Ethnography

Ethnography

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Encyclopedia
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group. It was pioneered in the field of socio-cultural anthropology but has also become a popular method in various other fields of social sciences
Social sciences
Social science is the field of study concerned with society. "Social science" is commonly used as an umbrella term to refer to a plurality of fields outside of the natural sciences usually exclusive of the administrative or managerial sciences...

—particularly in sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, communication studies, history. —that studies people, ethnic groups and other ethnic formations, their ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis
Ethnogenesis is the process by which a group of human beings comes to be understood or to understand themselves as ethnically distinct from the wider social landscape from which their grouping emerges...

, composition, resettlement, social welfare characteristics, as well as their material and spiritual culture. It is often employed for gathering empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 data on human societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 and culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s. Data collection is often done through participant observation, interviews, questionnaires, etc. Ethnography aims to describe the nature of those who are studied (i.e. to describe a people, an ethnos) through writing. In the biological sciences, this type of study might be called a "field study" or a "case report", both of which are used as common synonyms for "ethnography".

Data collection methods


Data collection methods are meant to capture the "social meanings and ordinary activities" of people (informants) in "naturally occurring settings" that are commonly referred to as the field. The goal is to collect data in such a way that the researcher does not impose any of their own bias on the data. Multiple methods of data collection may be employed to facilitate a relationship that allows for a more personal and in-depth portrait of the informants and their community. These can include participant observation, field notes, interviews, and surveys.
Interviews are often taped and later transcribed, allowing the interview to proceed unimpaired of note-taking, but with all information available later for full analysis. Secondary research and document analysis are also employed to provide insight into the research topic. In the past kinship charts were commonly used to "discover logical patterns and social structure in non-Western societies". However anthropology today focuses more on the study of urban settings and the use of kinship charts is seldom employed.

In order to accomplish a neutral observation a great deal of reflexivity on the part of the researcher is required. Reflexivity asks us "to explore the ways in which a researcher's involvement with a particular study influences, acts upon and informs such research". Despite these attempts of reflexivity no researcher can be totally unbiased, which has provided a basis to criticize ethnography.

Traditionally, the ethnographer focuses attention on a community, selecting knowledgeable informants who know the activities of the community well. These informants are typically asked to identify other informants who represent the community, often using chain sampling. This process is often effective in revealing common cultural common denominators connected to the topic being studied. Ethnography relies greatly on up-close, personal experience. Participation, rather than just observation, is one of the keys to this process. Ethnography is very useful in social research.

Differences across disciplines


The ethnographic method is used across a range of different disciplines, primarily by anthropologists but also frequently by sociologists. Cultural studies
Cultural studies
Cultural studies is an academic field grounded in critical theory and literary criticism. It generally concerns the political nature of contemporary culture, as well as its historical foundations, conflicts, and defining traits. It is, to this extent, largely distinguished from cultural...

, economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

, social work
Social work
Social Work is a professional and academic discipline that seeks to improve the quality of life and wellbeing of an individual, group, or community by intervening through research, policy, community organizing, direct practice, and teaching on behalf of those afflicted with poverty or any real or...

, education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

, ethnomusicology
Ethnomusicology
Ethnomusicology is defined as "the study of social and cultural aspects of music and dance in local and global contexts."Coined by the musician Jaap Kunst from the Greek words ἔθνος ethnos and μουσική mousike , it is often considered the anthropology or ethnography of music...

, folklore
Folklore
Folklore consists of legends, music, oral history, proverbs, jokes, popular beliefs, fairy tales and customs that are the traditions of a culture, subculture, or group. It is also the set of practices through which those expressive genres are shared. The study of folklore is sometimes called...

, religious studies
Religious studies
Religious studies is the academic field of multi-disciplinary, secular study of religious beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. It describes, compares, interprets, and explains religion, emphasizing systematic, historically based, and cross-cultural perspectives.While theology attempts to...

 geography
Geography
Geography is the science that studies the lands, features, inhabitants, and phenomena of Earth. A literal translation would be "to describe or write about the Earth". The first person to use the word "geography" was Eratosthenes...

, history, linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

, communication studies
Communication studies
Communication Studies is an academic field that deals with processes of communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, communication studies encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass...

, performance studies
Performance Studies
Performance studies have been growing as an academic field since the 1960s. Performance studies believe in the social act of Doing as it takes performance itself as the object of inquiry.The process of defining it becomes a practice in performance studies itself...

, advertising
Advertising
Advertising is a form of communication used to persuade an audience to take some action with respect to products, ideas, or services. Most commonly, the desired result is to drive consumer behavior with respect to a commercial offering, although political and ideological advertising is also common...

, psychology
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

, usability
Usability
Usability is the ease of use and learnability of a human-made object. The object of use can be a software application, website, book, tool, machine, process, or anything a human interacts with. A usability study may be conducted as a primary job function by a usability analyst or as a secondary job...

 and criminology
Criminology
Criminology is the scientific study of the nature, extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in society...

 are other fields which have made use of ethnography.

Cultural and Social Anthropology


Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

 and social anthropology
Social anthropology
Social Anthropology is one of the four or five branches of anthropology that studies how contemporary human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long-term, intensive field studies , the social organization of a particular person: customs,...

 were developed around ethnographic research and their canonical
Canonical
Canonical is an adjective derived from canon. Canon comes from the greek word κανών kanon, "rule" or "measuring stick" , and is used in various meanings....

 texts which are mostly ethnographies: e.g. Argonauts of the Western Pacific
Argonauts of the Western Pacific
Argonauts of the Western Pacific is a 1922 ethnological work by Bronisław Malinowski. The book is about the Trobriand people who live on a small island chain called the Kiriwina Islands northeast of Papua New Guinea...

(1922) by Bronisław Malinowski, Ethnologische Excursion in Johore by famous Russian ethnographer and naturalist ( "The moon man") (1875) Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay, Coming of Age in Samoa
Coming of Age in Samoa
Coming of Age in Samoa is a book by American anthropologist Margaret Mead based upon her research and study of youth on the island of Ta'u in the Samoa Islands which primarily focused on adolescent girls. Mead was 23 years old when she carried out her field work in Samoa...

(1928) by Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist, who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s....

, The Nuer (1940) by E. E. Evans-Pritchard
E. E. Evans-Pritchard
Sir Edward Evan Evans-Pritchard was an English anthropologist who was instrumental in the development of social anthropology...

, Naven (1936, 1958) by Gregory Bateson
Gregory Bateson
Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. He had a natural ability to recognize order and pattern in the universe...

 or "The Lele of the Kasai
The Lele of the Kasai
The Lele of the Kasai was the first book by the influential British anthropologist Mary Douglas under her married name...

" (1963) by Mary Douglas
Mary Douglas
Dame Mary Douglas, DBE, FBA was a British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism....

. Cultural and social anthropologists today place such a high value on actually doing ethnographic research that ethnology
Ethnology
Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the origins, distribution, technology, religion, language, and social structure of the ethnic, racial, and/or national divisions of humanity.-Scientific discipline:Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct...

—the comparative synthesis of ethnographic information—is rarely the foundation for a career. The typical ethnography is a document written about a particular people, almost always based at least in part on emic views of where the culture begins and ends. Using language or community boundaries to bound the ethnography is common. Ethnographies are also sometimes called "case studies." Ethnographers study and interpret culture, its universalities and its variations through ethnographic study based on fieldwork. An ethnography is a specific kind of written observational science which provides an account of a particular culture, society, or community. The fieldwork usually involves spending a year or more in another society, living with the local people and learning about their ways of life. Ethnographers are participant observers. They take part in events they study because it helps with understanding local behavior and thought. Classic examples are Carol Stack's All Our Kin, Jean Briggs' "Never in Anger", Richard Lee
Richard Borshay Lee
Richard Borshay Lee is a Canadian anthropologist. Lee has studied at the University of Toronto and University of California, Berkeley, where he received a Ph.D. Presently, he holds a position at the University of Toronto as Professor Emeritus of Anthropology...

's "Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers", Victor Turner
Victor Turner
Victor Witter Turner was a British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals and rites of passage...

's "Forest of Symbols", David Maybry-Lewis' "Akew-Shavante Society", E.E. Evans-Pritchard's "The Nuer" and Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

' "Tristes Tropiques
Tristes Tropiques
Tristes Tropiques is a memoir, first published in France in 1955, by the anthropologist and structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss. It documents his travels and anthropological work, focusing principally on Brazil, though it refers to many other places, such as the Caribbean and India...

". Iterations of ethnographic representations in the classic, modernist camp include Bartholomew Dean's recent (2009) contribution, Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia.
A typical ethnography attempts to be holistic and typically follows an outline to include a brief history of the culture in question, an analysis of the physical geography
Physical geography
Physical geography is one of the two major subfields of geography. Physical geography is that branch of natural science which deals with the study of processes and patterns in the natural environment like the atmosphere, biosphere and geosphere, as opposed to the cultural or built environment, the...

 or terrain inhabited by the people under study, including climate
Climate
Climate encompasses the statistics of temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, wind, rainfall, atmospheric particle count and other meteorological elemental measurements in a given region over long periods...

, and often including what biological anthropologists call habitat
Habitat
* Habitat , a place where a species lives and grows*Human habitat, a place where humans live, work or play** Space habitat, a space station intended as a permanent settlement...

. Folk notions of botany and zoology are presented as ethnobotany and ethnozoology alongside references from the formal sciences. Material culture, technology and means of subsistence are usually treated next, as they are typically bound up in physical geography and include descriptions of infrastructure. Kinship and social structure (including age grading, peer groups, gender, voluntary associations, clans, moieties, and so forth, if they exist) are typically included. Languages spoken, dialects and the history of language change are another group of standard topics. Practices of childrearing, acculturation and emic views on personality and values usually follow after sections on social structure. Rites, rituals, and other evidence of religion have long been an interest and are sometimes central to ethnographies, especially when conducted in public where visiting anthropologists can see them.

As ethnography developed, anthropologists grew more interested in less tangible aspects of culture, such as values, worldview and what Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz
Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

 termed the "ethos" of the culture. Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz
Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

's own fieldwork used elements of a phenomenological
Phenomenology (science)
The term phenomenology in science is used to describe a body of knowledge that relates empirical observations of phenomena to each other, in a way that is consistent with fundamental theory, but is not directly derived from theory. For example, we find the following definition in the Concise...

 approach to fieldwork, tracing not just the doings of people, but the cultural elements themselves. For example, if within a group of people, winking was a communicative gesture, he sought to first determine what kinds of things a wink might mean (it might mean several things). Then, he sought to determine in what contexts winks were used, and whether, as one moved about a region, winks remained meaningful in the same way. In this way, cultural boundaries of communication could be explored, as opposed to using linguistic boundaries or notions about residence. Geertz, while still following something of a traditional ethnographic outline, moved outside that outline to talk about "webs" instead of "outlines" of culture.

Within cultural anthropology, there are several sub-genres of ethnography. Beginning in the 1950s and early 1960s, anthropologists began writing "bio-confessional" ethnographies that intentionally exposed the nature of ethnographic research. Famous examples include Tristes Tropiques
Tristes Tropiques
Tristes Tropiques is a memoir, first published in France in 1955, by the anthropologist and structuralist Claude Lévi-Strauss. It documents his travels and anthropological work, focusing principally on Brazil, though it refers to many other places, such as the Caribbean and India...

(1955) by Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss
Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

, The High Valley by Kenneth Read, and The Savage and the Innocent by David Maybury-Lewis
David Maybury-Lewis
David Henry Peter Maybury-Lewis was an anthropologist, ethnologist of lowland South America, activist for indigenous peoples' human rights and professor emeritus of Harvard University....

, as well as the mildly fictionalized Return to Laughter by Elenore Smith Bowen (Laura Bohannan). Later "reflexive
Reflexivity (social theory)
Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a situation that does not render both functions causes and effects...

" ethnographies refined the technique to translate cultural differences by representing their effects on the ethnographer. Famous examples include "Deep Play: Notes on a Balinese Cockfight" by Clifford Geertz
Clifford Geertz
Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco by Paul Rabinow
Paul Rabinow
Paul Rabinow is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California , Director of the Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory , and former Director of Human Practices for the Synthetic Biology Engineering Research Center...

, The Headman and I by Jean-Paul Dumont, and Tuhami by Vincent Crapanzano. In the 1980s, the rhetoric of ethnography was subjected to intense scrutiny within the discipline, under the general influence of literary theory
Literary theory
Literary theory in a strict sense is the systematic study of the nature of literature and of the methods for analyzing literature. However, literary scholarship since the 19th century often includes—in addition to, or even instead of literary theory in the strict sense—considerations of...

 and post-colonial/post-structuralist thought. "Experimental" ethnographies that reveal the ferment of the discipline include Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man by Michael Taussig
Michael Taussig
Michael Taussig earned a medical degree from the University of Sydney, received his PhD. in anthropology from the London School of Economics and is a professor at Columbia University and European Graduate School...

, Debating Muslims by Michael F. J. Fischer and Mehdi Abedi, A Space on the Side of the Road by Kathleen Stewart, and Advocacy after Bhopal by Kim Fortun.

This critical turn in sociocultural anthropology during the mid-1980s can, in large part, can be traced to the influence of the now classic (and often contested) text, Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, (1986) edited by James Clifford
James Clifford
James Clifford is an historian and Professor in the History of Consciousness Department at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Clifford and Hayden White were among the first faculty directly appointed to the History of Consciousness Ph.D. program in 1978, which was originally the only...

 and George Marcus
George Marcus
George Marcus is an American anthropologist, founder of the journal and editor of the series.-Biography:Marcus served as the Joseph D. Jamail Professor at Rice University, where he chaired the anthropology department for 25 years...

. Writing Culture helped bring changes to both anthropology and ethnography often described in terms of being 'postmodern,' 'reflexive,' 'literary,' 'deconstructive,' or 'poststructural' in nature in that the text helped to highlight the various epistemic and political predicaments that many practitioners saw as plaguing ethnographic representations and practices. Where Geertz's
Clifford Geertz
Clifford James Geertz was an American anthropologist who is remembered mostly for his strong support for and influence on the practice of symbolic anthropology, and who was considered "for three decades...the single most influential cultural anthropologist in the United States." He served until...

 and Turner's
Victor Turner
Victor Witter Turner was a British cultural anthropologist best known for his work on symbols, rituals and rites of passage...

 interpretive anthropology recognized subjects as creative actors who constructed their sociocultural worlds out of symbols, postmodernists attempted to draw attention to the privileged status of the ethnographers themselves. That is, the ethnographer cannot escape their own particular viewpoint in creating an ethnographic account thus making any claims of objective neutrality on the part of their representation highly problematic, if not altogether impossible. In regards to this last point, Writing Culture became a focal point for looking at how ethnographers could describe different cultures and societies without denying the subjectivity of those individuals and groups being studied while simultaneously doing so without laying claiming to absolute knowledge and objective authority. Along with the development of experimental forms such as 'dialogic anthropology' and 'narrative ethnography,' Writing Culture helped to encourage the development of 'collaborative ethnography.' This exploration of the relationship between writer, audience, and subject has become a central tenet of contemporary anthropological and ethnographic practice wherein active collaboration between the researcher(s) and subject(s) has helped meld, in certain instances, the practice of collaboration in ethnographic fieldwork with the process of creating the actual ethnographic product that emerges from the research itself.

Sociology


Sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 is another field which prominently features ethnographies. Urban sociology
Urban sociology
Urban sociology is the sociological study of social life and human interaction in metropolitan areas. It is a normative discipline of sociology seeking to study the structures, processes, changes and problems of an urban area and by doing so providing inputs for planning and policy making. Like...

 and the Chicago School
Chicago school (sociology)
In sociology and later criminology, the Chicago School was the first major body of works emerging during the 1920s and 1930s specialising in urban sociology, and the research into the urban environment by combining theory and ethnographic fieldwork in Chicago, now applied elsewhere...

 in particular are associated with ethnographic research, with some well-known early examples being Street Corner Society
Street Corner Society
Street Corner Society is a famous descriptive case study written by William Foote Whyte and published in 1943.In the late 1930s, Whyte lived in a slum district of Boston that was mostly inhabited by first and second generation immigrants from Italy. The neighbourhood was considered dangerous and...

by William Foote Whyte
William Foote Whyte
William Foote Whyte was a sociologist chiefly known for his ethnological study in urban sociology, Street Corner Society...

 and Black Metropolis by St. Clair Drake
St. Clair Drake
St. Clair Drake was an African-American sociologist and anthropologist.Drake was born in Suffolk, Virginia. Upon graduation from Hampton Institute in 1931, he became involved with The Society of Friends in the south...

 and Horace R. Cayton, Jr.. Some of the influence for this can be traced to the anthropologist Lloyd Warner who was on the Chicago sociology faculty, and to Robert Park
Robert E. Park
Robert Ezra Park was an American urban sociologist, one of the main founders of the original Chicago School of sociology.-Life:...

's experience as a journalist. Symbolic interactionism
Symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interaction, also known as interactionism, is a sociological theory that places emphasis on micro-scale social interaction to provide subjective meaning in human behavior, the social process and pragmatism.-History:...

 developed from the same tradition and yielded several excellent sociological ethnographies, including Shared Fantasy by Gary Alan Fine
Gary Alan Fine
Gary Alan Fine is an American sociologist and author.- Life and career :The son of Bernard David Fine and Bernice Estelle Tanz, Fine grew up in Manhattan and went to the Horace Mann School. He studied psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and then received his PhD from Harvard in social...

, which documents the early history of fantasy role-playing games. Other important ethnographies in the discipline of sociology include Pierre Bourdieu
Pierre Bourdieu
Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist, and philosopher.Starting from the role of economic capital for social positioning, Bourdieu pioneered investigative frameworks and terminologies such as cultural, social, and symbolic capital, and the concepts of habitus, field or location,...

's work on Algeria and France, Paul Willis
Paul Willis (cultural theorist)
Paul Willis is a leading British cultural theorist.He was born in Wolverhampton and received his education at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Birmingham. He worked at Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and subsequently at the University of Wolverhampton. He was a...

's Learning To Labour on working class youth, and the work of Elijah Anderson
Elijah Anderson
Elijah Anderson is an American sociologist. He holds the William K. Lanman, Jr. Professorship in Sociology at Yale University, where he teaches and directs the Urban Ethnography Project. Anderson is one of the nation’s leading urban ethnographers and cultural theorists. He received his B.A. from...

, Mitchell Duneier
Mitchell Duneier
Mitchell Duneier is an American sociologist currently Professor of Sociology at Princeton University and regular Visiting Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York....

, Loic Wacquant
Loïc Wacquant
Loïc Wacquant is a sociologist, specializing in urban sociology, urban poverty, racial inequality, the body, social theory and ethnography....

 on black America and Glimpses of Madrasa From Africa, 2010 Lai Olurode. But even though many sub-fields and theoretical perspectives within sociology use ethnographic methods, ethnography is not the sine qua non
Sine qua non
Sine qua non or condicio sine qua non refers to an indispensable and essential action, condition, or ingredient...

of the discipline, as it is in cultural anthropology.

Communication studies


Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, ethnographic research methods began to be widely employed by communication scholars. Studies such as Gerry Philipsen's analysis of cultural communication strategies in a blue-collar, working class neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, Speaking 'Like a Man' in Teamsterville, paved the way for the expansion of ethnographic research in the study of communication.

Scholars of communication studies
Communication studies
Communication Studies is an academic field that deals with processes of communication, commonly defined as the sharing of symbols over distances in space and time. Hence, communication studies encompasses a wide range of topics and contexts ranging from face-to-face conversation to speeches to mass...

 use ethnographic research methods to analyze communication behaviors, seeking to answer the "why" and "how come" questions of human communication. Often this type of research results in a case study
Case study
A case study is an intensive analysis of an individual unit stressing developmental factors in relation to context. The case study is common in social sciences and life sciences. Case studies may be descriptive or explanatory. The latter type is used to explore causation in order to find...

 or field study such as an analysis of speech patterns at a protest rally, or the way firemen communicate during "down time" at a fire station. Like anthropology scholars, communication scholars often immerse themselves, participate in and/or directly observe the particular social group being studied.

Other fields


The American anthropologist George Spindler
George Spindler
George Dearborn Spindler was a leading figure in 20th century anthropology and regarded as the founder of the anthropology of education. He edited a very large series of short monographs, turning nearly every significant ethnographic text of the 20th century into a shorter work accessible to the...

 was a pioneer in applying ethnographic methodology to the classroom.

Anthropologists like Daniel Miller
Daniel Miller (anthropologist)
Daniel Miller is an anthropologist most closely associated with studies of our relationships to things and the consequences of consumption. His theoretical work was first developed in Material Culture and Mass Consumption and is summarized more recently in his book Stuff...

 and Mary Douglas
Mary Douglas
Dame Mary Douglas, DBE, FBA was a British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism....

 have used ethnographic data to answer academic questions about consumers and consumption. In this sense, Tony Salvador, Genevieve Bell
Genevieve Bell
Genevieve Bell is an Australian born anthropologist and researcher. Born in Sydney, she is the director of Intel Corporation's Interaction and Experience Research and was the 15th Thinker in Residence in South Australia...

, and Ken Anderson describe design ethnography as being "a way of understanding the particulars of daily life in such a way as to increase the success probability of a new product or service or, more appropriately, to reduce the probability of failure specifically due to a lack of understanding of the basic behaviors and frameworks of consumers."

Businesses, too, have found ethnographers helpful for understanding how people use products and services, as indicated in the increasing use of ethnographic methods to understand consumers and consumption, or for new product development (such as video ethnography
Video ethnography
Video ethnography is the video recording of the stream of activity of subjects in their natural setting, in order to experience, interpret, and represent culture and society.Schaeffer, Joseph H. "Videotape: New Techniques of Observation and Analysis in Anthropology." In Principles of Visual...

). Naked Eye Research
Naked Eye Research
-Overview:Naked Eye is a research company based in the United Kingdom that specialises in video ethnography as a means of helping companies and organisations design human-centred products and services, and to develop their communications and behavioural programmes...

 is a UK based company that specialises in video ethnography, which involves participating, observing and describing how people from particular cultural groups respond to the situations they find themselves in. The recent Ethnographic Praxis in Industry (EPIC) conference is evidence of this. Ethnographers' systematic and holistic approach to real-life experience is valued by product developers, who use the method to understand unstated desires or cultural practices that surround products. Where focus groups fail to inform marketers about what people really do, ethnography links what people say to what they actually do—avoiding the pitfalls that come from relying only on self-reported, focus-group data.

Evaluating ethnography


Ethnographic methodology is not usually evaluated in terms of philosophical standpoint (such as positivism and emotionalism). Ethnographic studies nonetheless need to be evaluated in some manner. While there is no consensus on evaluation standards, Richardson (2000, p. 254) provides 5 criteria that ethnographers might find helpful.
  1. Substantive Contribution: "Does the piece contribute to our understanding of social-life?"
  2. Aesthetic Merit: "Does this piece succeed aesthetically?"
  3. Reflexivity: "How did the author come to write this text…Is there adequate self-awareness and self-exposure for the reader to make judgments about the point of view?"
  4. Impact: "Does this affect me? Emotionally? Intellectually?" Does it move me?
  5. Expresses a Reality: "Does it seem 'true'—a credible account of a cultural, social, individual, or communal sense of the 'real'?"

Ethics



Gary Alan Fine
Gary Alan Fine
Gary Alan Fine is an American sociologist and author.- Life and career :The son of Bernard David Fine and Bernice Estelle Tanz, Fine grew up in Manhattan and went to the Horace Mann School. He studied psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and then received his PhD from Harvard in social...

 argues that the nature of ethnographic inquiry demands that researchers deviate from formal and idealistic rules or ethics that have come to be widely accepted in qualitative and quantitative approaches in research. Many of these ethical assumptions are rooted in positivist and post-positivist epistemologies that have adapted over time, but nonetheless are apparent and must be accounted for in all research paradigms. These ethical dilemmas are evident throughout the entire process of conducting ethnographies, including the design, implementation, and reporting of an ethnographic study. Essentially, Fine maintains that researchers are typically not as ethical as they claim or assume to be — and that "each job includes ways of doing things that would be inappropriate for others to know".

Fine is not necessarily casting blame or pointing his finger at ethnographic researchers, but rather is attempting to show that researchers often make idealized ethical claims and standards which in actuality are inherently based on partial truths and self-deceptions. Fine also acknowledges that many of these partial truths and self-deceptions are unavoidable. He maintains that "illusions" are essential to maintain an occupational reputation and avoid potentially more caustic consequences. He claims, "Ethnographers cannot help but lie, but in lying, we reveal truths that escape those who are not so bold". Based on these assertions, Fine establishes three conceptual clusters in which ethnographic ethical dilemmas can be situated: "Classic Virtues," "Technical Skills," and "Ethnographic Self."

Much debate surrounding the issue of ethics arose after the ethnographer Napoleon Chagnon
Napoleon Chagnon
Napoleon A. Chagnon is an American anthropologist and retired professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was born in Port Austin, Michigan...

 conducted his ethnographic fieldwork with the Yanomamo people of South America.

While there is no international standard on Ethnographic Ethics, many western anthropologists look to the American Anthropological Association for guidance when conducting ethnographic work. The Association has generated a code of ethics approved in February 2009 which states that Anthropologists have "moral obligations as members of other groups, such as the family, religion, and community, as well as the profession". The code of ethics goes on to note that anthropologists are also part of a wider scholarly and political network as well as human and natural environment which needs to be reported on respectfully. The code of ethics recognizes that sometimes very close and personal relationship can sometimes emerge out of doing ethnographic work. The American Anthropological Association does recognize that the code is a bit limited in scope mainly because doing ethnographic work can sometimes be multidisciplinary and anthropologists need to familiarize themselves with ethic not only from an anthropological perspective but also from the perspectives of other disciplines. The eight page code of ethics outlines ethical considerations for those conducting Research, Teaching, Application and Dissemination of Results which are briefly outlined below.
  • Conducting Research-When conducting research Anthropologists need to be aware of the potential impacts of the research on the people and animals they study. If the seeking of new knowledge will negatively impact the people and animals they will be studying they may not undertake the study according to the code of ethics.

  • Teaching-When teaching the discipline of anthropology, instructors are required to inform students of the ethical dilemmas of conducting ethnographies and field work.

  • Application-When conducting an ethnography Anthropologists must be "open with funders, colleagues, persons studied or

providing information, and relevant parties affected by the work about the purpose(s), potential impacts, and source(s) of support for the work."
  • Dissemination of Results-When disseminating results of an ethnography the code notes that "[a]nthropologists have an ethical obligation to consider the potential impact of both their research and the communication or dissemination of the results of their research on all direcrly or indirectly involved." Research results of ethnographies should not be withheld from participants in the research if that research is being observed by other people.

Classic virtues

  • "The kindly ethnographer" – Most ethnographers present themselves as being more sympathetic than they actually are, which aids in the research process, but is also deceptive. The identity that we present to subjects is different from who we are in other circumstances.
  • "The friendly ethnographer" – Ethnographers operate under the assumption that they should not dislike anyone. In actuality, when hated individuals are found within research, ethnographers often crop them out of the findings.
  • "The honest ethnographer" – If research participants know the research goals, their responses will likely be skewed. Therefore, ethnographers often conceal what they know in order to increase the likelihood of acceptance.

Technical skills

  • "The Precise Ethnographer" – Ethnographers often create the illusion that field notes are data and reflect what "really" happened. They engage in the opposite of plagiarism, giving credit to those undeserving by not using precise words but rather loose interpretations and paraphrasing. Researchers take near-fictions and turn them into claims of fact. The closest ethnographers can ever really get to reality is an approximate truth.
  • "The Observant Ethnographer" – Readers of ethnography are often led to assume the report of a scene is complete – that little of importance was missed. In reality, an ethnographer will always miss some aspect because they are not omniscient. Everything is open to multiple interpretations and misunderstandings. The ability of the ethnographer to take notes and observe varies, and therefore, what is depicted in ethnography is not the whole picture.
  • "The Unobtrusive Ethnographer" – As a "participant" in the scene, the researcher will always have an effect on the communication that occurs within the research site. The degree to which one is an "active member" affects the extent to which sympathetic understanding is possible.

The ethnographic self


The following appellations are commonly misconceived conceptions of ethnographers:
  • "The Candid Ethnographer" – Where the researcher situates themselves within the ethnography is ethically problematic. There is an illusion that everything reported has actually happened because the researcher has been directly exposed to it.
  • "The Chaste Ethnographer" – When ethnographers participate within the field, they invariably develop relationships with research subjects/participants. These relationships are sometimes not accounted for within the reporting of the ethnography despite the fact that they seemingly would influence the research findings.
  • "The Fair Ethnographer" – Fine claims that objectivity is an illusion and that everything in ethnography is known from a perspective. Therefore, it is unethical for a researcher to report fairness in their findings.
  • "The Literary Ethnographer" – Representation is a balancing act of determining what to "show" through poetic/prosaic language and style versus what to "tell" via straightforward, ‘factual’ reporting. The idiosyncratic skill of the ethnographer influences the face-value of the research.


eight principles should be considered for observing, recording and sampling data according to Denzin:
  1. The groups should combine symbolic meanings with patterns of interaction.
  2. Observe the world from the point of view of the subject, while maintaining the distinction between everyday and scientific perceptions of reality.
  3. Link the group's symbols and their meanings with the social relationships.
  4. Record all behaviour.
  5. Methodology should highlight phases of process, change and stability.
  6. The act should be a type of symbolic interactionism.
  7. Use concepts that would avoid casual explanations.

See also

  • Area studies
    Area studies
    Area studies are interdisciplinary fields of research and scholarship pertaining to particular geographical, national/federal, or cultural regions. The term exists primarily as a general description for what are, in the practice of scholarship, many heterogeneous fields of research, encompassing...

  • Critical ethnography
    Critical Ethnography
    Critical ethnography applies a critical theory based approach to ethnography. It focuses on the implicit values expressed within ethnographic studies and, therefore, on the unacknowledged biases that may result from such implicit values. It has been called critical theory in practice...

  • Ethnography of communication
    Ethnography of communication
    The Ethnography of communication is a method of discourse analysis in linguistics, which draws on the anthropological field of ethnography. Unlike ethnography proper, though, it takes both language and culture to be constitutive as well as constructive. In their book Qualitative Communication...

  • Realist ethnography
  • Online ethnography: a form of ethnography that involves conducting ethnographic studies on the Internet
  • Participant observation
    Participant observation
    Participant observation is a type of research strategy. It is a widely used methodology in many disciplines, particularly, cultural anthropology, but also sociology, communication studies, and social psychology...

  • Video ethnography
    Video ethnography
    Video ethnography is the video recording of the stream of activity of subjects in their natural setting, in order to experience, interpret, and represent culture and society.Schaeffer, Joseph H. "Videotape: New Techniques of Observation and Analysis in Anthropology." In Principles of Visual...

  • Living lab
    Living lab
    A living lab is a research concept. A living lab is a user-centred, open-innovation ecosystem, often operating in a territorial context , integrating concurrent research and innovation processes within a public-private-people partnership.The concept is based on a systematic user co-creation...


Notable ethnographers

  • Franz Boas
    Franz Boas
    Franz Boas was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology" and "the Father of Modern Anthropology." Like many such pioneers, he trained in other disciplines; he received his doctorate in physics, and did...

  • Raymond Firth
    Raymond Firth
    Sir Raymond William Firth, CNZM, FBA, was an ethnologist from New Zealand. As a result of Firth's ethnographic work, actual behaviour of societies is separated from the idealized rules of behaviour within the particular society...

  • Bronisław Malinowski
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss
    Claude Lévi-Strauss was a French anthropologist and ethnologist, and has been called, along with James George Frazer, the "father of modern anthropology"....

  • Nicholas Miklouho-Maclay
  • Mary Douglas
    Mary Douglas
    Dame Mary Douglas, DBE, FBA was a British anthropologist, known for her writings on human culture and symbolism....

  • Gregory Bateson
    Gregory Bateson
    Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. He had a natural ability to recognize order and pattern in the universe...

  • Zalpa Bersanova
    Zalpa Bersanova
    Zalpa Khozh-Akhmedovna Bersanova is a Chechen ethnographer and author who has written extensively on the Chechen people and the First and Second Chechen Wars. She is particularly noted for her beliefs that the values of Chechen society have survived the wars...

  • Napoleon Chagnon
    Napoleon Chagnon
    Napoleon A. Chagnon is an American anthropologist and retired professor emeritus at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was born in Port Austin, Michigan...

  • Diamond Jenness
    Diamond Jenness
    Diamond Jenness, CC was one of Canada's greatest early scientists and a pioneer of Canadian anthropology.-Biography:...

  • Ruth Landes
    Ruth Landes
    Ruth Landes was an American cultural anthropologist best known for studies on Brazilian candomblé cults and her published study on the topic, City of Women...

  • Edmund Leach
    Edmund Leach
    Sir Edmund Ronald Leach was a British social anthropologist of whom it has been said:"It is no exaggeration to say that in sheer versatility, originality, and range of writing he was and still is difficult to match among the anthropologists of the English speaking world".-Personal and academic...

  • José Leite de Vasconcelos
    José Leite de Vasconcelos
    José Leite de Vasconcelos Cardoso Pereira de Melo was a Portuguese ethnographer and prolific author who wrote extensively on Portuguese philology and prehistory...

  • David Maybury-Lewis
    David Maybury-Lewis
    David Henry Peter Maybury-Lewis was an anthropologist, ethnologist of lowland South America, activist for indigenous peoples' human rights and professor emeritus of Harvard University....

  • Margaret Mead
    Margaret Mead
    Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist, who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s....

  • Nikolai Nadezhdin
    Nikolai Nadezhdin
    Nikolai Ivanovich Nadezhdin was a Russian literary critic and Russia's first ethnographer.Born in the Zaraisk District of Ryazan guberniya, Nadezhdin graduated from Ryazan Seminary in 1815 and Moscow Religious Academy in 1824...

  • Lubor Niederle
    Lubor Niederle
    Lubor Niederle was a Czech archeologist, anthropologist and ethnographer. He is seen as one of the founders of modern archeology in Czech lands....

  • Dositej Obradović
    Dositej Obradovic
    Dositej Dimitrije Obradović was a Serbian author, philosopher, linguist, polyglot and the first minister of education of Serbia...

  • Alexey Okladnikov
  • Sergey Oldenburg
    Sergey Oldenburg
    Sergey Fyodorovich Oldenburg was a Russian orientalist who specialized in Buddhist studies. He is remembered as the founder of Russian Indology and the teacher of Fyodor Shcherbatskoy....

  • Richard Price
  • Edward Sapir
    Edward Sapir
    Edward Sapir was an American anthropologist-linguist, widely considered to be one of the most important figures in the early development of the discipline of linguistics....

  • August Ludwig von Schlözer
    August Ludwig von Schlözer
    August Ludwig von Schlözer was a German historian who laid foundations for the critical study of Russian history.-Early career:...

  • Marilyn Strathern
    Marilyn Strathern
    Dame Ann Marilyn Strathern, DBE, FBA is a British anthropologist who was Mistress of Girton College, Cambridge from 1998 until her retirement in 2009...


  • Lila Abu-Lughod
    Lila Abu-Lughod
    Lila Abu-Lughod is a Palestinian-American professor of Anthropology and Women's and Gender Studies at Columbia University in New York City. A specialist on the Arab world, her seven books, most based on long term ethnographic research, cover topics from sentiment and poetry to nationalism and...

  • Sudhir Venkatesh
  • Ian Collins
  • Leni Riefenstahl
    Leni Riefenstahl
    Helene Bertha Amalie "Leni" Riefenstahl was a German film director, actress and dancer widely noted for her aesthetics and innovations as a filmmaker. Her most famous film was Triumph des Willens , a propaganda film made at the 1934 Nuremberg congress of the Nazi Party...

  • Paul Willis
    Paul Willis (cultural theorist)
    Paul Willis is a leading British cultural theorist.He was born in Wolverhampton and received his education at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Birmingham. He worked at Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies and subsequently at the University of Wolverhampton. He was a...


Suggested Reading

  • Agar, Michael (1996) The Professional Stranger: An Informal Introduction to Ethnography. Academic Press.
  • Clifford, James & George E. Marcus (Eds.). Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. (1986). Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Douglas, Mary and Baron Isherwood (1996) The World of Goods: Toward and Anthropology of Consumption. Routledge, London.
  • Erickson, Ken C. and Donald D. Stull (1997) Doing Team Ethnography : Warnings and Advice. Sage, Beverly Hills.
  • Fine, G. A. (1993). Ten lies of ethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 22(3), p. 267-294.
  • Geertz, Clifford. The Interpretation of Cultures.
  • Heath, Shirley Brice & Brian Street, with Molly Mills. On Ethnography.
  • Hymes, Dell. (1974). Foundations in sociolinguistics: An ethnographic approach. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Kottak, Conrad Phillip (2005) Window on Humanity : A Concise Introduction to General Anthropology, (pages 2–3, 16-17, 34-44). McGraw Hill, New York.
  • Marcus, George E. & Michael Fischer. Anthropology as Cultural Critique: An Experimental Moment in the Human Sciences. (1986). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Miller, Daniel (1987) Material Culture and Mass Consumption. Blackwell, London.
  • Spradley, James P. (1979) The Ethnographic Interview. Wadsworth Group/Thomson Learning.
  • Salvador, Tony; Genevieve Bell; and Ken Anderson (1999) Design Ethnography. Design Management Journal.
  • Van Maanen, John. 1988. Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Westbrook, David A. Navigators of the Contemporary: Why Ethnography Matters. (2008). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

External links



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