Social Theory & Health

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 292–306 | Cite as

Institutional ethnography: a sociology of discovery—in conversation with Dorothy Smith

  • Grainne P. KearneyEmail author
  • Michael K. Corman
  • Gerard J. Gormley
  • Nigel D. Hart
  • Jennifer L. Johnston
  • Dorothy E. Smith

Those located at the intersection of sociology and research in healthcare may be familiar with the very distinctive teachings of Dr. Dorothy Smith (see 1987, 1990a, b, 1999, 2005, 2006, 2014). The intellectual explorations throughout her career culminated in an approach to inquiry, known as Institutional Ethnography (IE) in the 1980s, which she continues to refine through dialogue with scholars from many disciplines. Her personal experiences inflamed her to criticize what she considered the deficiencies of the “mainstream” sociology she had been taught and that she was then teaching and, more broadly, positivist ways of knowing. She considers these ways to “clamp[s] a conceptual framework over any project of inquiry; such a framework determines how the actual will be attended to, dominating and constraining selection and interpretation” (Smith 2005, p. 50). Smith turned to her reading of Marx’s materialism, Garfinkel’s ethnomethodology, Mead and Bakhtin’s insights on language, to name...


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grainne P. Kearney
    • 1
    Email author
  • Michael K. Corman
    • 2
  • Gerard J. Gormley
    • 3
  • Nigel D. Hart
    • 1
  • Jennifer L. Johnston
    • 1
  • Dorothy E. Smith
    • 4
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Medical EducationQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.Sociology and Anthropology and Faculty of NursingUniversity of Prince Edward IslandCharlottetownCanada
  3. 3.Clinical Skills Education Centre, Centre for Medical EducationQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  4. 4.Sociology DepartmentUniversity of VictoriaVictoriaCanada
  5. 5.Professor Emeritus of the Ontario Institute for Studies in EducationUniversity of TorontoTorontoCanada

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