Introduction to the Special Issue: The Day-to-Day Lives of Cultures and Communities

John Weeks*, Galit Ailon, Mary Yoko Brannen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalEditorialAcademicpeer-review


In a sense, the study of everyday life epitomizes the challenges and opportunities of ethnography. The papers in this Special Issue show how the close examination of the day-to-day lives of people in idiosyncratic settings can shed light on universal questions, complicate the elegant narratives we tell ourselves about what we know, enrich our theories, and expand our sphere of empathy. Although the study of everyday life can be traced back at least as far back as the turn of the 20th century, reaching its apogee after the middle of the century, especially in the writings of Erving Goffman and Harold Garfinkel, it remains as uncommon as its object is commonplace. That is because it is easy to overlook the importance of what is happening when ‘nothing’ is happening and difficult to uncover what is significant about ‘the dust of social activity’. We argue—and the papers that follow show—that the details of the day-to-day can not only be unexpectedly interesting in their specifics but also a source of general theoretical insights about communities, organizations, and teams: their continuity, change and contradictions. What the papers have in common (with each other and with Goffman’s work) is an attention to the work that people do every day to sustain their particular self-image in the face of ongoing, mundane challenges of various sorts to the ways they like to think of and present their world and their place within it. This work to maintain the edges of meaning hides in plain sight and occupies us constantly, whether we are part of a public organization, a religious organization, a profit-seeking organization, a profit-resisting organization, an organization-less organization, or we are students of organizations marking the unremarkable.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-732
Number of pages10
JournalOrganization Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • everyday life
  • organizational communities
  • organizational culture


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