Longing to belong

Butcher, Tim (2013). Longing to belong. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 8(3) pp. 242–257.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1108/QROM-05-2012-1065


– The purpose of this paper is to examine distinctions between embeddedness and belonging in ethnographic fieldwork to make sense of a researcher's identity position in the field.

– A confessional ethnographic narrative was retrospectively crafted from field notes from a 12-month fieldwork period. This narrative is presented and critically discussed to problematize the author's remembered sense of place and temporality in the field.

– Regardless of whether a researcher “longs to belong” in the field, the paper finds that the research and the researcher belongs to the field. The temporality of an ethnographer's being in the field causes its inhabitants, the research participants to assign him/her a distinct and hybrid identity position.

Research limitations/implications
– It is recognized that the research presented is bound by nostalgia. However, such reflexive intersubjectivity must be accounted for in ethnography. The identity position of a researcher influences the research process and outcomes. And that identity is not at the discretion of the researcher.

– Adopting the trope of habitus and postcolonial principles, this research illustrates the criticality of reflexive intersubjectivity in ethnography to positioning the researcher as “Other,” not the research participants. For organizational ethnographers, and qualitative researchers more widely, to recognize this ethical consideration has consequences for how fieldwork is practiced and reported.

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