Moving Beyond Everyday Life in Institutional Ethnographies: Methodological Challenges and Ethical Dilemmas


  • Maria Norstedt Lund University
  • Janne Paulsen Breimo NORD University



institutional ethnography, mapping, ethical challenges, levels, rehabilitation


Institutional ethnography (IE) is a method of social inquiry that sets out to explore and analyze how people's daily activities are "hooked up" into institutional arrangements and ruling relations. Using the everyday life of people and their experiences as points of departure, the overall goal is to trace how these experiences are linked to translocal processes. When engaged in empirical inquiries, most IE researchers achieve this goal by moving beyond everyday "levels" of experience into various institutional settings. This article illuminates and critically analyzes the possible pitfalls of moving between various sites of empirical investigation. The article uses comparisons of two studies conducted in similar research settings and both concerning rehabilitation processes to describe two possible ways of conducting this kind of research. The aim is to contribute to a discussion of methodological and ethical challenges in institutional ethnographies in order to enrich it as a method of inquiry.



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Author Biographies

Maria Norstedt, Lund University

Maria NORSTEDT, PhD, is a Researcher at the Department of Sociology, Lund University, and a senior lecturer at The Department of Social Work, Malmö Högskola, Sweden. Her research focuses on work, disability, and the body. Maria is currently researching social processes in working life that influences disclosing of hidden disabilities (the study is funded by AFA Insurance, No. 120294).

Janne Paulsen Breimo, NORD University

Janne Paulsen BREIMO, PhD, is a post doctoral fellow at the Faculty of Social Sciences, NORD University, Norway. Her research focuses on the organization and integration of welfare services, rehabilitation and work inclusion. Using institutional ethnography, Janne is currently involved in a project investigating structural barriers for people with disabilities and Roma individuals trying to access the Romanian labor market.




How to Cite

Norstedt, M., & Breimo, J. P. (2016). Moving Beyond Everyday Life in Institutional Ethnographies: Methodological Challenges and Ethical Dilemmas. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2).



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