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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 17: On a Clear Day You Can See Forever: Taking a Holistic Approach to Ethnographic Case Studies in International Business

Fiona Moore


Fiona Moore INTRODUCTION Although the benefits of ethnographic research have been long recognized in international business studies, for the most part it is still an underutilized technique in this discipline. One frequently cited explanation for the lack of use of this technique is that, while it is useful for obtaining an in-depth perspective on a single, small group, it is less effective at producing an image of the organization as a whole. I would argue, however, that researchers can also use ethnographic techniques to gain more holistic perspectives on the organization. Through using multiple participantobservation sessions with different groups within an Anglo-German manufacturing company, I was able to gather data showing how these groups connect with each other and with other groups and organizations in the wider community. To begin with, I shall consider a selection of the anthropological literature on ethnography and the question of whether it can be used to gain a holistic perspective on any given organization. It is generally agreed by anthropologists that there is no hard-and-fast definition of ethnography. Fetterman (1989, p. 11) defines it as ‘the art and science of describing a group or culture’, adding that to do so, ‘the ethnographer writes about the routine, daily lives of people’. Hammersley (1998, pp. 2, 8) defines it as studying behaviour in everyday contexts, engaging in ‘unstructured’ (although not unsystematic) data collection, using a small number of cases, and analysing these through interpreting the meaning of human actions; he also stipulates that it is characterized...

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