Critical realist ethnography: The case of racism and professionalism in a medical setting

Authors: Porter, S.

Editors: Ackroyd, S. and Fleetwood, S.

Publisher: Routledge

Place of Publication: London

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Authors: Porter, S.

Volume: 27

Pages: 591-609

DOI: 10.1177/0038038593027004003

The purpose of this paper is to identify a philosophy for ethnography which could overcome some of the epistemological criticisms to which it has recently been subjected, notably by Martin Hammersley (1990, 1992). It is argued that Roy Bhaskar's (1989a) theory of critical realism is capable of solving many of the problems raised in relation to representational claims, theoretical focus and explanatory status. A substantive example of how critical realist ethnography can be used is given in a participant observation study of how racism affects occupational relationships between nurses and doctors, and how its effects are mediated by professional ideology. It is argued that the universalist-achievement ethos of professionalism tends to counter the ascriptive nature of racism. Thus, as long as a functional-specific pretext is unavailable, the effects of structural racism will remain latent in social situations where professionalism has a powerful influence. © 1993, British Sociological Association Publications Limited. All rights reserved.

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