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Grounding in the unconscious: “the field” in psychosocial organizational ethnography
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-10, 06:15 authored by Didem Derya Ozdemir KayaDidem Derya Ozdemir Kaya, Marianna Fotaki
Psychosocial research, which explores the unconscious and affective dynamics of organizational and social phenomena from critical perspectives, often adopts ethnographic methods. However, its locus, the unconscious, has an obscure, diffuse and dynamic nature that calls into question two central assumptions of conventional organizational ethnography: that an organization is a self-contained physical (research) site, and ethnographic research is best led by participant observation. The unconscious is produced by countless agents dispersed across time and space, making it impossible to readily identify a research site. Furthermore, psychosocial phenomena cannot be physically demarcated because a multitude of discourses, imagery, psyches, bodies, and objects are enmeshed in them. These raise contentious ontological, epistemological, and methodological questions for psychosocial researchers. In this article, we ruminate on “the field” in psychosocial organizational ethnography, seeking a robust epistemological and methodological approach to constructing and dwelling in an unconscious research site. Drawing on Lacanian psychoanalysis, we present a conceptual discussion of these issues and translate them into ethnographic methods illustrated by examples from the authors’ research. By critically re-evaluating the question of “the field,” we contribute to ethnographic studies of organizational phenomena with “fuzzy fields” without self-evident boundaries that draw on diverse onto-epistemologies.
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