A form of critical ethnography introduced to the social sciences in the late 1990s, institutional ethnography uncovers how things happen within institutional sites, providing a new and flexible tool for the study of how “work” is co-constituted within sites of writing and writing instruction. The study of work and work processes reveals how institutional discourse, social relations, and norms of professional practice coordinate what people do across time and sites of writing. Adoption of IE offers finely grained understandings of how our participation in the work of writing, writing instruction, and sites of writing gives material face to the institutions that govern the social world.
In this book, Michelle LaFrance introduces the theories, rhetorical frames, and methods that ground and animate institutional ethnography. Three case studies illustrate key aspects of the methodology in action, tracing the work of writing assignment design in a linked gateway course, the ways annual reviews coordinate the work of faculty and writing center administrators and staff, and how the key term “information literacy” socially organizes teaching in a first-year English program. Through these explorations of the practice of ethnography within sites of writing and writing instruction, LaFrance shows that IE is a methodology keenly attuned to the material relations and conditions of work in twenty-first-century writing studies contexts, ideal for both practiced and novice ethnographers who seek to understand the actualities of social organization and lived experience in the sites they study.
Institutional Ethnography expands the field’s repertoire of research methodologies and offers the grounding necessary for work with the IE framework. It will be invaluable to writing researchers and students and scholars of writing studies across the spectrum—composition and rhetoric, literacy studies, and education—as well as those working in fields such as sociology and cultural studies.