Jump to main content

Institutional ethnography (IE) is an exploratory methodology based on particular conceptions of "the social," and was originally developed by sociologist Dorothy E. Smith. Institutional ethnographic research is usually focusing on people's everyday lives, and more specifically on a specific experience or "activity". However, the research aims to find out how dominant or "governing" ways of thinking and acting shape this experience, as well as how these social forces can be challenged. This means that the research moves into institutional relationships, and that the researcher often includes material texts in the research. Much Norwegian and Nordic institutional-ethnographic research explores how people's everyday lives are shaped by the welfare state.

Institutional ethnography is experiencing an increasing interest, both in Norway, the Nordic countries and internationally, and the members of the research group are active in both Nordic, European and other international networks. The methodology is used not only by sociologists, but also by professionals in other disciplines and professions. The research group is interdisciplinary and has members from various departments and faculties.

Selected publications

Lund, R. & A.C.E. Nilsen (eds.) (2019): Institutional ethnography in the Nordic Region. Routledge https://www.routledge.com/Institutional-Ethnography-in-the-Nordic-Region-1st-Edition/Lund-Nilsen/p/book/9780367030353

Widerberg, K. (red.) (2015): I hjertet av velferdsstaten. En invitasjon til institusjonell etnografi. Oslo: Cappelen Damm https://www.cappelendamm.no/_i-hjertet-av-velferdsstaten-9788202450670

Nilsen, A.C.E and T. Steen-Johnsen (2019): The Early childhood care and development mission and the institutional circuit of evidence. Journal of Early Childhood Research. DOI: 10.1177/1476718X19860558

Nilsen, A.C.E (2017): When texts become action. The institutional circuit of early childhood intervention. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 25(5)

Nilsen, A.C.E. (2016): In-between discourses: Early intervention and diversity in the Norwegian kindergarten sector. Journal of Comparative Social Work, vol 11, no 1.


Book launch: Institutional ethography in the Nordic region (in collaboration with the University of Oslo), 28. February 2020.

Co-host of PhD course during “The 20th Nordic Sociological Association Conference”, Oslo, 5-7 August 2020.

Relevant PhD Programme

Members in the group

Associate members

Rebecca Lund, researcher and post doctor at Centre for gender research, UiO

Karin Widerberg, professor at the institute of sociology ved UiO

Ellen Ånestad Moen, PhD student SSHF

Bård Bertelsen, PhD student SSHF/UiA