Beyond a single organization: challenges and opportunities in doing field level ethnography

Tammar B. Zilber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to offer a road map for carrying out field-level ethnography, focussing on the inter-organizational space collectively constructed and shared by communities of organizations. Design/methodology/approach – The argument is developed through a critical and integrated review of relevant literature. Findings – Field-level ethnographic work requires researchers to define the field they are exploring, locate their specific research site within it, capture the field through ethnographic practices that take into account the unique characteristics of this local field as a social phenomenon, and deploy various conceptualizations of inter-organizational spheres in order to enrich their analysis and interpretations. Practical implications – This paper offers practical insights for practitioners of field-level ethnography. Originality/value – As organizations are open-systems that reside and take part in much broader, inter-organizational spaces, the author makes a case for going beyond the more common practice of carrying out ethnographic field work in a single organization, to doing field-level ethnography. The paper discusses various theorizations of the inter-organizational sphere, suggest how to carry field-level ethnography in practice, and note its peculiar challenges.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)96-113
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Organizational Ethnography
Issue number1
StatePublished - 14 Apr 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.


  • Conferences
  • Ethnography
  • Field level ethnography
  • Organizational field
  • Trans-organizational structure


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