New publication! Examining “Elite” Power Dynamics in Informant–Research Relations and Its Impact on Ethnographic Data Construction.

by Jana Declercq & Ricardo A. Ayala.

This article explores how power dynamics between informants and field researchers shape ethnographic data construction, drawing on fieldwork at a pharmaceutical company. Pharmaceutical companies are considered elite settings, and often assumed to be powerful in relation to the researcher and dominating the data construction. However, such a view conceptualizes power in terms of fixed categories, in which there is a superior and subordinate position. We reconsider the impact of elite informants in the light of a constructivist, interactionist view on power, in which power is dynamic and not necessarily entailing domination. We answer the following research questions: (1) How can we observe power dynamics, as conceptualized in a constructionist and interaction orientation, in ethnographic research? and (2) How can we reflect on what these power dynamics mean for data construction, based on our experiences in elite settings? To do so, we make use of discursive and interactional analytic methods and propose three levels of analysis: (1) the level of conversation, (2) the level of ethnography, and (3) the level of the organization in society. They respectively shed light on power in relation to (1) what is said and how, (2) the meanings attached to the ethnographic events, and (3) the meaning of the ethnography in relation to the discourses on the organization in society. With this article, we aim to provide researchers with a methodological tool to approach and to reflect on the significance of power relations in the context of ethnography and interviewing and its impact on data construction.