Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Saturday, January 19, 2008: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM
Palladian Ballroom (Omni Shoreham)
[G/WI] Studying Women’S Everyday World: Methodological Focus on Institutional Ethnography
Speakers/Presenters:Sandra H.S. Tam, MSW, University of Toronto
Susan E. Preston, MSW, Ryerson University
Judy Hughes, PhD, University of Northern British Columbia
Abstract Text:
Institutional ethnography (IE) is a methodology for understanding problems in everyday life developed by Canadian feminist sociologist Dorothy Smith. The analyses derived from IE studies embed local and individual experiences in broader ruling relations that organize the social world. In this roundtable, the presenters examine the strength of IE methodology for social work practice research. The methodology provides a means to understand the links between lived experiences and social structures / systems and describe how this relationship is mediated or organized by professional knowledge and practice. Using examples from their individual research projects on women / mothering in the context of violent relationships, mothers' caring labour in child welfare, and young women's working lives, the presenters discuss the strengths and challenges they faced in applying IE to explicate the operation of ruling social relations of gender, race and class in community-based programs and social policy settings. The three studies emphasize different ways that institutional processes and practices shape the activities social work professionals. The session ends with a critical analysis of IE as an approach to research, and proposals for future IE studies to advance the disciplinary knowledge base of social work with regard to understanding the mechanisms of complex social phenomena.

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