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Malin Åkerström

Malin Åkerström

Professor emerita

Malin Åkerström

Ethnographic discoveries after fieldwork on troubled youth


  • Malin Åkerström
  • David Wästerfors


  • Katarina Jacobsson
  • Jaber Gubrium

Summary, in English

The cultivation of ethnographic discovery is not only about being insightful in the field by paying attention to unexpected events and unforeseen social processes. We should also search for potentially surprising or disturbing findings after the fieldwork. This can provide additional ways to create an original and sustainable understanding of research material. In this chapter, we discuss a study of a public youth care project in Sweden to exemplify post- fieldwork ethnographic discovery. While attentively processing field notes, transcripts and documents and bracketing conventional social problems in the settings, it was possible to discover an unexpected but striking emphasis on meetings and administrative work among the service professionals, which the fieldworkers, unbeknownst to them, had inadvertently documented but not reflected upon analytically. This provided an empirical platform for post- fieldwork creativity, eventually generating a number of publications and new research ideas. The chapter ends with an attempt to turn our experiences from the youth project into proposed guidelines for how to discover unanticipated topics in ethnographic data after fieldwork has ended by way of key readings.


  • Sociology

Publishing year







Doing Human Service Ethnography

Document type

Book chapter


Policy Press


  • Sociology (excluding Social Work, Social Psychology and Social Anthropology)




  • ISBN: 9781447355809
  • ISBN: 9781447355786