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Christine Kim
ANTH 102 F-001
Fall 2014
Orange Coast College
17 September 2014
Activity: Ethnographic Activity Part 1
Location: Panda Express
Time: 1o clock, Monday 15 September 2014
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Anthropological research is not just reporting events and details of experience- its also
attempting to explain how these represent the cultural constructions in which we live.
Ethnology explains the past and present diversity found in cultural systems in the world.
Ethnography was created to collect and record descriptive data about those cultural systems and
contain ethnographic fieldwork, which collects cultural data by studying and interviewing living
members of a society, and ethnohistoric research- studying a peoples culture using written
accounts and other records. It can be either synchronic, which pertains to just one single period
of time, or diachronic, which studies change in a culture over a period of time.
The 30-minute ethnographic fieldwork was conducted at the Panda Express next to
Barnes and Noble around 1o clock. Most customers that came in werent in groups, but groups
of two or more people tended to sit in and eat, as opposed to to-go. Families with small children
and small groups of middle-age men were the most common demographic.
The family sitting directly in front of me ended up getting more focus due to their
location, ease of observation without eliciting negative reaction, and the nature of the dynamic
within the group and the overall behavior seen in all three members. There were two younger
adults, supposedly married, and a small child no older than 5- all white. They sat a table for four
people and took about half an hour to eat. The supposed wife was continuously preoccupied or
otherwise inattentive. She often checked her phone and talked to the husband without regard to
either his or the childs actions/lack of response. The husband talked little and was the one who
supervised the child when he wandered away into the bathrooms and fed the child. The child
itself was restless and constantly played with his food, utensils, and fortune cookie, but was
otherwise mild and behaving. All members of the group were tanned and in summer apparel,
with both adults in sunglasses and sandals. When they left the restaurant, the wife was detached
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from the group as they walked into the parking lot, and was the one holding the car keys-
presumably to drive. While the husband took general care of the child and his emotional needs,
the wife mostly occupied herself with her own concerns- even sitting alone on the opposite end
of the table from the rest of her family- and talked only about herself or other people.
The man sitting next to me at the taller booth area was an older middle-aged man with a
bowl-sized order of food, a cup of free water, and an enormous pile of used napkins littering his
area of the table. He white, was well-dressed, in an expensive dress-shirt and black slacks with
an expensive pen in his breast pocket. He had on an expensive watch, but never checked his
phone- perhaps not owning one. When I sat down at the table, he was already close to finished
with his meal, but throughout the entire duration of my observation, he never finished his meal.
There were many other single customers both sitting down and ordering to-go in a similar
demographic as him, but he stood out as being the most obviously wealthy of anyone in the
restaurant. Another noticeable factor was the large number of napkins he had on his tray. The
slow, methodical, and impeccable nature of how he ate his lunch, combined with the leisure of
an extended lunch break and assumed wealth backing his clothing suggested he was a well-off,
more traditional businessman.
While I was observing the customers in the restaurant, I was also eating my own lunch- a
sort of participant observation. I tried casually looking around without looking suspicious, which
organically led my focus into my two focal points- the family and the businessman. While I
conducted the ethnographic fieldwork, it didnt feel like an anthropologist deep in the Amazon
rainforest studying an obscure tribe, but as just another person coming in during lunch to eat
food and look around the room occasionally. There wasnt anything I could do without directly
interviewing the other people I was observing to get a more insider insight on them. The wife of
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the family was notably talkative, but most of her conversation was either unintelligible or
focused on the matters of her friends with very little useful information. Overall, everyone
observed in the resteraunt were there to eat, little else. Most of them talked little if there werent
any smaller kids in their group- kids usually less in tune with the mini-culture of keeping your
head down while eating in public (barring any sort of specific social event or meeting).

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Works Cited
Hoey, Brian A., Ph.D. "What Is Ethnography?" Http://www.brianhoey.com/. N.p., 02 Nov. 2012. Web.
17 Sept. 2014.
Peoples, James G., and Garrick Alan Bailey. "Methods of Investigation." Humanity: An Introduction to
Cultural Anthropology. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Print.

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Notes
-mom and teen son looking out window having awkward talk; kid looks down often *mom has bowl.
Son has plate)
-female employee eats lunch here (uses actual plate) gets lack to work quickly
-wife talking to husband while neither husband nor kid pay attention to what she says. Kid playing with
food, cookie, chopstick
-bald guy finicky about his to-go order, continuously double checks his order/sauces
-old man sitting beside me has been 90% done with meal since I came in; tray filled with napkins. He
eats extremely slowly and wears suit/time w/o jacket
-lots of white guys w/beards (old)
-neighbor has pen in pocket (breast)(fancy pen) silver ring(large)nicewatch
-ordered a water+bowl
-wife has fancy sunglasses
-husband taktes care of 5yr old kid, wife checks phone often
-kid is wearing all blue
-both of couple have sunglasses+sandals +sunburned