Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu


Paper 106: Creating text, analysing text: A note on ethnography, writing and power

Joanna Latimer

The paper shows how ethnography specifically helps us to examine the relationship between discursive practices, conduct and identity-work, and the appearance and reappearance of stabilities. It explores how the creation and continuous rewriting of an ethnographic text draws upon many different registers of social life, including interactions over time and across many differently situated occasions. Using examples from the domain of medicine, the paper shows how by examining the conduct of nurses, doctors and patients as they occur across a variety of 'differently situated occasions', we can examine the multiplicity of discourses available for members to ground their moves. The paper illuminate a process of analysis and writing that helps elucidate how members, through enrolling what is available, become enrolled and align themselves within networks of interest. What we find is not just routines and repetitions, or even deviations from norms and infractions, the foundations of structural relations of power; nor do we find fluidity, an idea that anything goes. Rather what we find through a particular approach to ethnographic writing is ‘motility’: the ways in which participants switch discursive domains and move the world. By pressing attention to motility the different moves members make can be shown to help re-accomplish socio-cultural relations of power. The approach described thus could be called post-structural rather than post-modern ethnography

Cardiff School of Social Sciences, (2008), ISBN 978-1-904815-71-6

Additional Information

Key Words:  ethnography, description, motility, registers, stabilities, text, rewriting.