9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-04 09:00:00 2009-09-04 10:30:00 Friday, 4 September 09:00 - 10:30 Ethnography Building II, B2.01

Discovering Homo Administrativus - Ethnography from the Armchair

In a study of case-managers employed to improve the Swedish juvenile care, an image of them as Homo Administrativus emerged. It became clear that meetings, documents, rules and regulations as well as evaluations of other street-level bureaucrats inspired engaged talk among the members of the field, while the formal objects of their work, the youngsters, resided in discursive shadow.
This tendency became visible in field notes and interviews read by the senior researcher, but was not noted by the graduate student and the post-doc who were collecting and transcribing the data. For them, other issues attracted attention, such as the difficulties of the newly employed case-managers, or the situation of the juveniles at the juvenile centers.
As qualitative ethnographic researchers, we are often encourage to do our own fieldwork and interviewing: seeing and hearing provides so much more nuances, and details that we have problems in accurately translating into words. This paper will argue, that such details, and the convincing reality of face-to-face interactions with the studied subjects, and their everyday world, may give rise to an analytical gaze that may be captured by these witnessed realities. Analyzing interviews and field notes in the bare textual form may on the other hand invite or make possible another gaze, not ?disturbed? by seeing, hearing, and experiencing first-hand situation, people, and contexts.
In the case at hand, some distinctive features of the research project, may have led the gaze of the field researchers to illuminate other parts of the material than the ?arm-chair? researcher.