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Ethnography

Session 1

Module details
Intensive module
Mondays 3-5pm, Room U122
Fridays 1 3pm, Room U122
Module handout on Learn
Read in advance of lectures
Read monographs
Do practical work
Assessment: 100% coursework
Plagiarism watch out

Ethnographic methods
Main features
Focus is usually on a single setting or group
Data gathered from range of sources, but

participant observation and informal


interviews are usually main ones
Unstructured data collection - that is data
collected initially in as raw a form as
possible
Behaviour studied in everyday contexts
Analysis involves interpretation, which
includes description and explanation but
little statistics or quantification

Minimal Definition
Iterative-inductive research (that evolves in design

through the study), drawing on


a family of methods,
involving direct and sustained contact with human
agents
within the context of their daily lives (and cultures).
Watching what happens, listening to what is said,
asking questions, and
producing a richly written account
that respects the irreducibility of human experience,
that acknowledges the role of theory
as well as the researcher's own role,
and that views humans as part object/part subject.

A History of Fieldwork
Social Anthropology and

Bronislaw Malinowski
(1884-1942)
The Trobriand Islands
Book: Argonauts of The
Western Pacific (Chapter
One)

Malinowskis
Methodology:
Data collected in context
Time is essential
to limit effects as observer
to understand the group as an insider
to develop hypotheses
to observe seasonal changes
Participation:
experience;
settling

in

Malinowskis
Methodology
Observation: the more detached role
Collecting data
systematic, rigorous, comprehensive
Learning the language
linguistic and cultural

Malinowskis
ethnography

Relationship of theory to data: theory

flows from data


Functionalism: The Sexual Life of

Savages, 1932 edition


Positivism: science, facts,

generalisations

Sociology and The Chicago


School
Committed to direct fieldwork and empirical study
Robert Parks: Go get the seats of your pants

dirty in real research


Result was a number of classics
Frederic Thrashers The Gang
Clifford Shaws The Jack Roller
Nels Andersons The Hobo
Zorbaugh, The Gold

Coast and The Slum

The Chicago School


Developed participant observation and

case study methods


Case study: a research design that takes
as its subject a single case or a few
selected examples of a social entity
For example: a community, a social
group, employers, life histories.
A variety of methods are employed to
study these

Laud Humphreys
Tearoom Trade: Impersonal
Sex in Public Places

Humphreys
Covert research (issues of ethics)
Participation: finding an insider role
Observation: systematic
Data to theory: no pre-stated

hypotheses

Positivist versus Interpretivist


Ethnography
Two main ways of approaching qualitative research
1) Accepting the superiority of the scientific approach
2) Viewing qualitative methodology as a different kind
of science

Ethnographic research is
iterative-inductive

What is ethnography used for


(what sorts of questions does it respond to?)
Not hypothesis-led
Therefore it would not be led by a proposition such as

students take photographs so they can send them home to


their families. Instead it would ask: Why do students take
photographs, and how (if at all) are these implicated in their
relationships with their families.

Exploratory, often raises as many questions as it

answers

Asks questions about how other people live their lives, what

is important to them, what are their values, their moralities,


their understandings of the world, their social relations,
rituals, institutions, and how is all this experienced

Key Principles
Ethnographic Research is:
Flexible
Reflexive
Collaborative
Ethical

The distinction between methodology and method


Sarah Pink. Women and Bullfighting.
The methodology is the approach taken and the method is the actual

practice one uses such as interviewing and participant observation.

Methodology: reflexive and experiential

wanted to experience how women could fit in to bullfighting culture.

Participatory methods to achieve this: For example, by learning local

horse riding techniques, practicing local photography conventions, going to


bullfighting clubs and performances fitting into that culture in the best way.

Observational methods to achieve this: Didnt want to be a woman

bullfighter, but observed and discussed the performances of women who did
and met and spoke with them to try to understand their lives

Photographic and media research methods: Also viewed, discussed

photographs, magazines, and televised bullfights with people participating in


the research especially those featuring women performers. She wanted to
learn how they interpreted these (audio)visual) representations as this was a
key way to find out how they understood the role of women bullfighters.