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Geography 23350: Qualitative Methods Week 4 Dr Malcolm Fairbrother 29/10/2009 ETHNOGRAPHY.

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Presentation on theme: "Geography 23350: Qualitative Methods Week 4 Dr Malcolm Fairbrother 29/10/2009 ETHNOGRAPHY."— Presentation transcript:

1 Geography 23350: Qualitative Methods Week 4 Dr Malcolm Fairbrother 29/10/2009 ETHNOGRAPHY

2 Outline 1) Purser ) Defining Ethnography 3) Why (Not) Ethnography? 4) Other Examples of Ethnography 5) Dilemmas in Ethnography 6) Origins of Ethnography 7) Instructions for the Practical

3 (1) Purser 2009 context: immigration and the U.S. labour market two sites to investigate the subjective experience of day labouring finding: the pursuit of dignity, and comparisons to the undignified gender: what it means to be a man methods: hanging around and watching, interviews

4 (1) Purser 2009


6 (2) Defining Ethnography social research based on the close-up, on- the-ground observation of people and institutions in real time and space, in which the investigator embeds herself near (or within) the phenomenon so as to detect how and why agents on the scene act, think and feel the way they do (Wacquant 2003: 5)

7 (2) Defining Ethnography immersion in (often unfamiliar) social settings thick description (vivid, narrative) emphasis on peoples subjective lived experience variants and approaches: 1. active participation (e.g., as a worker) 2. casual participation (e.g., hanging around a place) 3. non-participant observation (possibly covert) 4. combination with (formal/informal) interviews application to broader theoretical work common (though not universal) interests: the marginalised, the weak, the deviant, the illegal

8 (3a) Why Ethnography?

9 access to marginalised populations necessitymaybe no other way to study them rich description of social life more human than a data frame capturing subjective experience get a sense of how subjects experience and perceive the world eliciting sensitive/intimate information may be able to win subjects trust through repeated contacts/interactions

10 (3b) Why Not Ethnography?

11 causality hard to assess what factors make things different not enough units to do statistics representativeness/generalisability site/sample may not be typical perspective may be hard to see broader context may be swayed by subjects perspectives

12 (4) Other Examples of Ethnography Bernstein: sex workers and their clients Bourgois: drug trade in Harlem Burawoy: Chicago factory (and others) Kunda: tech workers Malinowski: Pacific Islanders Sallaz: casinos in California and S Africa Wacquant: boxers in Chicago Whyte: American slum (Boston) Willis: working class boys in Britain

13 (5) Dilemmas in Ethnography getting access and building trust biases, misunderstandings, and inaccurate interpretations risk of misrepresenting (sometimes powerless) subjects ethnographers influence on the field site disclosure/presentation/relationship to subjects (and other ethical concerns) how to approach going into the field, and how to apply findings to theory

14 (6) Origins of Ethnography anthropology fieldwork in overseas, pre-industrial societies links to natural history, colonial rule sociology Chicago School of urban research questions about social change and (dis)integration in fast-growing industrial cities

15 (7) Practical see handout… choosing a site: be creative! Ill be in my office (2.17N) until 2:00PM, then back here SoGS office: be back by 4:30, with your fieldnotes!

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