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The ANNALS of the American Academy of

Political and Social Science


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Preface
Elijah Anderson, Scott N. Brooks, Raymond Gunn and Nikki Jones
The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2004; 595; 6
DOI: 10.1177/0002716204267846

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T
THE ANNALS OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY
10.1177/0002716204267846
PREFACE

hese articles are gathered from the ethnog-


raphy conference “Being Here and Being
There: Fieldwo r k Enco unters a nd
Ethnographic Discoveries,” which was held at
the University of Pennsylvania in November
2003.
An ethnography fieldwork conference that
was held at the University of California, Los
Preface Angeles, in May 2002, provided a rare opportu-
nity for established scholars and graduate stu-
dents to share their work and to socialize infor-
mally. Participants at the Penn conference
explored further some of the projects, pro-
grams, and conversations from the California
By
conference. In keeping with the previous con-
ELIJAH ANDERSON, ference, new and seasoned fieldworkers from
SCOTT N. BROOKS, various parts of the United States and the world
RAYMOND GUNN, came together to underscore the value of
and ethnographic work and also to seek new
NIKKI JONES directions.
With these concerns in mind, conference
participants discussed the social organization of
urban life, culture, and the continuing signifi-
cance of the city as a site for ethnographic stud-
ies. Seemingly, ethnographers are forever in
search of ways to better get at these persistent
issues: How do people live? How do they go
about meeting the demands of life? How and
why do they form their definitions of the situa-
tion? What do researchers know about these
processes? How do we know what we know? and
What is its significance? These are among the
issues that were addressed over the course of the
conference. There was ample opportunity for
young scholars and veteran field researchers to
come together in an intimate setting to bridge
their work in ways that both take ethnography
into the future and reestablish ties to their
scholarly roots.
When the four of us met to discuss putting on
an ethnography conference, we had no idea how
much of a Herculean task it would be or how sat-

DOI: 10.1177/0002716204267846

ANNALS, AAPSS, 595, September 2004 6

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PREFACE 7

isfying it would be for us individually and collectively. It seemed simple enough to


get folks together who do ethnography; after all, what ethnographers do is “get
with” people. Essentially, inviting friends over for a two-day dinner to share “sto-
ries” was what we envisioned and hoped for. Our friends came from far and wide.
They came from many parts of the United States, as well as France, Finland, and
England—and all had fascinating stories to share. We encouraged veteran
fieldworkers to include their students in this wonderful enterprise as a way to make
explicit the importance of mentoring as an integral part of ethnographic work.
Indeed, mentoring is a major theme that runs throughout the proceedings, and
it is one of the threads that holds this volume together so well. Another thread is the
ethnographer’s passion for learning from others. In the pieces that follow, the
reader will come away with a clear sense of the various ways ethnographers develop
relationships with people in the field and learn from these people so as to conduct a
systematic study of the culture of the people. In short, ethnography is about real
life and how people go about meeting the demands of life.
One learns from this volume that as students of culture, ethnographers must
possess curiosity, openness, and humility—three traits that are vital for “getting
with” people.
We tend to be internally motivated to examine specific issues and people. We
often find ourselves interacting with those whom others talk about but do not nec-
essarily talk to. Sometimes, we are those people, a marginal status that we use to
empower our observations and insights.
The insight gleaned is rich and poignant, seemingly perfect for social policy. But
ethnography and social policy have a troubled marriage. The truths that are born of
ethnographic work rarely fit neatly with the ways social policies are implemented.
This tension plays itself out in a variety of ways—some more explicitly than oth-
ers—but it is always present in ethnographic work.
This volume is unique, as far as we know, for bringing such a broad range of sto-
ries and researchers together. One might even wonder how they fit together; this is
the point of gathering such work in a single source. The unity lies not so much in
general themes, though they exist, but in the challenges and boons of fieldwork
born out of “thick description” and examined experiences, which we were able to
exchange at the conference. What lie before you are some of the “stories” that par-
ticipants shared.

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