Denials, Obstructions, and Silences: Lessons from Field Resistance (and Field Embrace)


Anteby, Michel. 2016. “Denials, Obstructions, and Silences: Lessons from Field Resistance (and Field Embrace).” The Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods: Innovative Pathways and Methods, edited by K. D. Elsbach and M. R. Kramer, 197-205. New York: Routledge. Copy at


The means by which field participants collectively resist an inquiry into their social world—that is, the repertoires of field resistance they deploy—can vary radically from one setting to the next. For example, factory craftsmen who produce in their plant and on the side illegal artifacts might resist a scholarly inquiry into their practices by denying that they are thieves. By contrast, clinical anatomists who procure human cadavers for medical education and research might physically obstruct a scholar’s access to the field. Alternatively, business school faculty members faced with an inquiry into their work practices might decide to remain silent as a way to deflect the inquiry. This chapter reviews several forms of field resistance and discusses what they can teach us about their respective field settings. Moreover, by treating acts of resistance as data points rather than merely irritating impediments to field inquiries, this chapter calls for paying closer attention to repertoires of field resistance and highlights the benefits of collecting, analyzing, and qualifying field participants’ acts of resistance as innovative forms of data. A similar argument can also be made for paying closer attention to forms of field embrace or the various (and telling) means by which field participants embrace a scholars’ inquiry into their social world.

Last updated on 05/31/2017