PhD course in Institutional Ethnography

Bakgrunnsbilde UiA


From Monday December 10th 2018 at 10:00
To Wednesday December 12th 2018 at 14:00
Thursday November 15th 2018 at 23:00

Institutional ethnography (IE) is a framework of inquiry and a methodology originally developed by Canadian sociologist Dorothy E. Smith. Researchers using IE explore how people's everyday lives are socially organized; shaped by and within the social, institutional relations they engage in (e.g. school, family, social services, academia).

IE is best understood as ethnography of institutionalized social interaction, rather than ethnography of specific companies, organizations or sectors. For the institutional ethnographer, ordinary daily activity becomes the site for an investigation of social relations and forces that transcend this activity. IE is used by researchers across different disciplines (e.g. sociology, education, social work).

The aim of the course is to give an introduction to and understanding of IE both as a framework of inquiry and as a methodology. The course will consist of a combination of presentations, group work and discussions.

The participants are required to submit a short description of their projects (one page) prior to the course, and are expected to participate in discussions about their projects throughout the course. Please admit your short description under "registration/short description of your project".

Participants are also expected to read a text by Karin Widerberg and contribute to discussing this in the course. Look further under the tab "litterature".

In order to have the course approved and obtain 5 ECTS, the participants have to submit a paper/essay of approx. 3000 words within two months after the course.

  • Course leaders
    Ann Christin Nilsen and May-Linda Magnussen 
  • Contributors
    Karin Widerberg, University of Oslo, and Rebecca Lund, University of Tampere.
  • Registration deadline
    November 15th 2018.
  • Registration
    All students must register, students not registered at UiA must register as guest students.
  • Location
    University of Agder, Universitetsveien 25, 4630 Kristiansand, Norway. Room D3 017.
    See link in Mazemap here.
  • Travel and accommodation
    Participants must arrange their own travel and accommodation.
  • ECTS
    The course is approved as a 5 ECTS at UiA, provided that the written assignment is submitted and approved. There are no tuition fees.
  • The course is for PhD-students, first come, first served. We have room for 25 participants. However, if there is availability, master studens are welcome.

Please enter your registration here


From Monday December 10th 2018 at 10:00
To Wednesday December 12th 2018 at 14:00
Thursday November 15th 2018 at 23:00


Last entry date is passed, you can no longer enter this event.

Organisation of the course

Day 1: Introducing institutional ethnography

  • Lecture 1: Meeting IE (May-Linda Magnussen)
  • Lecture 2: IE crash course (Ann Christin Nilsen)
  • Lecture 3: IE and theory (Rebecca W. B. Lund)

Day 2: Understanding institutional ethnography

  • Lecture 4: IE part 1 (Karin Widerberg)
  • Lecture 5: IE part 2 (Karin Widerberg)

Day 3: Doing institutional ethnography

  • Lecture 6: Categories and experience (May-Linda Magnussen)
  • Lecture 7: Incorporating texts in IE (Ann Christin Nilsen)
  • Lecture 8: Discovering ruling relations in academia (Rebecca W. B. Lund)



Course schedule:

Day 1: December 10


Welcome, practical information, presentation



Lecture 1





12.15 -13.15

Lecture 2



Questions and discussion






Lecture 3






Presentation of PhD participants’ projects








Day 2: December 11


Lecture 4



Group work and discussion






Group work






Lecture 5






Questions and discussion





Day 3: December 12


Lecture 6






Lecture 7



Questions and discussion






Lecture 8






Final discussion



If you have any questions, please fill in this form

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Recommended reading

Recommended reading

Campbell, M. & F. Gregor (2004). Mapping Social Relations. A Primer in Doing Institutional Ethnography. Lanham, AltaMira Press.

Smith D.E. (2005). Institutional Ethnography. A sociology for people. Lanham, Md: AltaMira.

Smith, D.E & S. Turner (2014). Introduction. In Smith D.E. & S. Turner, Incorporating Texts into Institutional Ethnographies (1st ed., pages 3-14). Toronto, Toronto University Press.


Additional reading

Lund, R.W.B. (2018) The social organisation of boasting in the neoliberal university. In Gender and Education, May 2018.

Lund, R.W.B. & M.-L. Magnussen (2018). Intersektionalitet, virksomhedskundskab og styringsrelationer. Institutionel Etnografi og hverdagens sociale organisering. In Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning, nr. 3-4, 2018. (Accepted for publication) (DANISH)

Magnussen, M.-L., R.W.B. Lund & H. Wallevik (2018). Et kjønnet rom for akademisk skriving. Den vitenskapelige publiseringens sosiale organisering, sett fra ståstedet til kvinnelige førsteamanuenser ved Universitetet i Agder. In Tidsskrift for kjønnsforskning, nr. 1-2, 2018. (NORWEGIAN)

Magnussen, M.-L. (coming in 2019). Institutional ethnography’s contribution to Norwegian sociology on gender in family relations and beyond. In Lund, R.W.B. & A.C.E. Nilsen (eds.) Institutional ethnography in the Nordics. London, Routledge. (Accepted for publication). 

Magnussen, M.-L. (work in progress) «Jeg er klar til å bidra». Integreringens sosiale organisering, sett fra «den enkeltes» ståsted. (NORWEGIAN)

Nilsen, A.C.E (2017): “When texts become action. The institutional circuit of early childhood intervention”. In European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 25(5).

Nilsen, A.C.E. (2016). In-between discourses: Early intervention and diversity in the Norwegian kindergarten sector. In Journal of Comparative Social Work, 11 (1).

Smith D.E. (2006). Incorporating Texts into Ethnographic Practice. In Smith, D.E. (ed.): Institutional Ethnography as practice. Pages 65-88. Lanham, Md, Rowman & Littlefield.

Smith, D.E. (2012[1999]a). Ruling Relations. In Smith, D.E., Writing the Social. Critique, theory and investigations. Pages 73-95. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Griffith, A. & D.E. Smith (2005). Mothering for schooling. New York: Routledge Falmer.

Griffith, A. & D.E. Smith (2014). Introduction. In Griffith, A. & D. Smith, Under new public management. Institutional ethnographies of changing front-line work. 1st edition. Pages 3-21. Toronto, Toronto University Press.

Smith, D.E. (1978). ’K is mentally ill’. The anatomy of a factual account. In Sociology, 12 (1). Pages 23-53.

Smith, D.E. (2012[1999]b). The Standard North American Family: SNAF as an Ideological Code. I Smith, D.E., Writing the Social. Critique, theory and investigations. Pages 157-171. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Smith, D.E. (2012[1999]c). Telling the Truth after Postmodernism. I Smith, D.E.: Writing the Social. Critique, theory and investigations. Pages 96-132. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Smith, D.E. (2012[1999]d). Sociological Theory: Methods of Writing Patriarchy into Feminist Texts. In Smith, D.E.: Writing the Social. Critique, theory and investigations. Pages 45-70. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.

Tummons, J. (2018). Institutional ethnography, theory, methodology, and research: Some concerns and some comments. In Reid, J. & L. Russell (eds.). Perspectives in and from institutional ethnography. Bingley, Emerald Publishing Limited.

Widerberg, K. (2007). Institusjonell etnografi – en ny mulighet for kvalitativ forskning. In Sosiologi i dag, 37(2). Pages 7-28.

Widerberg, K. (ed.) (2015) I hjertet av velferdsstaten. En invitasjon til institusjonell etnografi. Oslo, Cappelen Damm akademisk. ( NORWEGIAN)

Widerberg, K. (work in progress). Academic Star War – Pierre Bourdieu and Dorothy E. Smith on Academic work.