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Abstracts from Volume 30, Number 1
(March, 2003)

Dorothy Smith and Knowing the World We Live In
Marie Campbell
The paper presents an account of the scholarly work of Canadian sociologist, feminist, theorist and activist, Dorothy E. Smith, leading up to her development of institutional ethnography as “a sociology for people.” Drawing on selected writings, the author discusses some of the major ideas, debates and practical influences that are part of Smith’s scholarly trajectory. The line of thinking that is illustrated is how her feminism was integral to her celebrated critique and re-writing of sociological method.

Turning the Kaleidoscope: Telling Stories in Rhetorical Spaces
Bonnie M. Winfield
In this essay, I reflect on the work of Lorraine Code on Rhetorical Spaces and the work of Dorothy Smith on Institutional Ethnography to explore how stories are translated and seen as though looking through the different turns of a kaleidoscope. The stories I am referring to here are intake stories in human service agencies. The question is how do the front line human service workers translate the noise of everyday/night life of the “client” into the human service jargon/forms. I also explore the issues of how the front line worker with the intention of being professional. disembodies herself and the self of the client by dissociating from her life story during the translation process The ultimate purpose of my work is to develop a pedagogy for a human development program.

“Are You Beginning to See A Pattern Here?” Family and Medical Discourses Shape the Story of Black Infant Mortality
Elaine R. Cleeton
Postmodern and poststructuralist theorizations of the interrelations of the particular and the universal have identified women’s bodies to be the last frontier for scientific discovery leading to and satisfying the modern compulsion to stabilize and control life from birth to death. This institutional ethnography of one city’s response to an elevated infant mortality rate among the babies of African American urban, impoverished women explores their discursive transformation from single mothers who cannot begin prenatal care before the second trimester because too few physicians will treat Medicaid patients, into sexually-immoral, illegaldrug- using women who deliberately harm their babies. The study locates an education campaign poster depicting these women as undisciplined, ignorant, irresponsible mothers who use drugs that kill their babies at the intersection of the family discourse of the “good mother/bad mother” dualism and the obstetrics discourse of the frail female body. At this site, the everyday experience of urban minority impoverished women doing the work of mothering is transformed into evidence of their “natural” maternal inadequacy.

“For the Family”: Asian Immigrant Women’s Triple Day
Kamini Maraj Grahame
This article examines how Asian immigrant women manage the demands of family, job training, and paid work in their new society. Using institutional ethnography, a feminist research strategy developed by Dorothy Smith, the study begins with the women’s experiences to explore the extended social relations which give shape to them. The study argues that among those extended relations are the organization of the labor market in the contemporary period, immigration legislation, and the ideological practices embedded in developing, managing, and administering public policies such as job training. A critical eye is turned to social science discourses on family which penetrate the multiple sites forming the institutional complex organizing and regulating the activities of these women. Thus, for example, the article argues that notions such as the “standard North American family” (Smith, 1993) are implicated in the development of family policies designed to help families manage work and family responsibilities. However, such policies neglect the specific experiences of poor, minority, immigrant women since they rely on and reproduce a conception of family built on the experiences of primarily middle-class white women.

Chronic Illness and Academic Accommodation: Meeting Disabled Students’ “unique needs” and Preserving the Institutional Order of the University
Karen E. Jung
People with disabilities are just one of the groups designated for special attention in relation to equity in postsecondary education. This paper explores the way in which policies that provide academic accommodation for students disabled by chronic illness unfold in practice. As part of the administrative regime of the university, these policies are typically designed to reconcile the interests and relevances of the law with the interests and relevances of the academy. When a disabled student “activates” the policy, regardless of whether or not services and assistance are provided or are useful, the student becomes situated within social relations that make disabled students’ “needs” manageable in the organizational context. As applicants for the institution’s privileges and services, students actively participate in the accomplishment of the institutional order of the university, i.e., they fulfil the university’s legal obligation not to discriminate against students with disabilities. This, I will argue, constitutes an exercise of power and preserves the existing social
organization of the university, although it is normally understood as the university acting “in the interests of students with disabilities.” Specifically, I show how the individualization of accommodation—ostensibly to meet each student’s unique needs—shifts the obligation for change to individual students and instructors and forecloses opportunities for the university to become more genuinely accessible and inclusive.

A Child’s Death: Lessons from Health Care Providers’ Texts
Nancy M. Bell and Marie L. Campbell
This article originates from a research study that explores ‘what happened’ to a 10-year-old child with Rett syndrome, who died from “severe malnutrition” according to a Coroners Service inquest jury. The inquest evidence analyzed, using institutional ethnography, shows that approximately one week prior to this child’s death three health care providers (an emergency physician, a hospice volunteer and a home care nurse) conducted individual assessments of the child. Child protection workers were also involved. Textual analysis of the health care providers’ records shows how the child was officially and textually constructed as ‘dying from a terminal illness’ in contrast to the subsequent Coroners Service finding. The authors argue that although professional and organizational texts are a routinely ‘taken for granted’ component of professional practice, they need to be understood as active in the relations of care or service provision. The article supports this argument by demonstrating how the home care nurse’s response to the child was textually coordinated with the other two health care providers’ actions and how this coordination resulted in the ‘proper’ enactment of a Do Not Resuscitate order, leading to courses of action or inaction resulting in the child’s death. The lesson offered highlights the problems that can arise when textual realities routinely are given authoritative status and displace other forms of knowing in health care.

Antiracism Discourse: The Ideological Circle in a Child World
Miu Chung Yan
Antiracism is a dominant discourse in contemporary societies. The understanding of antiracism, however, varies. Government, through its own textually mediated organization of apparatus, tends to homogenize the discourse. This paper is to demonstrate, by employing institutional ethnography, how a child’s act can ignite the socially organized textual engine to include the children’s world in the ideological circle of antiracism discourse dominated by the government. Institutional ethnography, as demonstrated in this paper, is a useful tool for social workers to deconstruct the textual condition in which social work practice is embedded. The ideological circle is a powerful concept to help social workers to understand our social location in the ruling relations of the society.

“Active Living”: Transforming the Organization of Retirement and Housing in the U.S.
Paul C. Luken and Suzanne Vaughan
We examine the transformation of the social institutions of retirement and housing in the US in the latter part of the 20th century. Using institutional ethnography we explicate a woman’s experience relocating to an age segregated community. Her relocation is predicated upon ideological practices that reconceptualize retirement as “active living” and the construction of a setting in which retirees engage in this new lifestyle. We demonstrate the textual mediation of this ideological and organizational reformation through an examination of an advertising campaign undertaken by the Del Webb Development Corporation in the marketing of Sun City, Arizona. The advertising texts provide an ideological code to manage and reorganize at multiple sites the social relations of one segment of the housing industry under late capitalism.

Book Reviews
Japan’s Economic Dilemma: The Institutional Origins of Prosperity and Stagnation
Bai Gao
Review by Christian Aspalter

Managing to Care: Case Management and Service System Reform.
Ann E. P. Dill
Review by Charles D. Cowger

Science and Social Work: A Critical Appraisal.
Stuart A. Kirk and William J. Reid
Review by Toni Tripodi

Developments in Swedish Social Policy: Resisting Dionysus.
Arthur Gould & Welfare in Ireland: Actors, Resources and Strategies
Michel Peillon
Reviewed by James Midgley

Theories for Practice: Symbolic Interactionist Translations
James A. Forte
Review by Daniel Coleman

Starting at Home: Caring and Social Policy
Nel Noddings
Review by Diane M. Johnson

Book Notes
Caring and Doing for Others: Social Responsibility in the Domains of Family,Work, and the Community. Rossi, Alice S. (Ed.),

Transformation of the Welfare State. Neil Gilbert

What Works? Evidence Based Policy and Practice in Public Services. Huw T.O. Davies, Sandra M.
Nutley and Peter C. Smith (Eds.)

Contemporary Asian Communities: Intersections and Divergences. Linda Trinh Vo and Rick Bonus (Eds.)

Understanding Poverty. Sheldon H. Danzigerand RobertH. Haveman (Eds.)

Welfare Racism: Playing the Race Card Against America’s Poor. Kenneth J. Neubeck and Noel Cazenave

 

 

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