Qualitative methodological development has produced canonical tendencies that over-complexify and fix a fluid and lived social world. Meanwhile, critical theory has produced critiques on methodology but without enough attention to the qualitative tradition. I bridge these gaps by using an Adornoian position to interrogate the concepts of systematicity, rigidification, complexification, and their problems in ethnographic research and qualitative methodology. I conduct an urban ethnography and autoethnography of the metropolitan blasé as a public attitude of indifference to articulate an alternative, quotidian approach to ethnography that better captures social embeddedness, meaning-creation, and how contexts should drive data collection, analysis, and method-selection.


Adorno, blasé, complexification, ethnography, systematicity, qualitative research methodology, writing, critical social theory

Author Bio(s)

Anson Au is a Ph.D. student in Sociology at the University of Toronto and a former Research Officer in Social Policy at the London School of Economics. He conducts research in the areas of social networks, social scientific research methodology, organizations, and professions. Please direct correspondence to anson.au@mail.utoronto.ca.


I thank Flora Cornish, Elena Gonzalez Polledo, and the 2016 graduate ethnography seminar hosted by the Department of Methodology at the London School of Economics and Political Science for their comments.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.







To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.