Roles and identity work in “at-home” ethnography

Rita Järventie-Thesleff*, Minna Logemann, Rebecca Piekkari, Janne Tienari

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to shed new light on carrying out “at-home” ethnography by building and extending the notion of roles as boundary objects, and to elucidate how evolving roles mediate professional identity work of the ethnographer. Design/methodology/approach: In order to theorize about how professional identities and identity work play out in “at-home” ethnography, the study builds on the notion of roles as boundary objects constructed in interaction between knowledge domains. The study is based on two ethnographic research projects carried out by high-level career switchers – corporate executives who conducted research in their own organizations and eventually left to work in academia. Findings: The paper contends that the interaction between the corporate world and academia gives rise to specific yet intertwined roles; and that the meanings attached to these roles and role transitions shape the way ethnographers work on their professional identities. Research limitations/implications: These findings have implications for organizational ethnography where the researcher’s identity work should receive more attention in relation to fieldwork, headwork, and textwork. Originality/value: The study builds on and extends the notion of roles as boundary objects and as triggers of identity work in the context of “at-home” ethnographic research work, and sheds light on the way researchers continuously contest and renegotiate meanings for both domains, and move from one role to another while doing so.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-257
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Identities
  • Identity work
  • Organizational ethnography
  • Roles
  • “At-home” ethnography


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