Genre Blurring’ and Public Administration: What Can We Learn from Ethnography?
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This article seeks to broaden the craft of public administration by 'blurring genres'. First, I explain the phrase 'blurring genres'. Second, I provide some examples of early work in administrative ethnography. Third, I compare this early, modernist-empiricist ethnography with interpretive ethnography, suggesting researchers confront three choices: naturalism vs. anti-naturalism; intensive vs. hit-and-run fieldwork; and generalisation vs. local knowledge. After this general discussion, and fourth, I discuss the more prosaic issues that confront anyone seeking to use ethnography to study public administration and look at fieldwork roles, relevance, time, evidence and fieldwork relationships. Fifth, I describe and illustrate the several tools students of public administration can use as well as observation and interviews; namely, focus groups, para-ethnography, visual ethnography, and storytelling. Finally, I conclude that ethnographic fieldwork provides texture, depth and nuance, and lets interviewees explain the meaning of their actions. It is an indispensable tool and a graphic example of how to enrich public administration by drawing on the theories and methods of the humanities.
Australian Journal of Public Administration
© 2014 National Council of the Institute of Public Administration Australia. This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Genre Blurring' and Public Administration: What Can We Learn from Ethnography?, Australian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. 73(3), 2014, pp. 317-330, which has been published in final form at dx.doi.org/10.1111/1467-8500.12085.
Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified