Informed Consent as Process: Problematizing Informed Consent in Organizational Ethnographies
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This article examines the implications of informed consent in organizational ethnographies, where the research site is a bounded and formal institution that has its own sets of rules which govern action and membership. While there is considerable scholarship on the issue of ethics in ethnography in general, very little has been written about informed consent in organizational ethnographies where researchers often simultaneously observe managers, "studying" up according to Nadar, and employees referred to as "studying down". Organizational researchers tend to discuss ethics in terms of obtaining informed consent for individual interviews or in terms of access to an organization as a research site. This essay examines ethical dilemmas experienced in fieldwork studying participatory work arrangements in a Mexican garment firm. By discussing practical issues of gaining access, problems of maintaining access and consent, and concerns of how gatekeeper consent affects subordinates, I problematize the practice of obtaining informed consent in organizations. I argue that thinking of informed consent as an on-going process that requires an active reflexivity on the part of the ethnographer will help researchers to navigate the ever-shifting web of power dynamics present in organizations. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
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