Fieldworking the relational complexity of organizations

Wafa Said Mosleh*, Henry Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to present researcher's reflexive writing about emergent events in research collaborations as a way of responding to the process-figurational sociology of Norbert Elias in the practice of organizational ethnography. Design/methodology/approach: Drawing parallels between Norbert Elias' figurative account of social life and auto-ethnographic methodology, this paper re-articulates the entanglement of social researchers in organizational ethnographic work. Auto-ethnographic narration is explored as means to inquire from within the emerging relational complexity constituted by organizational dynamics. Writing about emergent events in the research process becomes a way of inquiring into the social figurations between the involved stakeholders; thus nurturing sense-making and increasing the awareness and sensitivity of the researcher to her own entanglement with the relational complexity of the organization under study. Findings: In the paper, we argue that the writing of auto-ethnographic narratives of emergent field encounters is a process of inquiry that continuously depicts the temporal development of the relational complexity in organizations. Viewing that from the perspective of Elias' concept of figuration, we find a common commitment to the processual nature of research processes, which insists on moving beyond objectifying empirical insights. Originality/value: This paper encourages awareness of the interdependency between ourselves as social researchers and field actors as we engage with the field. It moves beyond simplifying the ethnographic research agenda to that of “studying” and “describing” organizations. It offers unique insights into the organizational context, and increased sensitivity toward the social entanglement of the experiences that we, ourselves, as researchers are part of.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)421-439
Publication statusPublished - 11. Aug 2020


  • Figuration
  • Interdependency
  • Organizational ethnography
  • Process theory
  • Reflexivity
  • Relational complexity
  • Writing


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