Invitation to contribute to a research symposium on the development of ethnography in educational research
in the Nordic countries MARCH 2020
This invitation is to educational researchers to contribute to a symposium about the position and developments of ethnography in educational research in the Nordic countries at the forthcoming NERA Congress on March 4th to 6th, 2020 in Turku, Finland. The focus of the symposium will on ethnographic research methodologies and their development in education research in the Nordic countries in recent decades, but historical contributions are also valuable. Interest for participating in the symposium should be signalled to both organisers:
Dennis Beach, Borås University and University of Gothenburg (firstname.lastname@example.org) and
Staffan Larsson, professor em., Linköping University (email@example.com).
Outline and preliminary guidelines
Ethnography and research with labels marking similar research practices, like field studies, are now well established in educational research in the Nordic countries, subsequent to a series of shifts away from experimental, and quasi-experimental quantitative studies in the late 1960s, and a subsequent movement toward qualitative methods that took off in earnest in the 1970s and 1980s. This movement was expressed mainly in connection to deliberations within the philosophy of science and through turns toward phenomenological and hermeneutic methodology. Ethnography and field study based methods came into the Nordic educational research fields also, but more marginally. They moved to the center first toward the end of the 1990s, following the foundation and subsequent actions of the ETNOPED group: a network of researchers led by Sverker Lindblad and Staffan Larsson (Sweden), Sigrun Gumundsdottir (Norway), Karen Borgnakke (Denmark) and Tuula Gordon and Elina Lahelma (Finland) funded by a network grant from the Nordic Council of Ministers between 1998 and 2003. The grant was to support the development of ethnographic research in the region by recruiting and training young PhD and post-Doc researchers. Activities included setting up and coordinating SIGs in major Nordic and European research associations (NFPF and EERA) and organizing pre-conferences in connection to the annual NERA-congress of NFPF and symposia and round-tables at the EERA’s annual ECER meetings. Supervising PhD research and engaging in educational programmes to develop the necessary supervision capacities and knowledge were also part of the activities (Beach, 2010; Larsson, 2006).
These activities were successful and through them ethnography was able to move from being a marginal and regionally uncoordinated research method to becoming a prominent, powerful and organized part of the Nordic education research field. Different periods were involved. First there was an initial growth period between 1998 and 2002 that established a strong presence for ethnography in qualitative educational research in the Nordic countries. Periods of consolidation and stabilization followed (Larsson, 2006). However, there was also a second development. At at the time of the foundation of ETNOPED Nordic educational ethnographers had a relatively marginal position in international educational ethnography. Now several of them have key gate-keeping positions in relation to international publication outlets as reviewers, editorial board members and as journal and handbook editors. Yet despite these successes there are still a number of questions to ask about the developments in the last 20 years. They include but are not restricted to the following:
- Initially ethnography (and similar practices with labels like field studies, case-studies) grew, but since then has this growth continued or stagnated as a choice of methodology in educational research in the Nordic countries?
- Have the concrete practices, like choice of data, length of field work etc. changed and in what ways and respects and which drivers of change have been involved?
- Have the theoretical arguments for choosing ethnography changed?
- Are there areas of research where ethography has been mainstream or more or less hegemonic?
- What marks have been made in the international publishing fora and flora.
- Larsson (2006) noted that Nordic ethnographers had an subordinated position in relation to a angloamerican dominance in ethnographic research: Has something happened here during the last decades? Are Nordic ethnographic researchers cited by international research audiences? And: we can even ask: Do Nordic researchers care to cite each other?
Staffan Larsson has started to check choices of methodology/metods in dissertations in educational research at the universities of Linköping and Gothenburg to get empirical support to address some of the questions. It would certainly be of interest if someone could do something similar in other contexts. However, We think there is a need of painting a broader picture, i.e. covering all countries and also with various ways of addressing questions about to destiny of ethnographic methodologies. Therefore we are proposing a symposium to examine the past growth of and possible future for the ethnography of education in the Nordic countries, and are looking for paper contributions on and related to this overarching theme as we move through and more deeply into what has been internationally identified as “an age of uncertainty” for ethnography. We are looking for contributions examine the processes of development of ethnography of education in the Nordic countries from the 1960s onwards, perhaps with an emphasis mainly on the past two decades. We will ask what were the processes ethnography was established and consolidated, if and in such case also which phases of formation can be found, what relationships there are to other networks and regions, and what kinds of marks are identifiable from Nordic ethnography of education regionally (in educational research) and internationally regarding specifically the field of ethnography of education. In this way the symposium will contribute to the knowledge of ethnographic research and processes of change in research practices and fields over time to answer a question recently posed more generally to the ethnography of education by Martyn Hammersley (2018). Hammersley’s question related to what ethnography is and whether it can and should survive within educational research, given the fundamental disagreements among educational ethnographers today about ontological, epistemological, and axiological matters on the one hand and the current commodification of university research on the other.
Dennis Beach (2010) Identifying and comparing Scandinavian ethnography: comparisons and influences, Ethnography and Education, 5:1, 49-63.
Martyn Hammersley (2018) What is ethnography? Can it survive? Should it? Ethnography and Education, 13:1, 1-17.
Staffan Larsson (2006) Ethnography in Action. How Ethnography was established In Swedish educational research. Ethnography and Education, 1: 2, pp. 177 – 195.
Rappel/Registration/deniers jours pour s’inscrire
Oxford Ethnography and Education Conference 2019
Monday 9th to Wednesday 11th September 2019
The registration fee for the two-and-a-half-day conference will be £410 (excl. accommodation). PhD students have a reduced fee of £295 (excl. accommodation). The fee includes:
* Tea, coffee and lunch available on Monday 9th, Tuesday 10th and Wednesday 11th September
* A year’s subscription to the Ethnography and Education Journal.
* A free book from the Ethnography and Education Book Series.
Registration for the conference will close on 22nd August 2019.
Registration & Booking
Registration for the conference and a copy of the full paper are due by Aug 14th 2018.
Lisa Russell, Huddersfield University, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jonathan Tummons, Durham University, UK (email@example.com)
Ruth Barley, Sheffield Hallam University, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Rikke Toft Norgaard, Aarhus University, Denmark (email@example.com)
Shari Sabeti, Edinburgh University, UK (firstname.lastname@example.org)