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"Institutional ethnography" (IE) is an approach to empirical inquiry founded by prominent Canadian social theorist Dorothy E. Smith.  Combining theory and method, IE emphasizes connections among the sites and situations of everyday life, professional practice, and policy making.  Such connections are accomplished primarily through what Smith has labeled "textually-mediated social organization"-- a form of social coordination that has been under-theorized even as it has become more and more pervasively significant.  Smith developed the approach initially in a feminist context, calling it a method that could produce a "sociology for women" (rather than "about" them); however, she sees it as an approach with much wider application, and those following Smith in the development of IE methods have taken up a variety of substantive topics, including the organization of health care, education, and social work practice, the regulation of sexuality, police and judicial processing of violence against women, employment and job training, economic and social restructuring, international development regimes, planning and environmental policy, the organization of home and community life, and various kinds of activism.


The CWSE is proud to be the home to Institutional Ethnography thanks to the support and partnership with Dorothy E. Smith. As part of our work, we offer one or more programs on Institutional Ethnography every year. 







Dorothy E. Smith  


Susan M. Turner



Curious? Check out this video of Dorothy Smith speaking at the CWSE, October 11 2012, on "The Politics & Practice of Feminist Research"


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