Who are we trying to impress? Reflections on navigating political science, ethnography and interpretation

John Boswell, Jack Corbett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – Turning laborious ethnographic research into stylized argumentative prose for academic consumption is a painstaking craft. The purpose of this paper is to revisit this perennial issue, and extend a claim the authors have made elsewhere about the inevitably impressionistic, rather than the oft-claimed “systematic”, nature of this task. Design/methodology/approach – The authors draw and reflect on their own experiences of conducting and navigating across political science, ethnography and interpretation in order to justify and uphold the benefits of impressionism. Findings – The authors argue that the impressionistic account of writing up fieldwork has important implications for these diverse disciplinary terrains. Originality/value – The authors develop an argument as to how and why an appreciation of this craft’s impressionistic nature can affect how the authors go about creating, evaluating and ultimately thinking about ethnographic research in foreign disciplines like political science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-235
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Ethnography
  • Interpretation
  • Political science
  • Reflexivity
  • Systematic

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