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Title: Performing ethnography in a contemporary workplace : disability discourse and the university administrator
Author: Cox, Nigel D.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2743 5549
Awarding Body: Sheffield Hallam University
Current Institution: Sheffield Hallam University
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis is concerned with the role of university administrators and the work they carry out in relation to disability. In a context of disability discrimination legislation and a developing culture of 'consumerism', administrators in the United Kingdom are increasingly charged with undertaking activities that relate to the 'support' of students who disclose a disability. Although there is a developing body of research that relates to the work of administrators in general, their work in relation to disability remains largely unexplored. As such, empirical enquiry is overdue. The fieldwork for this study was undertaken in an English university. An ethnographic research design employing observation, interview and the collection of organisational texts is described. The ethical challenges invited by ethnographic research are also discussed in detail. As the study context was my workplace, I consider methodological and epistemological issues that arise when undertaking research in a 'familiar' setting. Analysis draws upon readings of Foucault, and his thesis on discourse and power, and the work of Douglas, and her discussion of boundary maintenance and ritual. The thesis makes a number of original contributions to knowledge. First, it shows how administrators are involved in the surveillance of disabilities and the circulation of 'expert' knowledge. It also shows how administrators seek to protect against ambiguous disability classifications and the 'non-disclosure' of disability. Second, in respect of Foucault's thesis on panopticism, it shows how the texts, practices, and material/spatial contexts of administration serve to constitute the subjectivities of those who work in or make use of the administrative service. Third, the thesis shows how administrators strive to perform 'talk' that is not injurious or offensive to people with disabilities. Using Douglas' thesis, a role for ritual in regards to the performance of 'acceptable' speech and the avoidance of 'talk' that is taboo is posited. Fourth, it shows that administrators are obliged to follow rules (for instance, the law'), yet they are also incited to work on their 'selves' in respect of 'moral' disability standpoints, and in their facilitation of a 'consumerist' student ethic. Summing up, it considers in detail the epistemic character of ethnographic research.
Supervisor: Blain, Jenny ; Waites, Matthew ; Aylott, Jill Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available