Commonalities across the studies in this collection
Adopt an interdisciplinary approach
Over the past 20 years, there has been a gradual shift away from the organisation of academic knowledge in terms of disciplines to one that is based on interdisciplinarity (Gibbons et al. 1994; Rampton 2007b). Linguistic ethnography has embraced this shift, bringing together a community of scholars who are interested in joining debates about language and ethnography that cut across disciplines.
Scholars within a discipline tend to be socialised into a shared set of assumptions about the concepts and theories that underpin research in that area. However, disciplinary assumptions can become so ingrained as to be taken for granted (Bridges 2006). Authors in this collection are allied to diverse disciplines and professional contexts, including (but not limited to) medicine (Swinglehurst), sociology and social policy (Shaw and Russell), education (Lefstein and Israeli; Collins; Creese, Takhi and Blackledge), literacy studies (Tusting), social semiotics (Bezemer) and a range of sub-fields from within linguistics, including applied socio- and forensic linguistics, journalism studies and new media (Copland; Madsen and Karreb^k; Snell; Rock, Van Hout). Many have felt constrained by the paradigms in which they are working and describe how they have tried to extend disciplinary boundaries and bring in theories and methods that allow them to better answer their research questions. For example, Shaw and Russell's study (Chapter 7) of the role of think tanks in shaping health policy challenges traditional approaches to researching this area. They describe a shift in the way they work from their initial research training in medical schools where they were taught to look for 'themes' in interview data and to treat language as a 'transparent medium', to their finding and applying interpretative approaches.
Our contributors write eloquently about the value of interdisciplinarity to their own work. But such interdisciplinary working carries institutional risks. As Cerwonka and Malkii suggest, 'the promiscuousness of interdisciplinary scholars [might be] perceived to be unwise and, for some, dangerous to the academy because their work challenges the established divisions of authority and expertise that disciplinary borders conventionally reflect.' (2007, p. 9) Questions remain, then, as to how linguistic ethnographers should position their work within the academy: How can a scholar successfully defend linguistic ethnography in a viva examination or a bid for funding?
Each contributor to this collection draws on a range of theoretical and methodological perspectives to enable close, systematic analysis of language across social settings. For instance, Van Hout's analysis of business journalism (Chapter 4) extends linguistic analyses of news discourse by moving 'beyond the purely textual level'. Rock (Chapter 8) advocates for the need to 'burst the bonds of "mere" linguistics' in order to recognise the complexity of situated language use in routine police work. And Snell (Chapter 12) explains why traditional quantitative approaches to understanding working-class children's speech in sociolinguistics are problematic. None of our contributors explicitly mentions bricolage, but all make use of a range of methodological strategies in order to respond to research questions and 'the unfolding context of the research situation' (Kincheloe 2005, p. 324; see also Becker ). This raises questions about what counts as rigour in linguistic ethnography and how linguistic ethnographers can deal with the potential shortcomings of combining methodological approaches. It also points to a wider question about whether or not linguistic ethnography is an established field with a range of underpinning theories and methods.