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Immersion, drowning, dispersion and resurfacing: coping with the emotions of ethnographic management learning

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journal contribution
posted on 23.06.2022, 14:34 by Robert McMurrayRobert McMurray
While organisational researchers have had a long-standing commitment to ensuring the well-being of others, relatively little attention has been paid to the care of fieldworkers themselves, particularly in emotional terms. Drawing on personal experiences of ethnographic research with UK charity Samaritans, this paper considers the ways in which embedding oneself in the culture of another organisation can expose researchers to pain which, if not recognised or ameliorated, can be become toxic. The paper questions whether such pain is an inevitable consequence of certain forms of qualitative research and, if so, how we might learn to cope with its effects. In answer, the paper describes a journey through immersion, drowning and eventually resurfacing, where the latter is facilitated by a process defined as emotional dispersion. The paper contributes to our understanding of (i) the necessarily painful nature of certain immersive modes of ethnographic and qualitative research, (ii) the conceptualisation of emotional dispersion and its practical implications for coping with emotional pain, burnout and toxicity as a relational practice and (iii) the relative balance of institutional and individual duties when it comes to a care of the self in emotional terms.

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The original article is available at https://journals.sagepub.com/

Published Citation

McMurray R. Immersion, drowning, dispersion and resurfacing: coping with the emotions of ethnographic management learning. Management Learning. 2022;53(3):439-459

Publication Date

6 June 2021

Department/Unit

  • Graduate School of Healthcare Management

Research Area

  • Population Health and Health Services
  • Nursing and Midwifery
  • Health Professions Education

Publisher

SAGE

Version

  • Published Version (Version of Record)