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Refiguring global construction challenges through ethnography

Tutt, D. and Pink, S. (2019) Refiguring global construction challenges through ethnography. Construction Management and Economics, 37 (9). pp. 475-480. ISSN 0144-6193

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/01446193.2019.1643570


There has been a burgeoning growth in the use of ethnographic methods in construction management research in recent years, which to a certain extent has been pulled together through our own efforts (see Pink et al, 2013). Yet, arguably the intellectual framework of inquiry has been set too narrowly until now, with the ethnographic endeavour in CMR concerned with “how these methods embrace the construction issues facing construction researchers... to enable the construction industry to effectively function in the future” (Phelps and Horman, 2010, italics added). While recent work, particularly that developed by the editors of this special issue and their colleagues, has started to make new advances in construction industry research through ethnographic practice and theory, we call for further work to consolidate this field of research. We believe there is much merit in this for two reasons. First to raise the profile of ethnographic approaches in the construction industry research context. Indeed this will enable construction researchers to better confront the research challenges they already face. However it will do more than this, in that ethnographic research also tends to open up the field of research further, to surface new questions and issues, and to demonstrate that the answer to the question originally posed might be neither what nor where originally assumed. Second, ethnographic research undertaken in the construction industry has the potential to bring significant theoretical, methodological and empirical insights to the fore that have bearings on debates and challenges that are being approached in other fields of substantive study or disciplinary discussion. For example as existing work has shown, the processes through which worker safety is often viewed and regulated in the construction industry have much in common with the ways that universities govern research ethics (Pink 2017, Akama et al 2018), or the ways that construction workers engage with digital video-based materials can inform us about wider questions relating to digital pedagogy (Pink et al 2016). The fact is that the construction industry is part of society, and if we do not view it as such, and understand the people who work in it, and the materials that flow through it as pertaining to these wider worlds of things and processes, then we stand little chance of comprehending its dynamics. Ethnographic research, when appropriately delivered, we argue offers the key to these understandings.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of the Built Environment > Organisation, People and Technology group
ID Code:85337
Publisher:Taylor & Francis


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