Volume 5 Issue 2 (2009)
Main Articles

Rethinking Interventionist Research: Navigating Oppositional Networks in a Danish Hospital

Niels Christian Nickelsen
Faculty of Social Science, University of Copenhagen
Published February 16, 2010
  • intervention,
  • interference,
  • seduction,
  • accreditation,
  • actor-network theory,
  • ethnography,
  • sorting attachments,
  • participative research
  • ...More


This article reports on a researcher's experience of being invited to improve upon an organisational situation in a hospital in Denmark. Being engaged with different networks of participants in the organisational situation, the researcher found himself wrapped up in various agendas, with different sections of the staff trying to persuade him to support their own respective interests. The article theorises these persuasions as "seductions." Consequently, the task of the researcher involves selecting, prioritising, and working upon his connections with various networks, while each continues to represent a different set of values, expectations, interests, and experiences. Based on this conceptualisation, the article interrogates the notion of interventionist research. Intervention is not limited only to a simple one-way causation where the interventionist does something useful in a studied field; it also involves engagement with multiple networks present in the field, each of which tries to seduce the researcher in order to befriend this potentially powerful collaborator. Using the term "interference," rather than intervention, to represent the researcher’s action, the article suggests that the researcher is often not able to control the effect of his or her action unilaterally. Neither is the researcher able to establish an overarching perspective which can be used to evaluate the final outcome. The article calls for fresh thinking on how a researcher may be engaged usefully in an organisational situation, working within the boundaries defined by the institutional logic, confronting the seductions from multiple sources, and still seeking to maintain a ground that justifies one's identity as a researcher.