Unlocking Complexity With Simplicity: A Social Constructionist Take on 'Ethnographic Interviewing' in Multilingual and Intercultural 'Multi-Site' Field-Research

Guttormsen, David Sapto Adi
January 2010
Proceedings of the European Conference on Research Methods for B;2010, p157
Conference Proceeding
Interviewing, as a research technique in business and management studies, has been executed in different forms and socio-cultural contexts. Various typologies and "how to" guides have been presented in methodology textbooks across the positivist and interpretivist epistemological divide. However, there is a dearth in the literature concerning interviewing integral in a social constructionist embedded ethnography with a focus on construction of meaning and 'social reality'. The 'ethnographic interview' is often depicted as mere 'conversation'. This reflects an assumption of ethnographic research being conducted within a fixed geographical area where formal interviews succumb for informal conversations. The purpose of this paper is to partake in methodological debates by disseminating field-research experiences from formal interviewing during ethnographic field-work, in addition to contribute to the "toolbox" in qualitative methodological research literature by displaying how the 'ethnographic interview' more effectively can elicit in-depth knowledge, make sense of complexity, and incorporate contextuality. The author draws upon ethnographic field-research experiences featuring 62 in-depth interviews of Scandinavian expatriates and local Hong Kong Chinese people in an intercultural context across four languages and nationalities. This paper posits two research questions. Firstly, how the aspects of multilinguality, 'multi-site', and intersubjectivity may influence the interview process in ethnographic research. Secondly, how a purposefully organised social constructionist embedded 'ethnographic interview' can effectively provide richer in-depth understanding. The author argues that mainstream International Business and Management literatures misunderstand and underuse the role and effect of interviewing in ethnographic research, and that a simplistic approach can contribute to unveiling complexity. In addition, the 'ethnographic interview' process cannot fully be understood in the conventional binary formal/informal dichotomised approach to interviewing, or as a continuum with varying degrees of structure. On the contrary, the nature of the social phenomenon being investigated and its epistemological foundation should guide the chosen interview approach.


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