'How Things Relate to One Another': Reflections on 'Multisite' Ethnography in a South African Company

By Stephné Herselman.

Published by The Organization Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

How do dimensions of difference such as race, age, gender, sociocultural frames of reference, position, socially ascribed identities and politico-economic factors impact on a company’s program of action and employee relationships? How do a company’s culture and policies transform into processes of action? What emerges from an analysis of identification, action and relationships in a company? Projected against a dynamic background of macrolevel social, political and economic issues in South Africa, this presentation deals with processes of ethnography conducted in a wholesale company. It is based on ethnography’s underlying commitment to holism according to which it is understood that anything that occurs in the research context is potentially relevant and that everything is closely interconnected – ‘a multi-site approach’ – which reveals the existent reality of a corporate environment.

By emphasizing a qualitative approach that draws attention to the significance of allowing employees ‘to speak for themselves’; by showing how emergent issues relate to one another, that company regulations are principles that people address themselves to rather than react to, the presentation aims to show how ethnography reveals both shared and differing assumptions, values, expectations, attitudes and behaviour among various categories of employees. This might suggest a microcosmic replication of South African society. Due recognition is given to the fact that location of the researcher in the research context could have meant a degree of manipulation and domination of the research processes.

Keywords: South Africa, Wholesale Company, Ethnography, Qualitative Research, Sociocultural Diversity

The International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 6, Issue 10, pp.67-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.986MB).

Prof. Stephné Herselman

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, University of South Africa, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

I teach undergraduate and postgraduate courses in anthropology, and specialise in anthropology of organisations and medical anthropology. I am scientific editor of Anthropology Southern Africa, an accredited journal of anthropology.

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