Operationalising ethnicity in accountability: Insights from an ethnic group within the Salvation Army

Joannides de Lautour, V., Hoque, Z. and Wickramasinghe, D. (2021) Operationalising ethnicity in accountability: Insights from an ethnic group within the Salvation Army. Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal, 34(8), pp. 1883-1905. (doi: 10.1108/AAAJ-08-2013-1450)

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Purpose – This paper explores how ethnicity is implicated in an etic–emic understanding through day-to-day practices and how such practices meet external accountability demands. Addressing the broader question of how ethnicity presents in an accounting situation, it examines the mundane level responses to those accountability demands manifesting an operationalisation of the ethnicity of the people who make those responses. Design/methodology/approach – The study followed ethnomethodology principles whereby one of the researchers acted both as an active member and as a researcher within a Salvation Army congregation in Manchester (UK), while the others acted as post-fieldwork reflectors. Findings –The conceivers and guardians of an accountability system relating to the Zimbabwean-Mancunian Salvationist congregation see account giving practices as they appear (etic), not as they are thought and interiorised (emic). An etic–emic misunderstanding on both sides occurs in the situation of a practice variation in a formal accountability system. This is due to the collision of one ethnic group’s emics with the emics of conceivers. Such day-to-day practices are thus shaped by ethnic orientations of the participants who operationalise the meeting of accountability demands. Hence, while ethnicity is operationalised in emic terms, accounting is seen as an etic construct. Possible variations between etic requirements and emic practices can realise this operationalisation. Research limitations/implications – The authors’ findings were based on one ethnic group’s emic construction of accountability. Further research may extend this to multi-ethnic settings with multiple etic/ emic combinations. Originality/value – This study contributed to the debate on both epistemological and methodological issues in accountability. As it is ill-defined or neglected in the literature, the authors offer a working conceptualisation of ethnicity – an operating cultural unit being implicated in both accounting and accountability.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Wickramasinghe, Professor Danture and Joannides de Lautour, Dr Vassili
Authors: Joannides de Lautour, V., Hoque, Z., and Wickramasinghe, D.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > Adam Smith Business School > Accounting and Finance
Journal Name:Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal
ISSN (Online):1758-4205
Published Online:08 June 2021
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited
First Published:First published in Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal 34(8): 1883-1905
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons licence

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