Diffractive Ethnography : Social Sciences and the Ontological Turn book cover
1st Edition

Diffractive Ethnography
Social Sciences and the Ontological Turn

ISBN 9781138486638
Published April 30, 2018 by Routledge
182 Pages 3 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Across intellectual disciplines, the ontological turn is restructuring how we think about our relationships with the natural world. Influenced by the seemingly disparate realms of indigenous philosophy and quantum physics, the turn invites us to think about intra-actions and assemblages of human and nonhuman entities.

This raises epistemological questions about how we know about the world, and spotlights some of the problems with how we currently do conventional social science research. Diffractive Ethnography invites social scientists to consider alternate methodologies that account for the complexity of human behavior situated in larger environmental contexts.

For both novice and experienced researchers, this thought-provoking book opens new ways of thinking about methodology and raises questions about the ethical and justice orientations of our work.

Table of Contents



Part I: Engaging the Ontological Turn

Chapter 1. A Turn from What?

Chapter 2. An Overview of Vibrant Materialism

Chapter 3. Paradigm Changes

Part II: Methodological Contradictions in Social Science Inquiry

Chapter 4. Objectivity in Research

Chapter 5. Instruments of Measurement

Chapter 6. Beyond Cause and Effect

Chapter 7. Zombie Categories

Chapter 8. Data

Chapter 9. The Crisis of Representation

Chapter 10. Reflexivity and Its Discontents

Part III: Diffractive Ethnography

Chapter 11. A Brief Overview of Ethnography

Chapter 12. Thinking with Theory

Chapter 13. Assemblages and Entanglements

Chapter 14. Diffraction

Chapter 15. The Liveliness of Matter

Part IV: Becoming

Chapter 16. Healing the Nature/Culture Divide

Chapter 17. The Ethics of Entanglements



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Jessica Smartt Gullion, PhD, is Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas Woman’s University, where she teaches courses in research methods and medical and environmental sociology. Her research focuses on qualitative methodology as a tool for social justice.


What would happen if social researchers de-centered themselves and humans? How do social scientists tackle important policy issues? These questions are deftly explored by Gullion in a fascinating and timely volume about the ontological turn in the social sciences. Diffractive Ethnography is for social scientists who want to be rid of hierarchies in order to engage deeply in social justice. It is for those of us who want to throw away the tool box, and see what creative new connections we can make across disciplines and ways of being. This is the most exciting book on methodology I have read in years.

Sandra L. Faulkner, Bowling Green State University, author of Real Women Run