Ethnographic Stories as Generalizations that Intervene

Brit Ross Winthereik, Helen Verran

Research output: Journal Article or Conference Article in JournalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


In this paper, we show why we think the notion of instrumental ethnography should be revived (compared to Steve Woolgar's 1982 use of the term). We see instrumental ethnography as a particular form of ethnography that recognizes ethnographic stories as agential through their capacity to work as generalizations. We outline two different logics of generalizing (one-many and whole-parts) and show how these logics can be identified in a note from fieldwork that one of the authors is currently involved in. The field note displays how a project worker in a large environmental NGO engage in monitoring her partners in a development aid project; it tells about the seemingly magic actions of a database used for monitoring. We use the note for discussing why we think it is important, in a situation where ethnographic stories are bought and sold as products, to name some of the ontological commitments that go into the crafting of these stories.
Original languageEnglish
JournalScience Studies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)37-51
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2012

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