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Rethinking the Case Study in International Business and Management Research

Edited by Rebecca Piekkari and Catherine Welch

This important and original book critically evaluates case study practices and calls for a more pluralistic future for case research in international business (IB) and international management (IM).
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Chapter 16: Blurring the Boundaries between Case Analysis and Ethnography: Reflections on a Hybrid Approach to Researching Multinational Corporations

Raza Mir


Raza Mir INTRODUCTION Qualitative researchers in the field of organizational studies have often used case studies inductively, but in a positivistic way (for example, Galunic and Eisenhardt 2001). Their research seeks to move from the specific to the general, but the emphasis is still on discovery and unearthing, as if the case will reveal underlying information on the way organizations function. On the other hand, ethnographers operating primarily in other social sciences are more constructivist in their orientation, recognizing that the researcher is implicated in the research process (Kondo 1990). Both of these approaches are often suitable for different elements of organizational research. Unfortunately, case studies in organizational studies are almost exclusively associated with pedagogical approaches, while ethnography has often been (needlessly) equated with the study of indigenous cultures, and also has an intimidating disciplinary connection with anthropology. Moreover, proponents of the case approach have consciously disavowed the ethnographic approach as analytically distinct from case studies (Yin 2009). This disconnect has prevented a fruitful discussion from emerging as to how these two approaches can be combined, what they have to teach each other, and how they can add rigour and relevance to organizational research. In this chapter, I explore ways in which ethnographic analysis could be used to layer case analysis with greater complexity. My recent publications (Mir et al. 2008; Mir and Mir 2009) have explicitly tried to combine the two approaches, and in my research, I have found the two approaches to be not only complementary, but also...

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