How to Conduct a Practice-based Study
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How to Conduct a Practice-based Study

Problems and Methods

Silvia Gherardi

The practice-based approach to the study of work and organizing has been widely adopted in recent years, yet its theoretical and methodological systematization has only just begun. Silvia Gherardi expertly provides an overview on the topics and issues addressed by practice-based studies. By means of a series of examples drawn from the best-known analyses using this approach, the book provides methodological guidance on how to conduct empirical research on practices, and how to interpret them from three perspectives: practices ‘from outside’ practices ‘from inside’, and the social effects produced by practices.
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Chapter 3: Sensible knowledge and knowledgeable bodies

Silvia Gherardi


In the two previous chapters I have sought to illustrate, through the description of research experiences, the interpretative opportunities brought by the ‘practice turn’. But I have not made a theoretical presentation of what is meant by the term ‘practice’. I shall further postpone this issue, being content that I have shown at least one opportunity furnished by the practice-based approach. When working practices are studied, description of the activities comprised in a practice is less important than the pattern of connectedness which holds it together. This pattern ties the actions occurring within the practice to the actors of that practice, whether human or non-human, so that they actively construct its situational context. As Lave (1991) notes, one should bear in mind that ‘situation’ is not simply another term for the immediate, physical context. A situation has to be explored in social and historical terms. As we have seen in the case of the coordination centre, people in a room are not inevitably and identically situated, and the situated constraints on practice do not simply arise in and through such isolated interactions. The people and the constraints have social and historical trajectories that should be understood within the texture of connections linking one practice to another and the texture of practices in cultural and historical terms (Gherardi, 2006). A context is not a container of practices; rather, practices create their own context (Fox, 1997).

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