspects of life (Denzin
study that are situated alongside postcoloni- et al., 2008). Research responds to a number
alism. Here, we briefly comment on antico- of issues. For example, it disrupts contempo-
lonialism, subaltern studies and decolonial rary issues of racism and patriarchy, through
practices. By including the term anticolo- critical feminism (Cannella & Manuelito,
nialism, we acknowledge the history and 2008) and critical race theory (Kincheloe &
revolutionary work of activists who resisted Steinberg, 2008; Ladson-Billing & Donnor,

2008). In addition, it resists oppressive forms and instead reflexively theorize and incor-
of pedagogy, by actively replacing these with porate methods which resist colonization
critical pedagogy that emphasizes eman- and prioritize peoples’ lived experiences.
cipation (Giroux & Giroux, 2008), and by The aim is to first unearth explicit and hid-
highlighting local Indigenous pedagogies den power dimensions in research (see e.g.
(McLaren & Jaramillo, 2008). Imas, 2005). The next step is to critically
Decolonization also responds to the critique question how research is conducted from
that postcolonialism only applies to post- philosophical, theoretical and empirical
independence contexts. For example, it accounts standpoints. Researchers then overcome
for the struggles of Indigenous communities power imbalances by undertaking research
by highlighting ongoing ‘settler–colonizer’ which is culturally appropriate in the con-
power dynamics in Australia, Canada and the text of study. They do so by re-emphasizing
USA (Perera & Pugliese, 1998; Tuck & Yang, local, cultural and Indigenous forms of
2012). Another stream of decolonial thought, engagement (Tsui, 2004), engaging with
which has emerged from Latin America, is performative methodologies to redistribute
critical of postcolonial research about the other power (Denzin and Lincoln, 2008) and giv-
that privileges the Eurocentric ideal of ‘eman- ing voice to the silenced (Muecke, 1992).
cipation’. The focus has shifted to the decolo- Before we progress further, it is essential
nial ‘liberation’ of the other – following for to highlight our reflexive personal critique
instance Enrique Dussel (Maldonado-Torres, as authors of this chapter (see, for example,
2011). Although the concept of decoloniza- Giraldo, 2016). Alia is mixed heritage and
tion addresses certain limitations inherent in navigates the liminal space of hybrid cul-
postcolonial theory, it is not without criticism. tures. She is South African (Cape-Malay) and
For example, Tuck & Yang (2012) warn of the British, was born and raised in Zimbabwe
easy adoption of the discourse of decoloniza- and currently resides in Canada. Miguel is
tion wherein it is used as a method or meta- of European heritage, was born and raised in
phor to generally improve things in society. For Chile and currently resides in the UK. We both
instance, terms such ‘decolonize student think- actively engage in field research about business
ing’ have been used. They argue that using this and management in the postcolonial contexts
kind of terminology debases the essence of of Africa and Latin America (respectively). In
decolonization, since it is a misuse of the term. these contexts, we work critically with postco-
Despite this critique, the value of engaging lonial theory and research methods. We reflex-
with the concept of decolonization to account ively recognize the unearned privileges that
for neo-colonial dynamics is well recognized. our backgrounds and positions afford, as well
Stepping aside from critical debates of as the inherent limitations of our work. The
terminology, our position is that all these limitations include the problematics of writ-
concepts are important to acknowledge ing in the English language as well as working
because they question the ways in which remotely in contexts which embody the ongo-
colonially derived (Western/imperial) per- ing histories of (neo-)colonization.
spectives are categorized as superior; and
Indigenous, local (non-Western) dimen-
sions are excluded on the grounds of inferi-
ority (Calás & Smircich, 1999; Frenkel and POSTCOLONIAL RESEARCH IN
Shenhav, 2006; Prasad, 2003a; Said, 1978; BUSINESS AND MANAGEMENT
Westwood, 2001). Whether working through STUDIES
a postcolonial, decolonizing, or other asso-
ciated lens, researchers actively subvert In the business and management field, postco-
colonially inspired research approaches, lonial research has a more recent history, and

is still gaining recognition, when compared to Despite the slow development, postcolonial
related areas such as colonial resistance or research has continued to gain prominence
postcolonial literary and cultural studies (e.g. in business and management studies. There
Ibarra-Colado, 2006). Research in the field are now prominent English-language jour-
primarily employs the term ‘postcolonial’, nals which welcome this critical approach
and it first appeared in English publications in to business and management research. For
the mid-1990s. In business and management example, the journal Critical Perspectives on
studies, postcolonial thinking is percussed by International Business has provided a space
two streams of critique which both sought to for critique for over 10 years (Alcadipani &
advance new critical knowledge and emanci- Faria, 2014). It is committed to providing
pation in the field. These were the critique of voice to marginalized groups (i.e. periph-
parochialism and ethnocentrism; as well as eral regions) and excluded perspectives
critique from post-structuralist and postmod- (i.e. Indigenous communities), as well as to
ern frameworks, which were positioned in the embracing postcolonial critique (Cairns &
Critical Management Studies (CMS) move- Roberts, 2011). Commitment to the latter is
ment (Jack et  al., 2011). The reason for the demonstrated by this being the first journal
slow development of the field – emerging to publish a special issue focused on criti-
nearly 20 years after Said’s work – is due to cal postcolonial reflections of management
the fact that managerial practices and organi- and organization (see Banerjee and Prasad,
zational forms are argued to be based on 2008). The journal Organization has dem-
(neo-)colonial ideologies (see, for example, onstrated a parallel commitment to critical
Bush and Maltby, 2004; Cooke, 2003; Frenkel research in organization studies, by simi-
and Shenhav, 2003; Neu, 2000; Spivak, larly publishing a special issue dedicated
1998/2006; Tyson et  al., 2004; Westwood, to postcolonial studies in 2011 (see Jack
2006). As a result, postcolonial and related et  al., 2011). These are not the only jour-
perspectives occupied a marginal position in nals to publish work on postcolonial issues
the extended business and management field in the business and management field.
(Prasad, 2012), and there are limited frame- Other prominent English-language jour-
works available to account for the (neo-) nals include Organization Studies, Human
colonial impact of management theories and Relations and Management Learning. The
practices on Indigenous communities advancement of the field is commendable,
(Banerjee, 2000). but we also recognize the inherent limita-
Postcolonial critique of business and man- tions of the field being advanced, and domi-
agement research alerts us to the problem nated, by a colonial language (i.e. English).
that theories which are developed through Given the complexity of this field of study,
(neo-)colonial frameworks create value for in that it encompasses a range of traditions
only certain types of people and institutions and accompanying limitations, we reflected
and marginalize other peoples and institu- extensively on the ‘best’ way to provide an
tions, particularly those that are Indigenous overview of research methods which are
(Banerjee, 2000). From this perspective, appropriate for undertaking research in post-
researchers work to question the appropri- colonial contexts and that work to resist
ateness of business and management prac- (neo-)colonialism. We admit that this was not
tices, and incorporate more appropriate and a simple undertaking, especially in a limited
reflexive approaches to research (Prasad, number of pages. Our approach, which you
2003a). Research has focused on radically will see in the following sections, has been
reconfiguring philosophical, methodologi- to conduct a critical review of empirical
cal and ethical dimensions in business and research in business and management stud-
management studies (Westwood, 2006). ies, through a postcolonial lens.

A POSTCOLONIAL CRITIQUE OF Said, 1978). The second dimension (on the

RESEARCH METHODS IN BUSINESS horizontal axis) acknowledges postcolonial
AND MANAGEMENT STUDIES scholarship that works to reflexively re-
emphasize Indigenous or local forms of
In this section, we conduct our postcolonial engagement (Muecke, 1992; Tsui, 2004).
analysis of research methods in business and When the two dimensions are superimposed,
management studies. Our objective in this this results in four categories that we have used
review is to highlight examples of a range of to position research methods that resist (neo-)
research methods in the field, in order to evalu- colonialism, in contrast to methods that repro-
ate the appropriateness, as well as inappropri- duce colonial power imbalances.
ateness, of methods employed in (post) Using the framework, we review business
colonial contexts. To do so, we have used a and management research methods through
framework based on postcolonial critique the four categories. We have labelled these:
(Weston, 2012) which integrates key tenets A: Indigenous methods; B: Hybrid-Liminal
derived from early postcolonial theory and methods; C: Appropriation or neglect of meth-
practice. The framework incorporates two ods; D: (Neo-)colonial methods. In our view,
main dimensions and is visualized in Figure 8.1. the former two categories A and B (on the left)
The first dimension (on the vertical axis) depict research that resists (neo-)colonialism,
acknowledges that postcolonial thinking cri- since research in these categories reflexively
tiques the positioning of colonially derived re-emphasizes Indigenous or local forms of
concepts above local concepts (Prasad, 2003a; engagement. However, the categories C and

A: Indigenous C: Appropriation or Neglect


Methods are incorporated Non-reflexive appropriation of

within a frame of postcolonial Indigenous forms of engagement
critique. Researchers reflexively by researchers for research
work with Indigenous or purposes, or unreflexive
local forms of engagement. neglect of appropriate
methods. Imbalanced
Perspective of method

power dimensions are


B: Hybrid-Liminal D: (Neo)colonial
Methods are incorporated Methods are either derived
Colonially Derived

within a postcolonial frame. from historically colonial

Researchers reflexively relationships, or methods
construct a hybrid-liminal form new relationships
space wherein historically of colonization. Imbalanced
colonial methods are power dimensions are ignored.
subverted and usefully
combined with local forms
of engagement.

Reflexive Non-Reflexive
Emphasis of local engagement in research methods

Figure 8.1  Typology of approaches categorizing postcolonial vs colonial research


D (on the right) account for research methods the culture of any other country the corpora-
which are not appropriate because they con- tion does business in (Fougère & Moulettes,
tinue to integrate colonially derived concepts 2012). The issue is that approaches such as
in a non-reflexive manner. In the remainder these perpetuate colonial practices in the
of this section, we explore each category. We workplace because they fail to acknowledge
discuss these in reverse order of importance that many different worlds and knowledges
(i.e. D to A) in order that we may first critique coexist simultaneously (Alcadipani & Faria,
and dismiss the areas that are not appropriate, 2014; Mourdoukoutas, 1999). This has
and then end by highlighting research meth- resulted in the local knowledge from subal-
ods and approaches that are relevant to the tern groups being marginalized or homog-
ongoing resistance of (neo-)colonialism. enized (Escobar, 2007; Westwood; 2006).
In our review, we highlight critical debate on Following this critique, when research is
the use of these methods, or give examples of conducted in IB and CCM contexts, methods
empirical research to illustrate. are considered to be highly problematic from
a postcolonial lens. Examples of problematic
methods include the over-reliance on positivist
D: (Neo-)colonial Methods quantitative methods as well as naïve interpre-
tivist qualitative methods. For example, quanti-
In this category, we emphasize (neo-)colo- tative methods objectify knowledge and exclude
nial research methods in the business and views which highlight multiplicities of diverse
management field. The category includes knowledge (Muecke, 1992). Chen (2004), for
methods which are either derived from his- example, points to the disregard for diversity
torically colonial relationships, or methods in Asia management approaches and the over-
which form new relationships of colonization reliance on questionnaire data in CCM research,
(e.g. Spivak, 1999; Young, 2003). In all which homogenizes local knowledge. Coronado
cases, the literature that falls in to this cate- (2012) raises a similar critique of CCM and
gory ignores the imbalanced power dimen- points to the disregard for cultural diversity,
sions that result from colonization. Rather specifically highlighting the (neo-)colonial
than reviewing specific examples of the lit- perpetuation of stereotypes in Latin America.
erature, here we highlight the critical com- As well as this, naïve interpretivism presup-
mentary and ongoing debate that has arisen poses that qualitative methods and insights can
surrounding this focus on research methods. be applied and generalized across all contexts
In the business and management field, (Jack & Westwood, 2006; Westwood, 2006).
postcolonial scholars have critiqued tradi- For instance, European ethnography, a coloni-
tional international business (IB) and cross- ally derived research method, has historically
cultural management (CCM) research for excluded Indigenous peoples from negotiating
having restricted views of what constitutes or disrupting knowledge that was produced
knowledge about business, management and about them (Said, 1986). European ethnogra-
organization. In particular, IB and CCM are phy is still used in contemporary research con-
criticized for being (neo-)colonial because texts and the same critiques apply.
they employ Western-derived or Eurocentric
constructs and assume that these constitute
behaviour in any cultural context (Alcadipani C: Appropriation or Neglect of
& Faria, 2014; Mourdoukoutas, 1999; Prasad, Methods
2003b; Westwood, 2006; Westwood & Jack,
2007). For instance, this critique applies to In this category, we highlight two streams of
the way that multinational corporations privi- literature. The first includes the non-reflexive
lege the culture of the home country above appropriation of Indigenous forms of

engagement by researchers for research pur- viewed as less important and marginalized in
poses. In these forms of engagement, imbal- comparison to Western ideologies. There is,
anced power dimensions are either however, still debate over what are considered
disregarded or ignored altogether. The second as the boundaries of appropriation. For exam-
stream of literature attempts to include post- ple, Mangaliso’s (2001) view is that in South
colonial theoretical critique, but unreflex- Africa, it is encouraging to see non-Indigenous
ively fails to apply the same level of critique persons learning Indigenous languages so that
when incorporating research methods. they can better understand (organizational)
Appropriation is used to describe the ways engagement in other cultures.
that knowledge is adapted or taken without The second stream of literature in this
benefit for the original ‘owner’. For exam- category has been identified as problem-
ple, the way that Western anthropologists atic because it attempts to include pertinent
have historically ‘stolen’ Indigenous knowl- postcolonial theoretical critique, but unre-
edge (Banerjee & Linstead, 2001). Banerjee flexively fails to apply the same level of cri-
and Linstead (2004) critique Whiteman & tique when incorporating research methods.
Cooper’s (2000) work in which they apply Adanhounme (2011), for example, performs
Western models of management to explain the an excellent postcolonial analysis of corpo-
organizational engagement of an Indigenous rate social responsibility (CSR) in Ghana by
beaver trapper of the Cree Nation in Canada. arguing that CSR reproduces (neo-)colonial
The authors argue that although this is an dimensions when it incorporates organiza-
original piece of ethnographic work, the the- tional dimensions that meet foreign expec-
orizing perpetuates (neo-)colonial thought. tations, and excludes local communities.
They point out that the article unreflexively The analysis is excellent, but the methods
ignores histories of colonization in Canada, lack the same level of consideration from a
appropriates knowledge of an Indigenous postcolonial lens. The research employs a
community without permission, and shows a qualitative case study design to understand
lack of awareness of the problematic nature the CSR dimensions in a mining plant, and
of ethnography. Although they draw attention the resultant interview data (including inter-
to this study as an example, they highlight views, field observations and consultation of
issues which apply to anthropological studies documentation) was analysed via emergent
more widely. Another example of appropria- themes related to the theoretical perspectives
tion is highlighted by Xu’s (2008) critique of in the study. There is an attempt to modify
comparative management literature. Xu per- some of the interviews to incorporate a life
forms a critical reading of Redding’s (1990) storytelling approach with local mine work-
work on Chinese business and management ers and community members. However,
practices, arguing that it privileges Western the details are limited and there is a lack of
intellectual and cultural ideas over local ideas. explicit reflexive critique about the appro-
Redding’s work is argued to be appropriative priateness of the chosen research methods
because it propagates a naïve Eurocentric view for postcolonial research. Similarly, Chio’s
of Chinese business practice, since the voice (2008) research in Malaysia focuses on
and capacity for dialogue of the Chinese sub- issues related to epistemic coloniality which
ject is denied. As these examples demonstrate, are inherent in globalization and knowledge
an issue with appropriative research is that the transfer in developing countries. The author
findings perpetuate unexamined assumptions performs a valuable postcolonial critique of
and do not correctly account for the worldview the modernist construction of knowledge in
of peoples in the research context. In this way, Malaysia, in particular questioning the power
Indigenous or local knowledges are either dynamics of quality management. Following
adapted for the benefit of others, or they are the theoretical analysis, it is stated that the

insights are supported by primary and sec- in postcolonial contexts. For example, Imas
ondary data, of which the primary data were et al. (2012) challenge the conception of who
obtained from interviews. Again, this is an is an entrepreneur through their concept of
important examination of postcolonial analy- barefoot entrepreneur[ing]. Their conceptual-
sis from a theoretical standpoint. However, ization builds on Max-Neef’s (1992) critical
the methodological approach is limited since notion of barefoot economics, which redis-
it is skimmed over and is not explained in tributes power and makes visible the organi-
sufficient depth. Specifically, there is no zationally invisible. The authors employed a
mention made of how postcolonial theorizing ‘microstoria’ methodology (Ginsburg, 1993;
has impacted on the choice of methods. González y González, 1997; Molho, 2004) to
subvert the hegemonic power of grand theo-
ries and narratives (i.e. economic theory) in
B: Hybrid-Liminal Methods mainstream research and emphasize the lived
experience of those who are not heard (see
In the following section, we draw attention to Boje, 2001). Narrative interpretations were
what we call hybrid-liminal research meth- published to highlight the experiences of
ods. The term hybridity denotes the way in barefoot entrepreneurs who dwell at the mar-
which those who were colonized adopted and gins of organizational society. Similarly, Imas
reshaped the cultures and philosophies of the & Weston (2012) employed an ‘improvized
colonizers. We note the criticisms of hybrid- ethnography’ in the streets of two post-
ity as a vehicle for the loss of traditional colonial countries, Brazil and Zimbabwe,
culture and identity (see Abrahamsen, 2003); to subvert the Eurocentric management/
however, we define hybridity following organization discourse that labels margin-
Bhabha (1994), who argues that those who alized urban outcasts as organization-less.
were colonized were not passive victims of Their methodological approach reflexively
colonial domination but employed hybrid drew on Knoblauch’s (2005) focused eth-
culture as a form of agency to resist domina- nography, which was critically re-imagined
tion. In this way, hybridity is the ‘liminal’ via a postcolonial lens to enable spontane-
in-between space that collapses the divide ous conversations to arise with those who
between colonizers and colonized, enabling are organizationally marginalized. Narrative
subversion and resistance. It signifies the interpretations were shared in the published
creative transformation of Western culture work to counteract the dominant Eurocentric
and practices (Ashcroft, 2001). From this discourse and emphasize a co-constructed
perspective, a hybrid-liminal space is reflex- discourse of the south, which is re-written to
ively constructed, and colonially derived reflect the organizational solidarity, resilience
methods are subverted and productively and resistance of the speakers. Similarly,
combined with local forms of engagement. Sambajee (2015) employed a focused eth-
This can be achieved in two ways, either by nography to understand non-traditional
combining colonially derived and local meth- forms of diasporic resistance in the Mauritian
ods in a reflexive manner in postcolonial hotel industry. The methodology reflexively
research, or by drawing on historically supported a postcolonial analysis which was
Western concepts or methods and reflexively directed through Bhabha’s theories on mim-
incorporating them into research in a icry, ambivalence and hybridity.
context-sensitive manner which resonates A further example is Chandrasekara’s
with a postcolonial perspective. (2009) research, in which she incorporates
The following are examples of hybrid- Spivak’s (1988/2006) postcolonial critique
liminal research which reflexively com- in her feminist analysis of accounting and
bines colonially derived and local methods finance practices in a Sinhalese community.

She draws on critical feminist ethnography Mulrunji, by drawing on a variety of pub-

using participant observation and interviews, licly recorded textual documents (i.e. media
in a synergistic manner, to support the cul- commentaries, historical accounts, govern-
tural critique in the local context. In this ment inquiry records and legislation). She
way, she reflexively incorporates a contex- incorporates these to empirically support her
tually sensitive methodology to give voice theoretical analysis with narratives that are
to local business practices which have been grounded in lived experiences.
marginalized in comparison to mainstream
European practices. Finally, Weston (2012)
explores creative work practices in the post- A: Indigenous Methods
colonial context of Zimbabwe by reflexively
adopting a ‘critical interpretivist’ perspective In this section, we explore the final category
(Alvesson & Deetz, 2000; Frenkel, 2008; in Figure 8.1. This category highlights
Jack & Westwood, 2006) that drew on research which reflexively works with
interpretivist and critical postcolonial phi- Indigenous or local forms of engagement.
losophies. The research employed a ‘critical Indigenous is a term used to describe peoples
narrative-ethnography’ which incorporated who are born in a specific place or region
Western and local Zimbabwean research (Ashcroft et  al., 2013). It includes multidi-
methods. In particular, the research incor- mensional forms of lived knowledge and
porated Zimbabwean narrative tradition (see reason that inform peoples’ lives in the local-
Vambe, 2001, 2004) in order to subversively ity (Kincheloe & Steinberg, 2008). In particu-
highlight local voice and the experience of lar, Indigenous peoples have their own
creative work practices. situated philosophical and knowledge base
The following are examples of the sec- that is tied to the particular locality, and
ond approach to constructing hybrid-liminal grounded in the history, politics and culture of
methods. As already highlighted, the litera- the locality (Denzin & Lincoln, 2008). This is
ture here includes historically Western meth- distinct from the ‘local’ knowledge of people
ods which are reflexively incorporated in a who have lived in, and gained social experi-
context-sensitive manner that resonates with ence from, a place over time (Dei, 2012). For
a postcolonial perspective. Cairns (2007), example, Ubuntu is a (South) African
for example, provokes discussion about the Indigenous term philosophically based on
issues of applying hegemonic ‘developed’ collective solidarity and communal care,
worldviews to explain morality. He highlights whereby a person is a person only through
the example of the ship-breaking industry in other people (Mbigi, 1997). Meanwhile, the
Cittagong, Bangladesh, and presents multi- Sumak Kawsay movement, which originates
storied readings with a range of secondary from Andean Indigenous communities in
data (i.e. visual images and texts) to highlight Latin America, is based on an ancestral phi-
the multiple interpretations and realities. This losophy that relates to the notion of har-
article is not positioned as a piece of post- monic good life bien vivir (Misoczky, 2011).
colonial scholarship, but the author clearly From a postcolonial perspective, Indigenous
accounts for the historical dimensions of col- knowledge has historically been viewed
onization that have impacted on the country, as inferior or primitive in comparison to
and reflexively acknowledges the differences European or Western knowledge (Denzin
and implications of multiple interpreta- & Lincoln, 2008). Prominent examples of
tions. Tedmanson (2008) similarly performs problematic research are the use of quan-
an analysis of (post)colonial politics, sup- titative survey questionnaires and qualita-
ported by secondary data. In particular, she tive European ethnography. These colonially
highlights the death of the Palm Island man, derived research methods have historically

not accounted for Indigenous knowledge and at the same time pragmatically accounting for
excluded Indigenous peoples from shaping the the complex intersection between Indigenous
knowledge produced about them. As a result, and Western research in organizational con-
localized knowledge has been marginalized, texts (Ruwhiu & Cathro, 2014; Ruwhiu &
silenced and stereotyped, and does not reflect Cone, 2010).
the worldviews of the people in the locality Although there has been limited work
(Escobar, 2007; Westwood; 2006). In response undertaken from business and manage-
to this, Indigenous issues have actively gained ment contexts, more recent work is being
momentum through the work of decoloniza- conducted which is advancing the field.
tion. For instance, Smith’s (1999/2005) work For instance, Schneider and Kayseas make
on Indigenous Māori research is considered as an important contribution on Indigenous
seminal work in the area of critical, resistive qualitative research in Chapter 10 of this
indigeneity. In comparison, critical Indigenous volume. In addition, in their edited compi-
research has a shorter history in the business lation, Spiller & Wolfgramm (2015) have
and management field, and it is only more given space for a range of authors to high-
recently that researchers have actively empha- light the application of a diverse range of
sized the importance of advancing Indigenous Indigenous spiritualities in the workplace.
research in the field (Jack & Westwood, 2009; The works in the collection highlight a range
Jack et al., 2011; Jackson, 2013). of perspectives, including: Indian Adivasis;
Indigenous scholars are working to criti- Native American; Canadian First Nations;
cally address inequalities, and re-position Māori; Aboriginal Australian; Chinese
Indigenous perspectives and methods in Taoist; Japanese Zen, Shinto Confuscian
contextually appropriate ways that incorpo- and Bhuddist; Andean Sumak Kawsay; and
rate philosophies and knowledge bases that South African Ubuntu spiritual traditions.
are tied to their localities. Resistive indige- Although not all the works directly explicate
neity advocates for the use of critical, par- Indigenous research methodologies, they
ticipatory methodologies (Denzin et  al., are important because they present situated
2008). This includes leading the research spiritual and cultural traditions, through the
agenda and deciding which methods should authentic voices of the authors. This work
be used without direction from non-Indige- is crucial in enabling the reader to gain an
nous researchers (Porsanger, 2004), as well enriched and enlightened understanding of
as developing codes of conduct based on Indigenous spiritual traditions from across
cultural ethics for researchers working on the globe. It is an important and timely addi-
Indigenous issues (Smith, 1999/2005). In an tion to the literature.
early example, Henry & Pene (2001) high-
light Kaupapa Māori research and method-
ology, as a set of methods and procedures,
which are actively shaped by situated Māori CRITICAL ISSUES
views of what is ‘true’ and ‘real’. This
approach does not exclude the use of main- In this section, we reflect further on critical
stream Paheka (Anglo) research categories, issues in the field. In particular, we comment
but instead decisions are made depending on key silences and omissions, as well as
on the type of research and whether it aligns practical issues of undertaking research in
with Māori cultural values. These perspec- local contexts. We do so to point to the
tives are mirrored by authors who empha- opportunities and limitations of engaging in
size the value of Kaupapa Māori research research in this area, and contribute to the
as a transformational methodology which ongoing debate about the practical chal-
empowers Indigenous Māori research, whilst lenges of undertaking empirical research.

Challenges, Silences and were, more scholars would be doing so.

Omissions of Knowledge Rather than employing taken-for-granted
methods, researchers critically recognize the
Some key challenges have been highlighted multiplicity of worldviews. In response, they
following our review of methods. The main work to reflexively design and implement
challenges for research in this area are linked specific methods which are applicable to the
to the broader discipline. The first challenge particular kinds of research and contexts.
concerns the concept of business and man- Postcolonial theory and related concepts
agement research being fundamentally have been a valuable force in shifting the
(neo-)colonial in nature. We argue this for way that research is conducted because it
two reasons: first, because the field stems necessitates a radically different type of sen-
from the colonial legacy of the division of sibility. Researchers are required to be trans-
labour, and second because methods used in parent about the ethical and political
vast areas of research such as IB and CCM dimensions of research, and remain faithful
perpetuate (neo-)colonial patterns that con- to these throughout the process (Westwood,
tinue to marginalize the multiplicities of 2006). This leads us to comment on the prac-
knowledge in Indigenous communities and ticalities of engaging in these kinds of
localized contexts. research. We do so by commenting on reflex-
The second challenge that the review ivity and ethics, as well as the emotional
highlights is that most of the business and tensions that may be faced in the field.
management research that does specifi- In research that recognizes the multiplic-
cally incorporate postcolonial perspectives ity of worldviews, the concept of validity
is theoretical. As well as this, the theoretical is not applicable for evaluating the quality
analysis is narrow since it primarily refers of research (Finlay, 2006). Reflexivity is an
to the term postcolonial, and predominantly alternative approach used to critically evalu-
builds on the work of only certain postcolo- ate whether the research has been carried out
nial theorists. There is a clear need to widen in an appropriate way (Angen, 2000; Pyett,
the research agenda. The large focus on theo- 2003) and involves the ongoing evaluation of
retical output leads to the third challenge. It the relationships and methods of knowledge
exposes the limited focus on methods and production (Calás & Smircich, 1992). Critical
the lack of field research which has incorpo- reflexivity involves a deeper questioning of
rated postcolonial research methods. It also the researchers’ involvement in the research
explains why some research includes sophis- (Cunliffe, 2002). It encompasses a range of
ticated postcolonial analysis but at the same issues, including the evaluation of ethics,
time the incorporation of methods does not as well as the position of the researcher(s).
involve the same level of critical, reflexive Perera & Pugliese (1998) maintain that in
analysis. The practicalities of undertaking order to be transformative and demonstrate
postcolonial research may be challenging, a commitment to local struggle, a discipline
but it is essential that when methods are should be open to (re)examination. Reflexive
employed they are used in a manner that is critique is therefore essential for the research
appropriate to the context. that is undertaken in postcolonial and related
research contexts because it is vital that the
power dimensions of theory and practice are
Practicalities of Undertaking continually examined and evaluated.
Research Jack and Westwood (2006) suggest an
approach to reflexivity in postcolonial
Employing methods in research that resists research that consists of five key forms
(neo-)colonialism is not straightforward. If it of evaluation to enhance the quality of

the research. These are: (1) evaluating the against the flow of (neo-)colonial research
researcher(s) location(s) from a plural per- practices. Undertaking research in the field
spective, including reflecting not only on geo- will therefore take much longer, especially
graphical location but also historical, cultural when methods are tailor-made to fit the
and institutional location(s); (2) evaluating context. Fieldwork may also involve travel-
the location(s) of the research participants; ling to remote locations, or locations which
(3) evaluating researcher(s) motivations for suffer from repression and stigmatization.
the study; (4) evaluating the inclusion of In addition, the continual engagement with
local forms of self-representation and inclu- reflexivity can be emotionally challenging,
sive research practices; and (5) evaluating the as researchers may find it difficult to sustain
implications inherent in writing and dissemi- continual engagement (Finlay, 2002).
nating the research. They specify that these
issues should be addressed in an ongoing way
throughout the research process, but espe-
cially before, during and after data collection. CONCLUSION
The acceptance of multiple worldviews
also means that a universal code of ethics In this final section we point to the future of
cannot exist. It is therefore inappropriate research in this area. We acknowledge the
to assume that Western-Eurocentric views inherent challenges and highlight the oppor-
of ethical engagement apply in all research tunities for researchers moving forward. As
contexts. Indigenous scholars have retali- we have stated in this chapter, conducting
ated against the colonial views of ethical postcolonial and related types of research is
engagement. As already pointed out, Smith not a straightforward endeavour. This
(1999/2005) explains how Indigenous Māori explains why this area of research is still
communities have developed codes of con- marginal in the business and management
duct based on cultural ethics for research- field, and why most authors resort to discuss-
ers who are working on Indigenous issues ing postcolonial, decolonising or Indigenous
in New Zealand. Indigenous codes such as perspectives in theoretical terms. Theoretical
these are essential for safeguarding cultural focus is not wrong, but it certainly draws
practices. Continuing this line of debate, Fine attention to the overemphasis on theoretical
et  al. (2008) draw our attention to the issue critique and the related challenges that are
of safeguarding certain types of knowledge inherent in styles of research presentation.
of Indigenous communities – such as sacred Business and management research is typi-
knowledge – that should not be reported cally required to fit a prescribed academic
to those outside a community. Finally, style and encompass well-established sets of
Onyango-Ouma’s (2006) view is that ethics constructs. It is therefore difficult to go
are tied to the locality; issues cannot always against the grain, and these expectations pose
be predetermined and are often based on situ- limitations for researchers who wish to
ated morals in the context of study. These express their resistance to (neo-)colonialism.
views have implications for the appropriate- In this way, researchers working on postcolo-
ness of rigid ethical codes that are enforced nial and related issues are pushed to conform
by research institutions. to patterns of ‘writing’ and delivering
Our final comment about the practi- research. This is perhaps inevitable as most
calities of engaging in research that resists postcolonial researchers in the business and
(neo-)colonization is that it is not easy and management field have conducted their PhDs
can be emotionally taxing and compromis- in Anglo-American academic settings, and
ing (Imas & Weston, 2012). It is a continual are therefore influenced by the prevalent aca-
and demanding battle to resist and research demic trends. Since researchers learn to

express themselves within customs and management, and to truly reflect plurivocal
norms appropriate to the Anglo-American practices beyond the confines of the mar-
setting, so their ideas become a reflection of gins. To do so requires an engagement with
the Eurocentre. We note here that this is also communities in a manner that reflects a sen-
self-critique, since both of us writing here are sibility of co-collaboration, co-participation,
extremely aware that our style of writing in co-voice. Doing so is a step to redirecting
English is linked to our privileged back- power to invisible communities. We need
grounds and the contexts in which we exer- alternative ways of cooperating to tackle the
cise our trade. deeply rooted issues that affect our econo-
The two of us have come to realize that mies, environments and social lives. We end
although this is not an impediment for this chapter by leaving you with a thought in
conducting our postcolonial research, we the spirit of decolonizing the postcolonial:
equally know that it has been a big and
As Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela said: It always seems
risky challenge to move away from accepted
impossible until it’s done.
theoretical traditions to engage in research
on different terms, and engage with com-
munities that are essentially invisible in the
field of business, management or organiza-
tion. So, the question is, what can we do?
Is it possible to establish a research agenda
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Feminist Methodologies
Nancy Harding

INTRODUCTION credibility of his research (Oakley, 1981).

The topics he studied were those of the pub-
It is difficult to under-estimate the influence lic space. ‘Women’s interests’ were regarded
of feminist theory on contemporary qualita- as emotional or personal issues, and were
tive research methods. A brief outline of the deemed to be so unworthy of study they did
history of qualitative methods illuminates not even make it into the realm of potential
this, and provides a necessary context for research topics. Research participants were
understanding why there is a need for sepa- overwhelmingly male, and when women
rate and distinct ‘feminist’ research were included their voices were silenced.
methods. For example, Karp’s (1987) exploration of
Arguments about the quantitative/qualita- job satisfaction ‘beyond midlife’ seemed to
tive divide dominated debates about research seek a balance between the sexes (39 male
in the 1970s. Strong epistemological dis- and 33 female participants), but the interview
tinctions were made (Alastalo, 2008) and quotes he uses are predominantly from male
scientism’s positivist, objectivist approach informants, with women quoted largely when
dominated understanding of qualitative discussing physical appearance.
methods (Packer, 2011). The researcher (pre- That is, before feminism’s influence,
sumptively male) was required to be ‘cool, research was something carried out by men
distant and rational’ (Fontana & Frey, 2000, who studied men and male public lives. Men
quoted in Packer, 2011, p. 47), and unbi- were unmarked and normative, both the
ased and non-evaluative. He was powerful, ground on which research (and life) rested
authoritative, distanced, impartial and above and the model on which others should base
all objective, his objectivity ensuring the themselves. Such phallocentric discourses,
Feminist Methodologies 139

although much attacked, continue to circu- critique of the ‘wave’ metaphor), explores
late and are found in the most unexpected of not only gender but also race, class, sexual-
places, including gender itself. For example, ity, ethnicity and other forms of oppressive
there has been little interrogation of the epis- influences on women’s lives. Third-wave
temological and methodological assumptions feminist theory is diverse, fragmented and
that inform ‘men and masculinities’ (Pini & contested. Influenced by poststructural
Pease, 2013). theories it explores how, in neoliberalist
regimes, the self is a project to be worked
on, within conditions that both influence
and constrain the possibilities of subjectivi-
A BRIEF HISTORY OF FEMINISM ties and selves. Thus the unified subject or
‘the’ woman has disappeared from feminist
An understanding of history provides insight debate. This may be the ultimate develop-
into the rationale for ongoing debates in ment of second-wave feminism’s critique of
feminist research. Briefly, first-wave femi- essentialism. However, if there is no such
nism, as it has come to be called, emerged in thing as an essentialised woman, ‘“the”
the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries woman’, then what or who is the subject
and is perhaps best remembered for its strug- of feminist theory and politics (Thomas
gles for women’s rights, notably the rights to & Davies, 2005)? One answer is found in
vote and own property. Change was slow, ‘strategic essentialism’ (Spivak, 1996). This
even after the right to vote was won in the means that we can call ourselves ‘women’
UK a century ago. Women took over ‘men’s’ so as to recognize ourselves as part of a cat-
jobs during World War II but were summarily egory that remains oppressed and use that
returned to the kitchen sink at its end. It is recognition to continue the struggle against
difficult to imagine how different from today that oppression. At the same time, strategic
were women’s lives (in the UK) just a gen- essentialism rejects essentialist arguments
eration or two ago. The concept of ‘career’ and argues that there is nothing that marks
hardly existed for our mothers and grand- women out as ‘a woman’. In MOS this argu-
mothers: paid less than men for doing similar ment was developed by Knights & Kerfoot
work, they were expected to give up paid (2004), who argued the need to examine how
work on marriage or childbirth. Our grand- representations of gender are constituted/
mothers had no financial independence and constitutive, and challenge the reification of
women remained until comparatively terms that are attached to concepts of ‘men’
recently the property of their husbands, with and ‘women’. More generally, third-wave
no rights to a bank account or to own prop- feminism challenges the meanings attached
erty, no voice and little influence. Second- to femininity but retains an abiding political
wave feminism challenged this. The Women’s project of refusing the denigration of those
Movement arose in the 1960s, used con- who occupy the subject position of ‘woman’
sciousness raising as a means of change, (Budgeon, 2013). Finally, the emergence of
fought patriarchy and facilitated the entry of the digital age is signalling the emergence
women into academia. of fourth-wave feminism, but also post-
Second-wave feminists were subse- feminism, so the picture is again changing
quently accused of propounding one model quickly.
of ‘the woman’ – white, middle class, het- In this light, feminist research meth-
erosexual – and of silencing women who ods are part of an evolving and devel-
do not conform with this narrow ideal. In oping political project that is not only
response third-wave feminism, originating anti-patriarchal but against all forms of
in the 1990s (see Nicholson, 2013, for a abjection and abuse.

WHAT ARE ‘FEMINIST RESEARCH However, there is no such thing as a single,

METHODS’? unitary feminist epistemological perspective.
Feminist thinkers work in all, or nearly all,
Feminist research methods are not concerned academic disciplines, where they cover the
merely with ensuring that women are included gamut from positivist to poststructuralist,
in research – that does little to address ine- positivism to idealism, and empiricism to
qualities. They also do not seek to have only poststructuralism. What they have in com-
women studying women – that would mimic mon is a focus on oppressed identities, and
male research models. However, the study of a sharing of basic epistemological principles
women by women is an important aspect of of: a focus on the subjective and personal,
feminist research. To understand what is a reflexive understanding of gender asym-
meant by feminist research methods we must metry, the research’s ethical impact, and its
start with second-wave feminist scholars’ ability to empower and bring about change
epistemic project of challenging how knowl- (Cook & Fonow, 1990). All these can be seen
edge itself was (and is) understood (Stanley in Womersley et  al.’s (2011) study of how
& Wise, 1983). This is inter-linked with femi- affect (in this case shame) is co-constructed
nism’s political intent, its focus on egalitari- within the interview setting. Their femi-
anism and its aim to challenge discrimination nist frame necessitated ‘a commitment to
and disadvantage through undermining the understanding the ways in which gender is
reproduction of power and dominance. a social production, formed, reproduced,
Overwhelmingly, feminist research asks and modified within the intersubjective’
political, moral and ethical questions, so we (p. 879), plus ‘a critical attention to
must distinguish between ‘method’ (tech- positionality, reflexivity, the production of
niques for gathering data); methodology (how knowledge, and the power relationships that
should research proceed?) and epistemology are inherent in research processes’ (op. cit).
(theories of knowledge, or how research can Data analysis required tracking how affect
be carried out) (Sandra Harding, 1987). influenced the interviews through under-
standing the form of the conversation, the
content of the dialogue and the researcher’s
own emotional memory of the event.
FEMINIST EPISTEMOLOGIES There are thus guidelines for carrying
out feminist research, but these cut across
Epistemology asks who can be knowers, the numerous philosophical, theoretical and
what is ‘knowledge’ and what kinds of things epistemological positions within which femi-
can be known. Feminists’ entry into research nist theories are developed. A discipline that
shattered prevailing presumptions of the uni- features such major thinkers as Judith Butler,
versality and objectivity of the (masculine) Nancy Fraser, Donna Haraway, Sandra
physical and social sciences. For example, Harding, Luce Irigaray, Julie Kristeva, Karen
Donna Haraway’s Primate visions (1989) Barad and numerous others, covering a spec-
destabilised primatology through showing trum of disciplines across the physical and
how masculine primatologists projected their social sciences, arts and humanities, has a
own understanding of (human) masculinity rich heritage for researchers seeking to locate
onto the great apes. Biology textbooks were their work within a feminist epistemology.
rewritten following Emily Martin’s (1991) In what follows, I will introduce standpoint
illumination of how they portrayed the meet- theory, poststructural approaches and refer
ing of the (tiny) sperm and the (dominant) briefly to intersectionality. There is no space
egg as a stereotypical heterosexual romance in which to explore transnational and postco-
(active male/passive female). lonial epistemologies, capitalist production,
Feminist Methodologies 141

new materialism, new organisational forms, Standpoint theories have been subjected
transnational feminist networks, radical to much internal and external critique and
or liberal approaches, or other emergent development (see Sandra Harding’s edited
approaches. However, these and other episte- book (2004)). Although 30 years old, the
mologies are discussed in feminist literature concept remains active, debated and informa-
in MOS, so a treasure-trove of ideas awaits tive. For example, a special edition of the
the researcher keen to go beyond this intro- journal Hypatia in 2009 updated the debates
ductory chapter (see Calás & Smircich, 1999, (see also Kristen Intemann’s (2010) analy-
for an excellent discussion). I am devoting sis of 25 years of standpoint feminism). Its
space to feminist standpoint theory, which continuing relevance in MOS is suggested by
some now regard as somewhat dated, because Martin’s (2001) use of women’s standpoints
it is one of the few epistemological positions to understand men’s mobilisation of mas-
unique to feminist theory, and the debates that culinities in organisations, as ‘not primarily
crystallised in standpoint approaches provide directed towards women, but enacted in the
the context for contemporary approaches. presence of women, that men see as natural
and harmless, but women often experience as
harmful’ and exclusionary (p. 589).
Standpoint Theory
This is perhaps one of the most influential of Poststructural Feminist
feminist epistemologies to emerge from
second-wave feminism. Standpoint theories
aim to advance a feminist epistemology, or A very different approach is found in post-
theory of knowledge, that involves develop- structuralist gender theories that challenge the
ment of effective knowledge from the stand- stability, biological or constructed, of mascu-
point of women’s experiences. Its roots are in linity and femininity. Poststructural theory
Marxist feminist theory (see Nancy Hartsock, argues they are fluid and historically mutable.
1998). Its various protagonists argue, first, Foucault (1979, 1986, 1992) facilitates the
that subordinated groups see the world from argument that male and female, the hetero-
their own location, which powerful groups are and homosexual, even the body, are concep-
unaware of. Second, their very survival tions of the Western industrialised era. There
requires that they understand the cultures of could be ‘literally hundreds of possible sexes
the powerful, so they also see the world within that humans can inhabit’ (Hester, 2004,
the perspective of the dominant culture (see p. 218), but these are compressed into two
especially Patricia Hill Collins, 2000). This is cultural codes (Foucault, 1994) used when
the ‘double vision’ of the ‘outsider within’. making sense of gender (Ely & Meyerson,
Standpoint perspectives, by defini- 2000; Barry et  al., 2006). One of the most
tion, refuse the concept of the homogene- influential theorists in this body of work is
ous ‘woman’. They recognise differences Judith Butler, whose early work in Gender
between women on account of race, class, trouble (1990) and Bodies that matter (1993)
ethnicity and sexuality, with researchers proposed that gender is not determined by
exploring women’s location at standpoints biology but ‘is a fantasy instituted and
of class, race, etc. The focus is not on the inscribed on the surface of bodies’ (1990,
individual but the group (see, for example, p. 136). Bodies and genders are performa-
Reynolds, 2010). Core to all standpoint per- tively constituted, that is, through constant
spectives is the need to understand relation- repetition of micro-movements of the body
ships between power, knowledge, material occurring within a set of meanings that limit
experiences and epistemology. possibilities of what/who we can become.

These meanings pre-exist us: we are born into organisational identities more generally (For
them and learn how to move within them to excellent case examples, see Kondo, 1990;
‘constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered and Trethewey, 1997).
self’ (1990, p. 140). That is, there is no female,
male or other gender identity that pre-exists
the ‘expressions’ of gender; rather, the female Intersectional Feminist
and the male are constituted through the acts Epistemologies
that performatively achieve gendered bodies.
Poststructural MOS researchers explore Chapter 26 of this book discusses intersection-
how organisations constitute subjects as mas- ality in some depth, but its discussion cannot
culine or feminine. For example, Brewis et al. be omitted from a chapter headed ‘Feminist
(1997) argued that ‘Gender divides humanity research methods’ because some academics
into “masculine” or “feminine”’ (p. 1275) but argue that feminist theory today is intersec-
it is ‘the discourse of gender difference’ that tionality theory. That is, gender or sex cannot
constitutes the differences, such that ‘The be understood in isolation from other socio-
concepts of masculine and feminine have no a cultural categories such as age, ethnicity,
priori grounding in material reality – they are class, sexuality, disability, etc., because
labels arbitrarily imposed on particular ways women (and men) are not just their sex/
of behaving’ (p. 1277). Linstead & Pullen gender, but are also marked by and constitute
(2006) warn that the binary of male/female their identities within and through these other
continues to inform poststructural organi- categories. Thus, gender/sex is understood to
sational thought (p. 1289) and indeed the intersect with these other categories, becom-
binary creeps back in even where it is least ing mutually intertwined with them.
welcome. For example, Bowring’s (2004) Intersectionalities emerged out of postcolonial
study of Star Trek’s Captain Janeway, and and anti-racist feminists’ critiques of the
Muhr’s (2011) study of a cyborgian leader, hegemonic tendencies of white, middle-class
papers that use film, television and other Western feminism to posit themselves as a
media as the sources of ‘data’, are forward- ‘we’ to an unspecified ‘they’ (see Chandra T.
looking in exploring gender fluidity, but the Mohanty’s influential paper, ‘Under Western
fluidity they write of moves between mas- eyes’, 1988, and Kimberley Crenshaw (1989)).
culine and feminine characteristics and thus In the US, much intersectionality theory
remains within the traditional binary of male/ work has been undertaken by women of col-
female (see also Linstead & Thomas, 2002; our, leading to the charge (Puar, 2012) that
Linstead & Brewis, 2004). Others explore white women have been let off the hook of
the means through which the binary is con- their complicity in participating in practices
stituted and sustained. Linstead and Brewis of abjection and humiliation of others. It fol-
(2004), for example, suggest ‘a binary is not lows that intersectionality theorists empha-
simply constituted by its poles, but by the sise the importance not only of studying
media between those poles’ (p. 361), while those who are subordinated or excluded, but
Borgerson and Rehn (2004) define fluidity also of analysing the normative ‘we’ that
of gender identity as ‘the space between’ constructs, reproduces and benefits from
(p. 461) the two poles of a dualism, such as relations of dominance (Walby et  al., 2012,
male/female. They argue that ‘the quality of p. 230). An analysis of power relations is
fluidity does not apply at the level of gender, vitally important in this approach, as is explo-
but at the level of traits said to constitute gen- ration of how the categories and their inter-
der’ (p. 469). sections are themselves constructed, and how
Feminist poststructural epistemologies the intersections are ‘done’ (Lykke, 2010).
are influential not only in exploring the con- The analysis of intersectionality in MOS is
stitution of sex, gender and sexualities, but in its infancy, despite the pioneering work of
Feminist Methodologies 143

Joan Acker (2006) and her understanding of the methodological literature today, the
organisations as the sites of emergence and “quantitative”/ “qualitative” dichotomy func-
perpetuation of inequalities. But important tions chiefly as a gendered ideological repre-
work for MOS academics planning to incor- sentation’ and that ‘within this gendering of
porate intersectionality into their feminist methodology, experimental methods are seen
research methods includes Holvino (2010), as the most “quantitative” and “hard”, with
who argues the need to understand the link- qualitative methods “soft” and thus femi-
ages between everyday organisational prac- nine’. In 1993, Stanley and Wise had argued
tices and external, societal influences. Bell that this bifurcation is associated with
& Nkomo (2001) have illuminated how Cartesian dualism and the mind/body split.
white female staff display gender blindness Cartesian dualism’s ontology is one that pro-
while black female staff arm themselves poses two opposing principles, masculinity
psychologically against the consequences and femininity, that it disseminates through
of racism, and Boogaard & Roggeband’s the sociocultural, so that ‘the very grounds of
(2010) study of the Dutch police force reality are presupposed in binary and gen-
shows the complexities of intersectional dered terms’ (p. 194).
identities, in that individuals both openly Quantitative research is presumed there-
challenge inequalities and actively reproduce fore to support the masculine status quo, and
them. This study should be read alongside despite Oakley’s (2000) advocacy of quan-
Healy et al.’s (2011) research, which shows titative methods, there is a ‘disinclination
how inequality regimes are sustained in the of those most fully engaged with feminism
face of sophisticated anti-discrimination to use quantitative methods’ (Cohen et  al.,
policies and legal duties. Finally, Woodhams 2011, p. 573). That is, only 16 per cent of
et al. (2013) demonstrate that penalties asso- articles in which authors take an avowedly
ciated with multiple disadvantage expo- feminist position include quantitative analy-
nentially increase as disadvantages seem sis, whether mixed methods or solely quanti-
to interact to the detriment of people at tative. In contrast, non-feminist research into
‘intersections’. women is dominated by quantitative meth-
These studies suggest that Thomas and ods. There is a sharp distinction between the
Davies’s (2005) lovely paper, ‘What have the US (preference for quantitative research) and
feminists done for us?’, which explored the value the UK (preference for qualitative research),
of feminist theory for understanding resistance, with US journals offering publishing spaces
needs updating, because contemporary femi- that take women as the object, not subject, of
nist thinkers offer further insightful, impact-full research. In MOS’s most highly ranked jour-
ways of carrying out research in MOS. nals, women are over-represented and men
I turn now to feminist methodologies. I are under-represented in published qualita-
will suggest that feminism shares methodolo- tive studies as compared to non-qualitative
gies with qualitative research more generally, authors (Plowman & Smith, 2011). However,
but can bring new insights into how those note how these authors continue a function-
methodologies can be mobilised in research- alist approach that draws a sharp distinction
ing organisations. between men and women, looking for the
differences between them, and that they do
not distinguish between feminist, gender and
woman-oriented research as Cohen et  al.’s
But apart from the preference for quali-
A major point to note when discussing femi- tative approaches, feminists draw upon the
nist methodologies is the quantitative/quali- range of methodological research approaches
tative divide. Oakley (2000, p. 3) wrote: ‘in available within the social sciences. The

best feminist research adapts each method- that may be pertinent to women. Feminist
ology to ensure that women (and other par- research methods sought to make redress
ticipants) are incorporated into every stage through researching issues pertinent to
of the research process, from design of the women and legitimising women’s knowl-
research to its dissemination. This is because, edge, including women as both researchers
as the above discussion of theoretical per- and participants in research. But the means
spectives makes clear, researchers using a by which empirical materials are acquired
feminist approach believe research should (methods) are generally those found in non-
begin from everyday experiences and that feminist research methods texts: interviews,
the voices of research participants should be focus groups, documentary analysis, ethnog-
heard. We will find something similar when raphy, etc. However, they differ in practice.
we explore the methods feminist researchers Feminists have always been highly criti-
use to gather empirical materials. cal of the demand for objectivity and detach-
ment: they argue the need to do just the
opposite. Oakley (1981) argued, influen-
tially, that the traditional research interview
THE CHOICE OF RESEARCH TOPIC obscured the hierarchical and exploitative
character of the encounter, and that far from
Again, there are no limitations or rules, but being ‘dangerous bias’, personal involvement
feminist researchers often write movingly of ‘is the condition under which people come
how aspects of their own lives, for which to know each other and to admit others into
they may have no definite labels, inform the their lives’ (1981, p. 58). Feminist methods
choice of their research topic. Others write of therefore aim to ‘subvert [...] the established
exploring topics that, once the research is procedures of disciplinary practice tied to the
under way, illuminate differences between agendas of the powerful’ (DeVault, 1999, p.
male and female participants that cast light 59). Researchers who do not explore how
on the whole experience being explored. For their personal, professional and social histo-
Paget (1981, in DeVault, 1999), women, but ries influence how they frame their research
not male, artists experienced ‘ontological will ‘inevitably reproduce dominant gender,
anguish’ about the appropriateness of their race, and class biases’ (Naples, 2003, p. 3).
working as artists. That is, feminist research- Interviews should therefore be conversa-
ers identify aspects of women’s lives that are tions in which researcher and participant
so taken-for-granted they are hardly available collaborate as partners in the research, with
to conscious thought. the researcher actively involved in the inter-
view. This approach, somewhat revolutionary
30 years ago, has now become a signifier of
good research skills.
FEMINIST RESEARCH METHODS: However, feminist research methods offer
TECHNIQUES FOR GATHERING one intriguing addition to our repertoire
EMPIRICAL MATERIALS of qualitative research skills: they explore
silences and the half-said. There is a strong
As noted above, feminist research approaches body of feminist theory that argues women
evolved in response to an understanding that have no language of their own, so they (we)
epistemologies of research privileged men have to use a masculine language that does
(not only as knowers and as subjects of not encompass female experience. (For a dis-
research, but also as dictators of what shall cussion of Cixous’s perspective on the silenc-
be legitimised as ‘knowledge’) while silenc- ing of women and its application in MOS, see
ing and/or excluding women and the issues Phillips et  al., 2014, and for an analysis of
Feminist Methodologies 145

Irigaray’s arguments and its implications for knowable’ (Tsalach, 2013, p. 77), so as to
feminist research in MOS, see Fotaki et al., fight subjugation and subordination. Indeed,
2014.) It follows that ‘the unspoken, the inau- much feminist research is devoted to explor-
dible, the ignored’ give insights that cannot ing how oppression is articulated within
be made through concentrating on the spoken and through the lives and bodies of women.
word alone (Mazzei, 2003). Such a recogni- Care is needed: researchers may not share
tion of lack of language and/or voice has sev- class, race, ethnicity or (lack of) agency with
eral implications for research. research participants, so may unknowingly
First, if masculine discourses position influence them or lack insights vital for inter-
women such that they lack a language with preting the empirical materials. However,
which to speak about their experiences, then researchers cognizant of power and class
researchers need to be able to explore aspects differentials between themselves and partici-
of women’s lives that may be incompletely pants can explore interviews as a microcosm
articulated. This requires moving beyond of the wider social world where privileged
terms that frame activities, such as ‘house- and oppressed meet.
work’, to explore what is hidden behind However, in MOS wordlessness may signify
words that reduce complex activities to some- silence rather than a lack of language. There
thing that appears easy and straightforward – may be impositions (such as fear of retalia-
and thus hardly worthy of study. We therefore tion from management) that prevent speech
have to listen actively for what appears so (Glenn, 2004). As Milliken & Wolfe Morrison
familiar and taken-for-granted that we hardly (2003) suggest, in organisations silence is ‘a
notice it, or things we think we understand choice that is made when there is a fear of the
so well that we need not explore them in any consequences of speaking, or when normative
depth. Careful probing skills are necessary to and social pressures inhibit what can be said’.
elicit understanding of these things. Incorporating one’s personal involvement
Second, if the language available to women in the research is thus core to much feminist
cannot encapsulate so much of their experi- research methodology, in ways that exceed
ences, then the feminist researcher should forms of reflexivity regarding how researchers
become adept not only at listening to silences influence their research. That is, we acknowl-
and the not-said, but also to translating the edge traditions of ‘woman talk’, where
stumbling half-said. This requires using our female participants in conversation engage
own experiences – filling the silences with in helping each other to develop ideas. The
our own understanding helps understand feminist interview is thus one in which two
what is ‘incompletely said’ (DeVault, 1999, people participate in a conversation, sharing
p. 67). Researching work–life, balance, say, understanding and attempting to minimise
would require probing a mention of ‘house- power disparities between the two, and draw-
work’ to find out what it involves, how it is ing on their own biographies and interests in
done, the politics and affect around its doing, doing so. There is value and legitimacy in
the implications for not doing it, etc. understanding researchers’ own experiences
Feminists often understand silence in of the fieldwork (Letherby, 2003; Gilmore &
terms of an oppressed otherness. For exam- Kenny, 2015). This includes studies involving
ple, Tsalach’s (2013) auto-ethnographic male participants: gendered power play may
account explores how and why she could be insightful, reflecting the wider sociality,
not speak when she was herself the subject but also difficult and painful. However, we
of oppression. This has a political intent: may be too certain about our own empathic
‘Focusing directly on oppressive experi- abilities and self-knowledge, and mistakenly
ences often means saying what cannot be feel we ‘know’ research participants when
said and attempting to learn what is not we don’t.

Other Methods of entrepreneurship that the entrepreneurial

experience seemed to matter (pp. 122–23).
Feminist researchers bring a feminist sensi- Thus, Gill’s feminist insights lead her to con-
tivity and understanding to other types of clude that the researcher who is shadowing
research method, offering useful insights for participants is involved in constructing the
all qualitative researchers, feminist or not. very thing she is studying (p. 128).
For example, Haynes (2011) offers valuable But feminist methods do not exist, as such –
insights into auto-ethnographical research. feminists undertake interviews, organise
One of her first points could be written by focus groups, analyse documents, engage
any insightful researcher using auto- in ethnography, etc. These become feminist
ethnography: ‘What is important … is not the when carried out within and through femi-
truth or falsity of my autoethnographical nist epistemologies and ontologies. In other
account, but the way in which our percep- words, it is theory-led research that charac-
tions of reality are part of an interpretive terises feminist research, not the methods per
process of understanding our experiences se. Overall, the feminist research interview is
within the social world’ (p, 137). But her one where solidarity and empathy, rather than
feminist stance leads, in a moving account, to critical distance, is the guiding approach,
the necessity of protecting the ‘I’ who alongside recognition of how gendering
emerges from the auto-ethnographical influences interactions between participants.
research. Haynes’s motivation was to ‘explore This introduces new ways of thinking about
the self in relation to wider socio-cultural and qualitative research more generally.
political phenomena, in the fundamental
autoethnographical sense’. The required first
person narrative ‘invokes a degree of vulner-
ability necessary to scrutinise the self and DATA ANALYSIS
reveal it to others in order to understand the
social context’ (p. 144). Haynes advocates an Feminist research draws on the familiar
ethic of care in relation to the researcher self, range of data analysis methods, but they are
to protect that self from emotional harm. adapted to conform to the feminist principles
A research method long popular in MOS outlined above, such that we may talk about
is shadowing. Gill’s (2011) feminist under- ‘feminist discourse analysis’, ‘feminist nar-
standing of ethnography suggests a need to rative analysis’, ‘feminist deconstruction’,
question rules and guidelines about shadow- ‘feminist textual analysis’, etc. However,
ing. It is impossible for the ethnographer to while these share a heritage with their non-
fade into the background, she argues, and feminist counterparts, I will highlight two
both participants and researcher will be areas that emerge specifically out of feminist
engaged in identity work as one is shadowed theories.
by the other, because, as Cunliffe (2010, The first is the analysis of silences and
p. 11) writes, the researcher and researched hesitations (discussed above). Some might
‘are always selves-in-relation-to-others’. see this as a form of feminist discourse analy-
Further, negotiations between researcher sis, but I distinguish it from discourse analy-
and researched are always layered in differ- sis more generally because (1) it is located
ences such as gender, age, class, education, in feminist theoretical perspectives that argue
sexuality, etc. Gill recounts her different women lack voice or language, while (2) the
experiences of shadowing three entrepre- sorts of hesitations and silences recognised
neurs. The entrepreneurial labour and tasks by feminist researchers seem to include lit-
performed across the cases were relatively tle that can be identified as ‘codes’, so they
the same, but it was in the gendered portrayal get lost during data reduction. DeVault’s
Feminist Methodologies 147

(1999) guidelines on this are comprehen- The second specifically feminist approach
sive. She recommends looking for difficul- to data analysis I will discuss here relates
ties of expression, such as ‘I don’t quite to the feminist new materialism theory of
know how to put it’, or ‘you know’ – these Karen Barad (2007). Feminist researchers
signify the failure of language to encapsulate working with Barad’s theory of performa-
experiences inadequately coded in standard tivity focus on data ‘hot spots’ (MacLure,
vocabulary. There are instead inarticulate, 2013, in Ringrose and Renold, 2014) that
content-free mumbling and hesitations that ‘glow’ for the researcher, whether encoun-
are discarded during data reduction because tered during the fieldwork, analysis or later.
they appear to contain little relevant informa- This approach takes feminist reflexivity to
tion. ‘Often’, writes DeVault (1999, p. 69), a new level. Hot spots are analysed through
‘this halting, hesitant, tentative talk signals a diffractive analysis that makes ‘new map-
the realm of not-quite-articulated experience, pings, onto-epistemological mappings’ that
where standard vocabulary is inadequate, and allow ‘something new to emerge’ (Davies,
where a respondent tries to speak from expe- 2014, p. 734). Diffraction, in Barad’s words
rience and finds language wanting’. Further, (2007, p. 30), involves not fixing ‘what is the
phrases such as ‘you know’ are consequential object and what is the subject in advance …
for the joint production of talk in the inter- diffraction involves reading insights through
view (DeVault, 1999, p. 67). A participant one another in ways that help illuminate dif-
saying ‘you know’ signifies far more than the ferences as they emerge: how different differ-
mere words suggest. It encapsulates an under- ences get made, what gets excluded, and how
standing, DeVault writes (1999, p. 68), that these exclusions matter’. The focus is on the
‘OK, this next bit is going to be a little tricky. moment of the encounter between researcher
I can’t say it quite right, but help me out a and researched (Davies, 2014), and on all
little; meet me halfway and you’ll understand the texts that inform that encounter, and the
what I mean’. If we have honoured such texts that inform those texts. They ‘intra-
requests on a woman-to-woman level, as we act’ (Barad, 2007); that is, they are mutually
do when we nod and murmur ‘um hmm’, constituted, entangled agencies that do not
we are ‘doing with … respondents what we precede but emerge within and through their
women have done for generations – under- intra-action. Multiple theoretical insights
standing each other’ (De Vault, 1999, p. 69). are read through each other (Mazzei, 2014,
That is, researchers’ own resources as women p. 742). Harding, Ford and Lee (2017) argue
serve as resources for analysing empirical that this negates the concept of the solo
materials. We should therefore draw on our researcher immersed in her data. Instead,
own responses to interview participants or to data analysis becomes a group task involv-
the experience of the interview to analyse the ing debate, discussion, close questioning of
‘unnoticed matrix of social organization that each participant, and multiple readings of
constructs both the interview talk and [the] each theme through all the other themes, and
emotional reaction to it’ (DeVault, 1999, p. through the reviewers’ comments.
72). Analysis may actually start with our own
emotional response.
In sum, through drawing on our own expe-
riences as women when analysing empirical WRITING UP
materials, the researcher’s own experience
of gendering becomes a kind of method Feminist researchers in MOS tend to adopt
(DeVault, 1999, p. 71), requiring that ‘femi- the academic style of writing favoured by
nist researchers need a more disciplined use qualitative researchers in general. The vio-
of the personal’ (ibid.). lence of this ‘masculinist’ style of writing is

increasingly critiqued by feminist authors in Phillips et  al. (2014, p. 322) advocate
MOS and other disciplines. Most notably, bisexual writing, by which is meant a mode
Phillips et  al. (2014) have shown how the of escaping from boundaries, of being ‘illu-
influence of scientific writing constitutes the sive, playful, seductive and fluid’ (p. 324),
discipline of MOS as masculine. The empha- thus challenging the ‘truths’ that dominate
sis on rigorous method and rationality MOS. This means working with difference,
requires that writing be exact, hard and have invention, daring not to know and disman-
a ‘penetrating conclusiveness’ (Phillips et al., tling the authorial ‘I’ into its numerous,
2014, p. 316). Such requirements are ‘genea- shifting pieces. It does not do away with the
logically entangled with the meaning of masculine but works outside and through it,
masculinity’ (ibid.); the scholar is a ‘man of seducing it through the fluidity of the femi-
reason’, even if the scholar would identify as nine to weave new ethical relations.
female. The orthodoxy is that the only gender But how may we write in such ways?
that can be done legitimately in research (by Feminists are experimenting with new forms
men or women) is a masculinity from which of academic writing. I will first outline the
the feminine is purged (Phillips et al., 2014). work of four authors from other disciplines
This, Fotaki et al. (2014) argue, is a form of whose books (rather than papers) offer poten-
unintended violence – the discriminatory tial models for MOS researchers to adapt. I
exclusionary practices embedded in organi- will then briefly explore how Jenny Helin is
sational language perpetuates the continued taking forward this work of ‘writing differ-
marginalisation and silencing of women. We ently’ in MOS.
thus need a ‘language and means of symboli- Denise Riley (2005) writes like a
zation … with which to speak differently philosopher-poet, or poet-philosopher. Her
about organizations and organizing’ (Fotaki writing drips with metaphor. It is often dif-
et  al., 2014, p. 1244). We need a feminine ficult to understand intellectually but can be
writing that is ‘unruly, unbounded and pol- felt viscerally. Riley thus points towards a
luting of the very concept of organization’ haptic mode of writing, which engages read-
(Phillips et al., 2014, p. 314). ers through the flesh and the nervous system,
The aim is not to replace masculinist writ- rather than the brain. For example, where
ing: rather, the masculine/feminine dualism Butler (1997: 3–4) writes of hate speech:
itself should be disrupted through destabili-
sation and confusion (Phillips et  al., 2014), To be injured by speech is to suffer a loss of con-
and through a writing from the body that text, that is, not to know where you are. Indeed, it
may be that what is unanticipated about the injuri-
seeks not to inseminate the reader with the ous speech act is what constitutes its injury, the
brilliance of its ideas (Fotaki et  al., 2014) sense of putting an addressee out of control. …
but to offer its writing as a gift to the other Exposed at the moment of such a shattering is
that ‘enables the other rather than appropri- precisely the volatility of one’s ‘place’ within the
ating the other’s difference in order to con- community of speakers; one can be ‘put in one’s
place’ by such speech, but such a place may be no
struct and glorify the self through rigorous
and masterful knowledge’ (Phillips et  al.,
2014, p. 324). Rather than insemination there Denise Riley writes of the same experience:
should be birth and nurturing – of ideas,
thoughts, political movements, inspiration, The worst words revivify themselves within us,
feelings and the becoming-human (Fotaki vampirically. Injurious speech echoes relentlessly,
years after the occasion of its utterance, in the
et al., 2014). Feminists should therefore aim
mind of the one at whom it was aimed: the bad
to write from bodies that create a relational word, splinterlike, pierces to lodge. In its violently
space for production, writing and sharing, a emotional materiality, the word is indeed made
space in which to give birth to understanding. flesh and dwells amongst us – often long
Feminist Methodologies 149

outstaying its welcome. Old word-scars embody a the varied, surging capacities to affect and to be
‘knowing it by heart’ as if phrases had been hurled affected that give everyday life the quality of a
like darts into that thickly pulsating organ. But continual motion of relations, scenes, contingen-
their resonances are not amorous. Where amnesia cies, and emergences. They’re things that happen.
would help us, we can’t forget. (Riley, 2005, p. 1) They happen in impulses, sensations, expectations,
daydream, encounters, and habits of relating, in
Film theorist Annette Kuhn’s (2002) strategies and their failures, in forms of persua-
sion, contagion, and compulsion, in modes of
approach is very different. Family photo-
attention, attachment, and agency and in publics
graphs are the ‘data’ that, interpreted, offer and social worlds of all kinds that catch people up
a history of the second half of the twentieth in something that feels like something (p. 1–2).
century. Kuhn’s rationale for using personal
memories is that the psychic and the social She writes in short, seemingly disconnected
are so intertwined that the analysis of the self passages of pure description, and then intro-
is an analysis of the social. Analysing the ‘I’, duces a short analysis that builds iteratively
she argues, makes it immanent rather than to a deeply insightful understanding of con-
transcendental, but requires greater demands temporary life in the USA. For instance, she
of our analytical procedures. This facilitates writes of ‘disappearing acts’:
study of moment-to-moment experiences of
Ecstatic little forms of disappearance have budded
the self – writing from the embodied ‘me’ – up. We dream the dream of a finished life. The
and thus fights against ‘methodolatry’. For dream job or the dream body settles into a perfect
instance, she writes of class: form.

Class is something beneath your clothes, under Or we dream of the kind of magic that comes in a
your skin, in your reflexes, in your psyche, at the flash. The sweepstakes cameras appear at your
very core of your being. In the all-encompassing door when you are still in your housedress, and big
English class system, if you know that you are in bunches of balloons in primary colors are released
the ‘wrong’ class, you know that therefore you are into the air. Or UFOs come in the night and lift you
a valueless person (p. 116). That is, there is ‘some- up in an out-of-this-world levitation trick.
thing shameful and wrong about you, that you are
inarticulate and stupid, have nothing to say of any Disappearance has always been the genius of the
value or importance, that no-one will listen to you so-called masses. We are gifted dreamers of get-
in any case, that you are undeserving, unentitled, ting away from it all, giving capture the slip, if only
cannot think properly, are incapable of ‘getting it by slipping into the cocoon of a blank surface.
right’. …And you learn that these feelings may
return to haunt you for the rest of your life’ (ibid.). Blankness has blanketed the country, spreading
Those of us who are working class learn not to smoothly through the comfortable uniformity of
speak, we learn to be silent ‘through shame’ and theme parks and gated communities, and the
‘the hardest thing of all is to find a voice: not the sprawling new shopping meccas of big-box stores
voice of the monstrous singular ego, but one that, for every corner of life – home, pets, coffee, books,
summoning the resources of the place we come garden, bed and bath, pizza, tacos, hamburgers,
from, can speak with eloquence of, and for, that toys, babies, office.
place’ (p. 123).
Banality is the vitality of the times. You can slip into
any of the places where it’s on display and check
Kuhn explores the viscerally stored memo-
out for a while without ever feeling disconnected
ries evoked through photographs, while for a second (pp. 48–9).
anthropologist Kathleen Stewart analyses
affect. She explores the ordinary of the eve- Finally, Kathleen Angel’s ‘Unmastered: A
ryday, interweaving accounts from her own book on desire, most difficult to tell’ (2012) is
life with those from her anthropological where pornographic novel and philosophical
studies, describing Stewart the anthropolo- text meet. She provides a penetratingly subjec-
gist as ‘she’. In Ordinary affects (2007) she tive account of a love affair in which her intense
explores: desire for the man (not The Man) illuminates

embodiment, passion, feminist theory, and structure on them. This requires positioning
understanding of how romance undoes the the writing-self within the empirical materi-
woman, rendering her docile and tamed. The als, where research participants are speaking.
book’s pages are often blank, or contain only One immerses one’s self in audio recordings
a few lines – we are invited into white space. rather than decontextualised transcripts, and
For me, her complex intertwining of personal then lets the writing take the author where
and theoretical illuminates Lacan’s (1998) it will. Rather than focusing on words and
Seminar XX, on ‘The Woman’. For example, sentences, the researcher is attuned to utter-
she writes of how a woman’s desires make her ances and how these proceed from earlier
feel guilty if she espouses them. But (p. 200) utterances and are the precedent for those that
whose desires are they? ‘these desires rioting follow. Transcripts lose ‘sensed, fleeting data’
noisily through me – whose are they? They are (p. 182), and embodied experiences. Reduction
mine, and yours, and anyone else’s. They have to themes, to ‘one-voiced accounts’, does a
found their way inside me, and taken up resi- disservice to the people who participate in
dence. They have folded their arms, and said, our studies. Instead, she concludes, as writers
Ha. Ha’ (p. 200). In the ‘sanitised hyperreal’ we should stay in the text, in the writing, try-
(p. 220), women are governed by ‘unruly, lust- ing out different ways of writing and letting
ful’ bodies whose ‘unbridled, guilty febrility’, the work unfold itself.
a desire they may not have chosen, ties them
to a ‘personal Magus’ and in so doing requires
that the (heterosexual) woman ‘take[s] a
scythe’ to herself and ‘hack[s] at her roots’ so CONCLUSION
that she does not surpass the man in achieve-
ment. Woman has learned to rein in her desire Feminist research in MOS is lively and well
and herself to become something a man prom- established, but the espoused use of feminist
ises to fulfil, so that ‘In order for the woman to research methods remains uncommon,
live, her love for the man has to die’. despite the potential of feminist research to
These indications of how to write outside ‘re-invent rather than merely recycl[e] man-
the straitjacket of Introduction, Literature agement theory’ (Limerick & O’Leary, 2006,
Review, Methodology, Data Analysis, p. 98). Feminist research shares many inter-
Discussion and Conclusion involve far ests with critical approaches to management
more than writing first-person accounts of studies. Both are concerned with power,
one’s own experiences (Vickers, 2015). In control and resistance, politics and libera-
MOS, Helin (2015) is reaching towards tion, and fighting against tyranny. The rich
such a goal. Her inspiration is Bakhtin, who history of feminist research, with decades of
allows writing about the ‘messiness’ expe- debate and exploration of how to give voice
rienced when doing fieldwork. The hon- to the marginalised, could have much to offer
est researcher does not tame that mess and management researchers. Feminist episte-
corral it within the prison walls of scientific mologies offer transformational, political
writing. Helin wishes to write about ‘rela- potential, and assist in the discovery of
tionality and flow’ rather than realism and secrets of oppression and resistance (Roets
monologic writing; she finds a model in and Goedgeluck, 2007). As Deutssch (2004,
Bakhtin’s notion of the polyphonic novel, in p. 887) writes, feminist qualitative research
which dialogue between the voices of reader, is rooted in an understanding that the per-
writer and those written about is created (p. sonal is not only political; it is intellectual,
176.) Helin wishes to avoid the ‘god posi- theoretical and part of the process of research
tion’, where one looks down from on high itself. When political change fails, it can
onto one’s empirical materials and imposes explore why alternatives have stopped being
Feminist Methodologies 151

alternatives (op. cit., p. 93). Rather than Butler, J. (1993) Bodies that matter. New York:
power over, its focus is on ‘power within’, Routledge.
‘power to create’ and ‘power as ability’, in Butler, J. (1997) Excitable speech. A politics of
both the inquiry process itself and the wider the performative. New York: Routledge.
world of organisations. Calás, M.B. and Smircich, L. (1999). From the
‘woman’s point of view’: Feminist approaches
to organization studies. In S. Clegg, C.
Hardy, W. Nord & T. Lawrence (Eds), Study-
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Indigenous Qualitative Research
Bettina Schneider and Bob Kayseas

INTRODUCTION to business. It is important to note that the

authors believe many methods exist that
Former Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin work well with research involving Indigenous
responded to a question about the future of people, and we note some of these methods
Aboriginal business for the Canadian Council in the appropriate sections below. However,
for Aboriginal Business by stating, we also believe that this chapter should focus
on ‘why’ there are distinct Indigenous
First of all, more and more Canadian businesses research methods as well as ‘how’ those
are beginning to understand that if you want to do
business with Indigenous Canadians, you have to
methods are to be implemented. This is an
understand their worldview. If a Canadian busi- important discussion. Its importance can be
ness wants to do business in Korea, in China, or highlighted with reference to the following
any other part of the world, they understand that quote from the Canadian Tri-Council Policy
they have to understand the people they’re deal- Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research
ing with. They have to understand their worldview,
they have to understand their concepts. …For far
Involving Humans (TCPS):1
too long, Canadian businesses have not under-
stood this in terms of dealing with Indigenous Research involving Aboriginal peoples in Canada
Canada, and yet Indigenous Canada has a very has been defined and carried out primarily by non-
deep and profound worldview (Gladu, 2016, Aboriginal researchers. The approaches used have
p. 18). not generally reflected Aboriginal worldviews, and
the research has not necessarily benefited
Aboriginal peoples or communities. As a result,
This statement introduces a complex topic
Aboriginal peoples continue to regard research,
and it does so in a way that captures the core particularly research originating outside their com-
of what this chapter is about, which is munities, with a certain apprehension or mistrust.
Indigenous qualitative research as it pertains (Government of Canada, 2014, p. 105)
Indigenous Qualitative Research 155

Researchers must understand the rationale wish to address the gross inequities that exist
for Indigenous research methods and must amongst Indigenous and non-Indigenous
delve into their research with greater detail peoples in Canada. As Willie Ermine states,
than simply acknowledging past injustices – ‘the conditions that Indigenous peoples find
their understanding needs to be at the level themselves in are a reflection of the govern-
contemplated by the Former Canadian Prime ance and legal structures imposed by the
Minister Paul Martin. Martin believes that dominant society. Indeed, what the mirror
researchers need to understand the ‘world- can teach is that it is not really about the situ-
view’ of their Indigenous research partners. ation of Indigenous peoples in this country,
The most challenging aspect of engaging in a but it is about the character and honor of a
process leading to active research involving nation to have created such conditions of
Indigenous peoples is the self-awareness that inequity’ (Ermine, 2007, p. 200). It is in fact
is required. Stokes and Hall (2014) ask the this ‘Indigenous gaze’ now upon the West,
following question in their book Research which Ermine speaks of, that demands a
Methods: ‘to which particular philosophical profound change in the interactions between
and methodological approaches do you sub- Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
scribe when you are in the process of devel- Ermine suggests that there is an ethical
oping new knowledge?’ (p. 96). Every space, produced by contrasting worldviews,
researcher needs to ask him or herself this within which Indigenous and non-Indigenous
question before beginning their research peoples can and must engage in dialogue if
project. any form of reconciliation is to be achieved.
The core research questions we explore This change must be achieved not only
in this chapter are: (1) how can Indigenous through the dialogue Ermine speaks of, but
business research be conducted without using also through a more self-critical conversation
only ‘Western academic constructs, method- amongst non-Indigenous peoples. In her cri-
ologies and terminologies?’(Mertens et  al., tique of Len Findlay’s (2000) call to always
2012, p. 19); (2) how can Indigenous business indigenize, Elina Hill believes that non-
research accurately communicate Indigenous Indigenous people need to engage in more
peoples’ experiences and build on their con- self-critical work to decolonize and achieve
ceptual and theoretical frameworks? and (3) better relationships with Indigenous peoples.
how can Indigenous business research truly Hill believes that Canadian universities’ call
improve the quality of life of Indigenous to ‘Indigenize’ might actually ‘help to avoid
people throughout the world? (Mertens et al., self-critical work toward decolonization on
2012). Our research on Indigenous qualitative the part of the university’ (Hill, 2012). Hill
research methodologies in business intends to references Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s ground-
seek out ‘locally relevant constructs, methods breaking book, Decolonizing Methodologies:
and theories derived from local experiences Research and Indigenous Peoples (2012),
and Indigenous knowledge’ (Mertens et  al., in her critique. Smith, a Māori scholar and
2012, p. 19) that can contribute to an alter- educator from New Zealand, not only pro-
native to the Euro-Western paradigm within vides a critique of ‘research’ in relation to
business, management, and other disciplinary Indigenous communities, but also creates an
areas. Indigenous research agenda that offers an
This topic is particularly relevant at alternative to the dominant paradigm. Hill’s
this moment in time, given the growing understanding of Smith’s perspective on
demand for the indigenization of teaching indigenization is that it is not only one of the
and research throughout Canadian higher many paths one can take toward decoloniza-
education. This push to indigenize is partly tion (with decolonization being Smith’s main
driven by certain segments of society that objective), but it also involves the immersion

of oneself in Indigenous knowledge systems, We conclude with a discussion of the many

traditions, methodologies, and priorities. Hill opportunities and challenges that indigeniza-
further points out that: tion presents for researchers and universities.

while non-Indigenous people ought to take

Indigenous thought seriously, they cannot easily
take up Indigenous traditions or positions in order
to forward their own projects. There needs to be DECOLONIZATION
keen awareness of how such a move might risk
further exploiting Indigenous peoples and their Before we can begin to further complicate
knowledge. Because interactions between settlers the call by academia to indigenize research,
and Indigenous peoples have long been fraught
we must begin with a working understanding
with imbalances of power, ethical non-Indigenous
researchers engaging with Indigenous thought of what decolonization is, the role it plays in
must do so in partnership with Indigenous peo- the formation of an Indigenous research par-
ples, and with recognition for Indigenous goals. adigm, what an Indigenous research para-
(Hill, 2012) digm consists of, and the epistemological
foundations upon which such a paradigm has
This chapter attempts to explore how we as been built. In Decolonizing Methodologies,
researchers in business, management, and Smith states ‘the term “research” is inextrica-
other relevant disciplinary areas may respect- bly linked to European imperialism and colo-
fully engage with Indigenous methodologies nialism. The word itself, “research”, is
in an effort to decolonize, indigenize, and probably one of the dirtiest words in the
meaningfully contribute to eradicating the indigenous world’s vocabulary’ (Smith,
inequities that exist between Indigenous and 2012, p. 1). Smith goes on to reference
non-Indigenous peoples. The Truth and Edward Said (1978) and his Western dis-
Reconciliation Commission of Canada states course about the Other as she describes the
that apologies and reparations are not enough ways knowledge about Indigenous peoples
when it comes to reconciliation; real social, has been collected, categorized, and repre-
political, and economic change is needed sented back to the West, and then represented
(Truth and Reconciliation Commission of back to the colonized through the Western
Canada, 2015). It is our hope that this chapter ways of knowing and research (2012, p. 1).
contributes to real change in Indigenous Smith goes on to say that Indigenous peoples
communities through the research that is have their own story to tell, ‘the history of
undertaken by all who meaningfully engage Western research through the eyes of the
with the ideas we share. colonized’ (1999, p. 2). One of the many
In the following chapter, we will first significant contributions of Smith’s book is
begin by exploring the role that decoloniza- that it identifies research as not only a site of
tion plays in the undertaking of Indigenous struggle between the West and Indigenous
research methodologies. We then review the peoples, but also as a site of resistance.
four main elements of an Indigenous research Smith’s book goes beyond deconstructing
paradigm: Indigenous ontology, Indigenous Western scholarship, i.e. a retelling of
epistemology, Indigenous axiology, and Western scholarship through Indigenous
Indigenous research methodology. We pro- eyes, but it also attempts to resist and improve
vide examples of Indigenous ontology, episte- the current political and social conditions of
mology, axiology, and research methodology Indigenous peoples through the exploration
in practice. We explore distinct Indigenous of research approaches and methodologies
qualitative research methods as well as that ‘can be more respectful, ethical, sympa-
qualitative research methods that work well thetic and useful’ (2012, p. 9). As Smith
with research involving Indigenous people. states, ‘To resist is to retrench in the margins,
Indigenous Qualitative Research 157

retrieve “what we were and remake our- and then coming to know and understand the-
selves.” The past, our stories local and global, ory and research from our own perspective’
the present, our communities, cultures, lan- (p. 41). More than anything, decolonization
guages and social practices – all may be ‘must offer a language of possibility, a way
spaces of marginalization, but they have also out of colonialism’ (Smith 2012, p. 204), and
become spaces of resistance and hope’ (2012, provide Indigenous peoples with the oppor-
p. 4). The purpose of this chapter is to exam- tunity to make plans, make strategic choices,
ine how we, as business researchers, can not and theorize solutions.
only decolonize and deconstruct our research
methodologies, but also identify those spaces
of resistance that will help to truly improve
the conditions of Indigenous peoples. Wilson AN INDIGENOUS RESEARCH
states that, ‘If research doesn’t change you as PARADIGM
a person, then you haven’t done it right’
(2008, p. 135). Building on Wilson and It is important to explore the concept of own-
Smith’s work, research shouldn’t only change ership with regard to knowledge when dis-
you as a person, it should also always posi- cussing an Indigenous research paradigm.
tively contribute to the communities with According to Wilson (2008), Hart (2010),
which you work. If research doesn’t mean- and Chilisa (2012), within an Indigenous
ingfully impact the research participants and research paradigm, knowledge is not some-
contribute to the improvement of their cur- thing achieved in isolation. Smith (2000) is
rent conditions, then you haven’t done it critical of the commodification of knowledge
right. and believes Maori cultural values and think-
According to Chilisa, decolonization is ‘a ing see knowledge ‘as belonging to the
process of conducting research in such a way whole group’, and that ‘individuals do not
that the worldviews of those who have suf- hold knowledge for themselves; they hold it
fered a long history of oppression and mar- for the benefit of the whole group’ (p. 218).
ginalization are given space to communicate An individual should not pursue knowledge
from their frames of reference’ (2012, p. 14). for the sake of claiming that knowledge; it
The process of decolonization is multifaceted. should be pursued and shared for all of crea-
It requires researchers to ‘research back’ in tion. While we individually arrive at knowl-
an effort to examine how various disciplines edge, knowledge is developed through the
have ‘described and theorized about the colo- self in relation to other humans, other ideas,
nized Other’ and how such disciplines have other environments (living and nonliving).
silenced their voices and ‘refused to let the Wilson believes that four elements combine
colonized Other name and know from their to make up a research paradigm: ontology,
frame of reference’ (Chilisa, 2012, p. 14). epistemology, methodology, and axiology.
Chilisa goes on to emphasize that the decol- He encourages us to think of these four enti-
onization process must critically analyze ties as interconnected and inseparable. From
dominant literatures in an effort to expose his perspective, an Indigenous research
‘the problematic influences of the Western paradigm is about relationality – ‘ontology
eyes and how they legitimize “the positional and epistemology are based on a process of
superiority of Western knowledge”’ (Chilisa, relationships that form a mutual reality. The
2012, p. 14). As Smith (2012) states, ‘decol- axiology and methodology are based upon
onization, however, does not mean and has maintaining accountability to these relation-
not meant a total rejection of all theory or ships. …An Indigenous research paradigm is
research or Western knowledge. Rather, it is relational and maintains relational account-
about centering our concerns and world views ability’ (2008, p. 71). Wilson further explains

that an Indigenous research paradigm is further expands on this idea ‘to say that real-
founded on the belief that knowledge is rela- ity is relationships or sets of relationships.
tional; knowledge is shared with all of crea- Thus, there is no one definite reality, but
tion, i.e. research subjects, animals, plants, rather different sets of relationships that
and the cosmos, and that we are accountable make up an Indigenous ontology. Therefore,
to the relations that we form through our reality is not an object, but a process of rela-
research. tionships, and an Indigenous ontology is
Wilson (2008), Chilisa (2012), and Hart actually the equivalent of an Indigenous epis-
(2010) all speak about the challenge of temology’ (2008, p. 73). Chilisa (2012)
adapting the dominant system’s research explains relational ontology as one’s social
paradigms and tools because of the Western reality in relation to the connections that
epistemological foundations upon which human beings have with the living and non-
these paradigms have been built. However, living world. She refers to the ubuntu phi-
each one of these authors successfully dif- losophy of the Bantu people of southern
ferentiates Indigenous ontology, Indigenous Africa as a way of explaining relational
epistemology, Indigenous axiology, and ontology. Chilisa (2012) discusses the trans-
Indigenous research methodologies from lation of the ubuntu philosophy into English:
their Western counterparts. Wilson believes ‘I am we; I am because we are; we are
it is the uniqueness of these four elements because I am’, or ‘a person is because of
that sets an Indigenous research paradigm others’, which she asserts not only implies
apart from other research paradigms (2008). ‘Communality, collectivity, social justice,
In order to truly understand what makes an human unity, and pluralism’, but also a rela-
Indigenous research paradigm unique, we tional ontology (p. 21).
will explore each of the above-mentioned According to Hart (2010), spiritual-
elements in the following pages. ity and reciprocity are two key elements of
an Indigenous ontology and are key in his
Indigenous research paradigm. Hart cites
Cajete (2000), Meyer (2008), and Rice (2005)
INDIGENOUS ONTOLOGY as he explains the interconnectedness of the
spiritual and physical worlds. Wilson (2008)
Chilisa (2012) defines ontology as a body of defines spirituality as ‘one’s internal sense
knowledge that explores what it means to of connection to the universe’ (p. 91), which
exist, and Wilson (2008) defines it as the Chilisa (2012) further explains may include
nature of existence or reality. According to ‘one’s personal connection to a higher being,
Wilson (2008), if ‘reality is the relationship or humanity, or the environment’ (p. 114).
that one has with the truth’ (p. 73), then an Chilisa also acknowledges Indigenous peo-
Indigenous ontology might have multiple ples’ connection to the environment/land
realities. While Wilson (2008) acknowledges when discussing spirituality. As Chilisa
that the notion of multiple realities is similar (2012) notes, ‘construction of knowledge
to a constructivist paradigm, he points out has to be done in a manner that builds and
that the difference between a constructivist sustains relationships with the land/environ-
ontology and an Indigenous ontology is that ment and is respectful of the environment. In
the truth is not external to an individual, but this context, knowledge is held in connection
rather located in the relationships that one with the land and the environment’ (p. 114).
has. The concept of a relational ontology Hart (2010) defines reciprocity as the belief
emphasizes that the relationships that one has ‘that as we receive from others, we must also
with an object or idea are what is important offer to others’, and explains that ‘reciproc-
and not the object or idea itself. Wilson ity reflects the relational worldview and the
Indigenous Qualitative Research 159

understanding that we must honor our rela- business professors to assist them in capac-
tionships with other life’ (p. 7). ity development initiatives that are mutu-
Kayseas has explored the value of equal ally agreed upon. Project researchers, the
exchange and the principle of reciprocity co-PIs, collaborators, and research assistants
through his research. Unlike the traditional may assist the community with research for
Western model that views knowledge as an a business plan, community-planning initia-
acquirable commodity, Indigenous traditions tives, or a market research study for a particu-
view information and knowledge transfer lar development project.
as a value of equal exchange or, as articu- We will further address examples of
lated by Greely (1996) and Michell (1999), Indigenous ontology in the section on
‘as an entity that has spirit to which certain Indigenous Research Methodology. While
behaviors and protocols are accorded’ (as the above-mentioned section explains many
cited in Cardamone & Rentschler, 2006, aspects of an Indigenous ontology, we must
p. 32). Indigenous-focused research and begin to more deeply explore Indigenous
knowledge transfer must value the principle epistemology in order to truly understand
of equal exchange and benefit the population what it means to exist from an Indigenous
as a whole if it is to be considered ethical frame of reference.
and guided by what Gower (2003) refers to
as the ‘principle of reciprocity’ (as cited in
Cardamone & Rentschler, 2006, p. 11).
The principles of valued equal exchange
and reciprocity encompass a number of INDIGENOUS EPISTEMOLOGY
vital research criteria: an emphasis on tra-
ditional social and cultural obligations for Indigenous knowledge cannot be easily cat-
knowledge transfer which draw upon stand- egorized or defined. According to Battiste
ards and customs under Indigenous law; a and Henderson (2000), Indigenous knowl-
focus on ‘deeper’ research outcomes than edge represents the ‘cumulative body of
merely reporting findings; the importance knowledge and beliefs, handed down through
of Indigenous concepts of community before generations of cultural transmission, about
the individual with respect to research project the relationship of living beings (including
negotiations and community participation; humans) with one another and with their
and the importance of a collective or com- environment’ (p. 42). In his article,
munity notion of consent and confidentiality Indigenous Worldview, Knowledge and
(Ermine et al., 2004). Research (2010), Hart references Maurial
In accordance with Ermine et  al. (2004) (1999) as he attempts to define Indigenous
and Cardamone and Rentschler (2006), Knowledge (IK). Hart (2010) states that
Kayseas and Moroz’s (2014) research pro- Indigenous Knowledge, according to
ject, Natural Resource Partnerships and New Maurial, is ‘the peoples’ cognitive and wise
Venture Creation in a First Nations Context, legacy as a result of their interaction with
utilizes the above-mentioned principles to nature in a common territory’ and ‘identifies
ensure that the outcomes have mutual and three characteristics of Indigenous knowl-
tangible benefits to Indigenous communities, edge: local, holistic, and oral’ (p. 62). Hart
that Indigenous communities retain authority goes on to also reference De La Torre’s
over their knowledge, and that all obtained (2004) definition of Indigenous knowledge,
Indigenous knowledge is recognized and which Hart (2010) states is ‘the established
repaid through equal exchange and reciproc- knowledge of Indigenous nations, their
ity. For example, case study communities worldviews, and the customs and traditions
are offered the services of the researchers/ that direct them’ (p. 63).

In Aboriginal Knowledge for Economic the West, but brought it to the IK reconstruction
Development, Newhouse (2013) asserts that effort with skepticism and a healthy dose of critical
reflection. (p. xx)
Elders are the most ‘visible representation’ of
Indigenous Knowledge in daily life because
According to Wilson (2008), knowledge is
they ‘serve as sources of knowledge as well
relational, meaning that it arises through the
as reminders of a set of values and way of life
ways the human world, the spirit, and the
and being’. IK is not just a set of knowledges,
environment (living and nonliving) interact
but a way of doing things, a way of living in
with one another. Wilson (2008) states,
the world and a way of being in the world
(Newhouse, 2013, p. xxii). Newhouse looks knowledge is shared with all of creation. It is not
to Cajete and Little Bear (1995), Castellano just interpersonal relationships, not just with the
(2000), Battiste (2000), and Ermine (2005) research subjects I may be working with, but it is a
as he identifies the following commonly relationship with all of creation. It is with the
cosmos, it is with the animals, with the plants,
accepted characteristics of IK:
with the earth that we share this knowledge. It
goes beyond this idea of individual knowledge to
1 a long, intimate relationship with a particular
the concept of relational knowledge. It’s not the
environment, based on long-term observations
realities in and of themselves that are important; it
and testing of hypotheses through use and
is the relationship that I share with reality. (p. 74)
2 both reason and passion are intertwined and
valued in decision-making, Chilisa (2012) describes relational episte-
3 practice, ceremony and instruction are how IK mologies as socially constructed by people
is transmitted, who have a relationship and connection with
4 IK has a spiritual foundation that emphasizes one another as well as the living and nonliv-
interconnectedness and (w)holism,2
5 an extended apprenticeship with Elders is
ing environment (p. 116). Chilisa (2012) and
generally how IK is acquired; learners are Wilson (2008) describe how knowledge
taught and tested through their observed comes from many different sources: people’s
behaviour, languages, histories, stories, observation of
6 IK is multidisciplinary in nature,
the environment, prayer, ceremony, song,
7 IK is both practical and ethical; it guides people
how to live well within a particular landscape. dance, visions, and spiritual insights. Chilisa
(Newhouse, 2013, p. xxii–iii) (2012) discusses the role Indigenous lan-
guages play in the advancement of ‘new
Newhouse (2013) examines the re-emergence knowledge, new concepts, new theories, and
of Indigenous Knowledge in the following new rules, methods, and techniques in
reflections on his past work: research’ (p. 57) as well as the important role
language plays in the research process.
contemporary Aboriginal people in Canada desire
Wilson (2008) further points out the
to develop a modern Aboriginal society that is
based in ideas both from the West and from their importance of understanding that ‘research
own cultural and intellectual traditions. This cen- and thinking need to be (and are) culturally
tral desire has led to the necessary foregrounding based. Of course, all philosophy is based
of what we have come to call Indigenous knowl- upon a culture, a time, a place. It is impos-
edge (IK) or traditional knowledge (TK) or tradi-
sible for knowledge to be acultural’ (p. 91).
tional environmental knowledge (TEK). It is
expected that IK will serve as a foundational Therefore, it is important to recognize the
knowledge for the structures and processes of multiplicity of epistemologies and ontologies
everyday life: governance, education, family, econ- that contribute toward the creation of knowl-
omy, health and culture. IK is seen as a way to edge. It is critical to recognize the cultural
recover from a more than century long attempt to
replace every aspect of Aboriginal life with
origins of one’s research epistemology and
European-based thinking and values. Modern ontology. When discussing an Indigenous
Aboriginal society did not reject knowledge from research paradigm, in addition to many of
Indigenous Qualitative Research 161

the above-mentioned Indigenous values that • How do my methods help to build respectful rela-
inform it, Wilson emphasizes that the cultural tionships between myself of the other research
values of egalitarianism and inclusiveness participants?
must be a part of the epistemological founda- • How can I relate respectfully to the other partici-
tion of such a paradigm. The circle has been pants involved in this research so that together
we can form a stronger relationship with the idea
recognized as a common structure amongst
that we will share?
many Indigenous communities because it
• What is my role as a researcher in this relation-
supports inclusiveness, wholeness, egali- ship, and what are my responsibilities?
tarianism (Wilson, 2008). When using an • Am I being responsible in fulfilling my role and
Indigenous research paradigm, the researcher obligations to the other participants, to the topic
cannot place himself or herself above anyone and to all of my relations?
in his or her research circle. Research par- • What am I contributing or giving back to the
ticipants should be included every step of the relationship? Is the sharing, growth and learning
way. that is taking place reciprocal?
Elders, relationships, Indigenous lan-
guages, cultural values, stories, prayer, and Chilisa (2012) discusses relational axiology
ceremony are all sources of Indigenous as one of the four elements of an Indigenous
Knowledge that we mention in the Indigenous research paradigm; relational axiology is
research methodologies we share throughout research that is guided by the four Rs: princi-
this chapter. These sources of knowledge ples of relational accountability, respectful
are examples of what makes an Indigenous representation, reciprocal appropriation, and
epistemology unique and distinct from other rights and regulations. We have already
epistemological foundations. explored relational accountability above.
Respectful representation refers to the
researcher’s ability to listen, acknowledge,
INDIGENOUS AXIOLOGY and ‘create a space for the voices and knowl-
edge systems of the Other’ (Chilisa, 2012, p.
22). Reciprocal appropriation refers to the
Chilisa (2012) notes that ‘axiology refers to
notion that all research is appropriation and
the analysis of values to better understand
should benefit both the researcher as well as
their meanings, characteristics, their origins,
the communities researched. Rights and reg-
their purpose, their acceptance as true knowl-
ulations are ethical protocols that provide the
edge, and their influence on people’s daily
experiences’ (p. 21). Wilson (2008) explains research participants with ‘ownership of the
that Indigenous methodology demands that research process and the knowledge pro-
research is guided by respect, reciprocity, duced’ (Chilisa, 2012, p. 22). While Wilson
and responsibility, and that the researcher (2008) and Chilisa’s descriptions of
abides by these three Rs of Indigenous Indigenous and relational axiology are simi-
research and learning in order to help build lar to certain feminist and ethnographic
relationships that have been established research methodologies, the point of differ-
through the research process. Some of the entiation has everything to do with context.
questions pertinent to axiology and method- What we mean by this is that researchers
ology that Wilson (2008, pp. 77–8) urges need to take into consideration the history of
researchers to consider when working within research in Indigenous communities and the
an Indigenous research paradigm are: communities themselves. How do the above-
mentioned questions posed by Wilson relate
• How do my methods help to build respectful rela- specifically to Indigenous communities and
tionships between the topic that I am studying support the notion of relational accountabil-
and myself as a researcher (on multiple levels)? ity? One of the most important issues

regarding context is that the experiences of which allows them to heal, to grow, and to
Indigenous research participants have been adjust to life in an urban setting, along with
historically very negative. Researchers must the challenges that this represents. The
understand this history and the lack of own- research project with the NYFC was funded
ership Indigenous communities have had by the Urban Aboriginal Knowledge
over the research process and knowledge Network’s Prairie Research Centre.3 As men-
produced before they can begin to fairly tioned above, the UAKN requires that
apply Wilson (2008) and Chilisa’s (2012) research is community-driven. When
interpretation of axiology to their research. Schneider approached the NYFC in 2013,
Within an Indigenous axiology, the prin- there was no pre-defined research topic. The
ciple of relational accountability promotes research project that was eventually chosen
community-driven research. From this per- was based on the NYFC’s priorities and was
spective, research must go beyond being designed collaboratively between the NYFC
community based; it must be driven by the and Schneider. The objective of the NYFC’s
needs and wants of the community. The
research project was to adapt the life skills
Urban Aboriginal Knowledge Network
and financial literacy curriculum in order to
(UAKN) requires that community-driven and
make it more relevant to the urban Aboriginal
research embodies and promotes relational
clientele at the Newo Yotina Friendship
accountability in the following ways:
Centre (NYFC) and to determine the overall
a. Research is grounded in community priorities, impact of this curriculum on NYFC’s clien-
and constructed or designed collaboratively tele. Prior to this research project, the NYFC
between communities and researchers; had experience in delivering financial liter-
b. Research conducted is respectful of Aboriginal acy curriculum. According to the NYFC,
people’s languages, cultural protocols, values, during the review of the original financial
lifecycles and gender(s); literacy curriculum, while participants
c. Research conducted is respectful of Aboriginal
showed tremendous growth in their under-
people’s research approaches and protocols;
d. Aboriginal peoples and organizations will be an standing of various topics that were reviewed,
active participant in the research process at the many barriers that interfered with attend-
level of their choosing; ance, consistency, and the overall attainment
e. Principles of USAI (Utility, Self-Voicing, Access and application of information were identi-
and Inter-relationality), (OFIFC), and OCAPTM fied, indicating the need for a different
(Ownership, Control, Access and Possession), approach to delivering this type of curricu-
(FNIGC) will be looked to as useful and guiding lum. The NYFC noted that many of the con-
references informing community driven research.
cepts in the curriculum were designed from a
(UAKN, 2015)
mainstream perspective and asserted the
An example of community-driven research is need to develop a curriculum that incorpo-
the work by Schneider and Wenger (2014), rated an Aboriginal worldview and a cultur-
which was conducted with the Newo Yotina ally sensitive approach, as well as the
Friendship Centre (NYFC) in 2013/14. The inclusion of a relevant life skills curriculum,
NYFC is an incorporated, non-profit, and in order to eliminate barriers and to provide a
broad-based collaborative community organ- greater opportunity for a holistic, multi-
ization in Regina, Saskatchewan. The NYFC pronged, sustainable program for urban
assists Aboriginal people within the Regina Aboriginal peoples. An Indigenous axiology
community to empower themselves and to ensures that the values of Indigenous com-
pursue education, employment training, and munities guide the research process and
advocacy in a comfortable environment methodologies undertaken.
Indigenous Qualitative Research 163

INDIGENOUS RESEARCH 4 The dominance of Euro-Western languages in the

METHODOLOGY construction of knowledge
5 The archives of literature that disseminate
theories and knowledge that are unfavorable
Stokes and Wall (2014) ask a fundamental to former colonized societies and historically
question that needs to be addressed before oppressed groups. (p. 117)
any of us embark on our research projects:
‘to which particular philosophical and meth- An Indigenous research methodology ensures
odological approaches do you subscribe that researched knowledge ‘will be kept “in
when you are in the process of developing context” with cultural protocols’ (University
new knowledge?’ (p. 96). The methodologi- of Calgary, 2015), as well as being meaning-
cal approaches we choose are, of course, ful and taking into consideration the well-
guided by our epistemological and ontologi- being (present and future) of the communities
cal foundations. Epistemology reflects the studied. Another key characteristic of an
various ways knowledge is made or devel- Indigenous research methodology is the col-
oped. The epistemology one adheres to lective. As explained by Maggie Kovach
reveals the assumptions and values that the (2009), there is a sense of commitment to the
researcher holds about the world. Before we people in many Indigenous societies. Inherent
can choose a specific methodological path, in this commitment to the people is the
each one of us needs to discover ‘our own understanding of the reciprocity of life and
approach, attitudes, beliefs and assumptions accountability to one another. Wilson (2008)
in relation to how much of the wider world points out that as researchers, ‘you are recog-
operates and functions particularly in rela- nized by your deeds within the Indigenous
tion to ideas such as subjectivity versus world. Not by what you say on paper: what
objectivity and realism versus relativism’ you have done’ (p. 91). Therefore, an
(Stokes and Wall, 2014, p. 96). The choice of Indigenous research methodology empha-
research philosophy and methodology very sizes actions over words as well as practical-
much reflects one’s perspective on life. The ity, which assumes that the knowledge one
research philosophy we choose reflects gains through research will be utilized in
the values and beliefs that guide our philo- practical ways – ways that benefit the
sophical thinking, while the research meth- research participants. Hart (2010) empha-
odology ‘will operate in a given system of sizes this practicality of research by quoting
philosophical thinking’ (Stokes and Wall, Kovach’s statement, ‘one seeks knowledge
2014, p. 88). because one is prepared to use it’ (p. 9).
While certain qualitative research method- We asked First Nations University of
ologies align well with Indigenous research Canada’s business professor, Richard
methodologies, many do not. Chilisa (2012) Missens, to share the Indigenous research
provides an overview of some of the limita- methodology he has been using throughout
tions of dominant research methodologies: his dissertation. Reflecting on his dissertation
experience, Missens states,
1 The tendency to ignore the role of imperialism,
First Nations’ people have always had a veneration
colonization, and globalization in the construc-
of age and the accumulated wisdom that the
tion of knowledge elders have learned throughout a lifetime. These
2 Academic imperialism – the tendency to deni- cultures view the elders as the knowledge keepers
grate, dismiss, and attempt to quash alternative and the teachers within their societies. When we
theories, perspectives, or methodologies are seeking understanding, their teachings are
3 Methodological imperialism – a tendency to available to us in the time of our lives when we
build a collection of methods, techniques, and need them with as much as a simple request.
rules that valorize the dominant culture However, there are a set of principles and doctrines

that guide learners of First Nations’ knowledge. smudge is a purifying ceremony that cleanses
Here are some examples: our minds and spirits in preparation for the
acceptance of new knowledge – it opens our
• Knowledge is collectively owned, shared and
held (multi-agent system)
minds. The prayers asked the Creator and
• Knowledge is cumulative (learnt through our ancestors to help us. The prayers asked
increasing or enlarging by successive addition) 1) that the learner (Missens) is successful in
• Knowledge requires a commitment from the attaining the understanding that he is seek-
learner ing, 2) that what he learns will be used for the
• Humility is vital to understanding good of the people, 3) the elders prayed that
• Knowledge must be sought (i.e., you have to what they share is truthful and accurate, and
seek it, it is not forced on you) 4) giving thanks for this opportunity to work
• All knowledge is sacred and spiritual and must
together’ (Missens, personal communication,
be treated as such. (Richard Missens, personal
May 25, 2016).
communication, May 25, 2016)
Missens’ research methodology certainly
Missens’ first step in his dissertation research captures the key elements of Indigenous
was to identify elders. Missens states, ‘In ontology as described above by Hart: spiritu-
First Nation societies, as with any other, ality and reciprocity. Spirituality is described
there are individuals who have expertise and by Missens in the third step of his disserta-
experience in specific areas. In societies that tion research on ceremony. Missens has also
believe in multi-intelligence, where individu- demonstrated reciprocity by giving back to
als are blessed with “gifts”, including knowl- First Nations communities through his dis-
edge, learners must seek out those knowledge sertation research. Like Kayseas, Missens
keepers who hold the type of knowledge that also offers his services to assist the commu-
you are seeking’ (Richard Missens, personal nities he works with in capacity development
communication, May 25, 2016). Missens initiatives that are mutually agreed upon. He
asked the Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural has delivered numerous workshops to First
Center (SICC)4 for assistance. As he points Nations communities on business planning
out, this cultural institution has a deep com- and entrepreneurship as part of his disserta-
mitment to the promotion and preservation of tion work. Many First Nations communities
IK and has developed extensive relationships and individuals have benefitted from these
with the First Nations elders across workshops, which was part of the guidance
Saskatchewan. Missens received from the Elders – to give
Missens’ second step in his dissertation back to the individuals and communities he
research involved protocol. As he states, ‘In sought guidance from.
order to respect the First Nation doctrine
of learning, I had to present tobacco to the
elders and ask them for their understanding
and guidance. They were invited to a focus INDIGENOUS QUALITATIVE
group meeting where we would ask them RESEARCH METHODS
to share their knowledge. There were two
primary focus groups and three individual Kovach (2009) believes that ‘Indigenous
follow-up meetings after that’ (Missens, per- methodologies and qualitative research at
sonal communication, May 25, 2016). best form an insider/outsider relationship’
Missens’ third step involved ceremony. (p. 31). What is meant by this insider/out-
Missens states, ‘Before the focus groups, the sider relationship is that while Indigenous
elders had asked that a smudge ceremony and methodologies share interrelated character-
prayer be conducted prior to starting. The istics with certain qualitative approaches,
Indigenous Qualitative Research 165

there are two fundamental areas that are non-Indigenous researchers can only walk so
unique to Indigenous research methodolo- far. Additionally, there are a myriad of issues
gies. According to Kovach (2009), that will impact the authenticity and value of
‘Indigenous knowledges have a fluidity and the research and the ability of non-Indigenous
motion that is manifested in the distinctive researchers to undertake projects with
structure of tribal languages. They resist the Indigenous populations as the focus. One
culturally imbued constructs of the English such issue is related to the questions being
language, and from this perspective alone asked by the researcher and thus the depth of
Western research and Indigenous inquiry can understanding required. For example, a
walk together only so far’ (p. 30). Indigenous researcher examining strategic alliances
epistemologies represent the other area that between Indigenous communities and indus-
exists outside of Western research method- try partners may not delve into social and,
ologies; they are very different from Western especially, cultural variables within the com-
epistemologies, as we explored in the begin- munity and thus the depth of understanding
ning of this chapter. The importance of these could conceivably be rather shallow.
insights by Kovach is that qualitative However, if a researcher is studying why
research methodologies and Indigenous Indigenous people choose to pursue collec-
methodologies can occupy a similar meth- tive interests over individual pursuits when
odological space, and within this space, both engaging in entrepreneurship, he or she may
comparable and different methods can be need to explore the Indigenous groups’
applied. However, as mentioned by Kovach worldview, values, and even the language.
above, when it comes to language and This second example illustrates the potential
worldview, non-Indigenous researchers can range of understanding required of non-
only walk so far. This certainly does not Indigenous researchers. This is not to say
mean that non-Indigenous researchers that a non-Indigenous researcher cannot be
cannot meaningfully participate in successful at such research; however, a cer-
Indigenous research. However, such research tain depth of understanding is required.
must be done with Indigenous peoples in Furthermore, non-Indigenous researchers
order to truly understand the importance of must always be working to decolonize them-
Indigenous languages, worldview, ontology, selves and their disciplines in order to genu-
epistemology, axiology, and research meth- inely participate in Indigenous research. In
odology in the research process. For exam- the following section, we will explore
ple, with regard to language, Wilson (2008) Indigenous research methods that exist both
notes that Aboriginal Australians will refer ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ of traditional qualita-
to other Indigenous people as ‘cousin’, tive research methodologies.
‘brother’, or ‘auntie’, demonstrating ‘the As Brayboy states, ‘Stories are not sepa-
relationship with something (a person, object rate from theory; they make up theory and
or idea) is more important than the thing are, therefore, real and legitimate sources of
itself’ (p. 73). In Cree, Wilson (2008) points data and ways of being’ (Brayboy, 2006).
out that ‘Nookoom’ means ‘my grandmother’ When it comes to story-gathering methods,
and ‘Kookoom’ means ‘your grandmother’; such as the case method, narrative research.
however, ‘there is no word for “grand- and certain ethnographic approaches, it is
mother” in Cree. ... “You can’t be a grand- important that the researcher is a good lis-
mother without being attached to something”’ tener and is comfortable with how the story
(p. 73). In both examples, understanding the is being shared; the researcher should not
language deepens one’s understanding of interrupt or else he or she risks not only dis-
Indigenous worldview, epistemology, and respecting the research participant, but also
relationships. Without this understanding, impeding information from being shared

that could be quite relevant to the research. promote placing restrictions on a research
Those trained in Western research method- participant’s narrative, but rather encourage
ologies must look beyond written stories and an open-ended structure. If we refer to certain
texts as the only legitimate ways of knowing. Indigenous axiologies that were mentioned
Indigenous methodologies value the oral tra- earlier in the chapter, respect, reciprocity,
dition as well as other storytelling methods and egalitarianism are critical to incorporate
such as song, dance, proverbs, and metaphors into the interview process. Research partici-
that have often been dismissed by academia pants must be treated with the utmost respect,
as legitimate ways of knowing. As Chilisa must not feel as though a power differen-
(2012) notes, language, oral literature, and tial is present between themselves and the
storytelling ‘can provide new insights into researcher(s), and should also benefit from
other ways of theorizing about methodolo- the research process. Too often, ‘research-
gies in social science research’ (p. 156) as ers conduct interviews as privileged elites
well as provide an avenue of dialogue with and knowers who are operating with Western
research participants about issues of con- models of thought and conducting interviews
cern. Indigenous case studies are examples within frameworks of Othering ideologies
of research methodologies that share inter- supported by deficit theories and literature
related characteristics with the case method. that construct the researched as the prob-
While the case method approach is used in lem’ (Chilisa, 2012, p. 223). Furthermore,
constructing the case, the Indigenous world- the language used is also guided by Western
view and research methods are incorporated academic disciplinary vocabulary, terms,
into the development of the case and the concepts, and categories of analysis that
methodology used. There are an increasing could certainly limit relational ways of know-
number of Indigenous case studies being ing that are meant to ‘communicate equality
developed. Cape Breton University, located among participants’ (Chilisa, 2012, p. 220).
in Sydney, Nova Scotia, created the Purdy Indigenous interview methods demand that
Crawford Chair in Aboriginal Business the researcher uses IK ‘to guide interview
Studies in order to promote interest among question structures, types of questions asked,
Canada’s Aboriginal people in business and and data analysis procedures’ (Chilisa, 2012,
to undertake research that will create post- p. 223).
secondary resources, such as case studies, One of the disadvantages of some
that can be used to indigenize the business Western-based focus groups is that they do
curriculum in universities across Canada. not always allow all members to be equally
The Purdy Crawford Chair has developed 48 heard. Dominant voices within the groups
case studies available in their Case Studies in can often restrict others from freely partici-
Aboriginal Business Series. The First Nations pating. While Nominal Group Technique
University of Canada’s School of Business and the Delphi Method are Western-based
and Public Administration has developed a methods that strive to provide all partici-
number of Indigenous case studies and hopes pants with a voice when it comes to identi-
to generate many more in the future. fying problems, generating solutions, and
With regard to the interview method, making decisions, these approaches are still
Kovach (2009) states, ‘Highly structured