A visual turn for organizational ethnography: embodying the subject in video-based research

John Hassard, Diane Burns, Paula Hyde, John-Paul Burns

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


For organizational ethnography we argue that traditional philosophies of onto-epistemological realism be supplanted by interpretive and reflexive thinking to provide fresh theoretical assumptions and new methodological proposals for film- and video-based research. The argument is developed in three phases: First, to establish analytical context, we explore the historical evolution of the ethnographic organizational documentary and discuss habitual problems – methodological, philosophical and technical – that filmmakers have faced when claiming qualities of directness and objectivity in their work, that is, through the style of ‘film-truth’. Second, to advance new conceptual logic for video-based organizational research, we supplant the objectivist and realist philosophy underpinning traditional documentary filmmaking with sociologically interpretive and reflexive arguments for undertaking ethnography in organizations, a subjective process which importantly yields greater understanding of affect and embodiment. Finally, to define new methodological opportunities, these interpretive and reflexive arguments are marshalled to underpin a strategy of participatory thinking in video-based organizational ethnography – a ‘withness’ approach facilitating a greater sense of affect and embodiment as well as polyvocal interpretation of visual data; a practice which sees filmmakers, social theorists, participants and viewers alike united in analytical space.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1424
Number of pages22
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number10
Early online date22 Sept 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • documentary
  • embodiment
  • ethnography
  • filmmaking
  • organization studies
  • participatory
  • realism
  • video


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