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
Copyright 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