Benjamin Quasinowski

Project Abstract

Institutional interaction in world-society the case of workplace meetings of a hospital staff in rural Kazakhstan

My project starts from the premise that the ethnographically observable cultural plasticity of human sociality and interaction is constrained by, among others, two major, sociologically relevant forces. On the one hand, there is a range of deeply rooted commonalities, 'shared foundations in human cognition, motivation, instinct and social interaction' (Enfield and Levinson 2006: 3, cf. Antweiler 2016), of which the last item has been intensively studied by conversation analysts (Schegloff 2006). On the other hand, there are the forces of globalization, or world-society (Luhmann 2012; Meyer et al. 1997), which, at least to some extent, give rise to the global homogenization of practices that constitute social organization and interaction (cf. Bayart 2007). I am concerned with the interplay of these forces. I use workplace meetings of a hospital staff in rural Kazakhstan as a case in point that lends itself to be studied as a nexus of these forces. Workplace meetings are a genuine form of institutional interaction in the globally spread apparatus of modern bureaucracies and economies. The structure and organization of such meetings show certain similarities across culturally distinct regions (see, e.g., Svennevig 2012). However, in my project I show that the analysis of such institutional interactions needs to take into account the specific socio-cultural ecology of communication, in which it is embedded.

With regard to the mentioned workplace meetings of a hospital staff, I try to broach, among others, the following questions:

  • Against the background of world-society and the global diffusion of organizational practices and institutional models, how can we conceptualize and make sense of the interface between the specific socio-cultural ecologies of interaction, one the one hand, and the often apparently uniform procedures of institutional interaction, on the other hand?
  • To what extent do differences in the cultural conceptualization of the social persona feature in forms of interaction that are rooted in the typically 'modern' rationalities of world-society (such as modern bureaucracies or biomedicine)?
  • Is it possible to describe communicative procedures or practices that 'shield' specific institutional rationalities from the 'intrusion' of culturally specific modes of interaction?
  • How do members of workplace meetings solve the, often contradictory, demands of different logics (institutional vs. ordinary) of interaction in situ?

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