Institutional Ethnography as a Method of Inquiry for Criminal Justice and Socio-Legal Studies
Institutional ethnography (IE) is a method of inquiry created by Canadian feminist sociologist Dorothy E. Smith to examine how sequences of texts coordinate forms of organisation. Here we explain how to use IE, and why scholars in criminal justice and socio-legal studies should use it in their research. We focus on IE’s analysis of texts and intertextual hierarchy, as well as Smith’s understanding of mapping as a methodological technique; the latter entails explaining how IE’s approach to mapping differs from other social science approaches. We also argue that IE’s terms and techniques can help examine the textual work undertaken in criminal justice and legal organisations, and reveal how people are governed and ruled by these organisational processes. In the discussion, we summarise how IE can productively contribute to criminal justice and socio-legal studies in the twenty-first century.
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