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Ethnography as a development worker with Gypsies and Travellers in the North- east of England Sarah Buckler Durham University & Sunderland City Council.

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Presentation on theme: "Ethnography as a development worker with Gypsies and Travellers in the North- east of England Sarah Buckler Durham University & Sunderland City Council."— Presentation transcript:

1 Ethnography as a development worker with Gypsies and Travellers in the North- east of England Sarah Buckler Durham University & Sunderland City Council

2 conflicts and tensions in the research situation – employers – funders – community – supervisor – colleagues – family

3 Dealing with Boundaries Boundary is a recurrent theme in much anthropological writing – a useful ethnographic device. - Research based boundaries - Metaphorical boundaries - Disciplinary boundaries - Applied vs. theoretical boundaries

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6 The making of an anthropologist

7 Balancing needs – people, culture and organisations The importance of institutions and power structures in the creation and maintenance of culture Problem – when you have so many different perspectives and themes to study there are few research methods that you can effectively use

8 The unreliable dichotomy culture and identity are produced through interaction this begs the question of the role of the anthropologist

9 The web of relationships (echoes of Geertz?)

10 Ethnography at home One aspect of the ethnographic tradition is the expectation that eventually the ethnographer goes home – and home is the academic institution within which the final work is produced; the point of departure from the field marks the boundary between fieldwork and writing up.

11 The ethnographer at home and in the field I studied, worked, wrote, visited, talked to supervisors and students and then went to discuss the same issues with Gypsies and with colleagues at work. Furthermore, people came to visit me – there was a great deal of curiosity about the place where I go and write, as it was referred to by some of the people I worked with

12 My many different hats

13 The search for the subject matter am I studying Gypsies and their culture? –If I am, how can I make sense of all the ways in which they are the same as anyone else? am I studying organisational structures? –If I am, how do I incorporate the very un-institutionalised world of the Gypsies I work with? am I studying the culture of Teesside? –If I am, where do I find it, it cant be so easily pinned down and defined? am I studying myself? –If I am, how do I make the study relevant and interesting rather than navel-gazing?

14 The things anthropologists can find to study

15 Engagement in the field Unavoidable Especially when employed to make a difference Multiply challenging when dealing with multiple fields What is it you are expected to produce?

16 Putting on the hats 7.00am – get up, get kids ready for school, take them to childminder (mother) 8.00am – catch bus to uni, meet friend and chat about dissertation (student) 9.00am – prepare lecture, answer s from students (lecturer) 10.00am – do lecture (lecturer) 12.00pm – off to work, meeting at council (worker – for council) 3.00pm – finished meeting, off to site (worker – for Gypsies) 5.15pm – catch up with supervisor (student) 6.00pm – home, collect kids, cook tea, kids to bed (mother) 8.30pm – answer phone call from Gypsies (worker – for Gypsies/or friend?) 9.00pm – write up notes from the day (student)

17 Frustrated with policy over people This frustration also influenced the choice of subject matter as I felt a need to explore the ways in which the teaching and learning process did not always work; the points at which something fails are just as illuminating as the points at which it succeeds – perhaps even more so, because when it fails we are even more painfully aware that we are trying to achieve something.

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19 Conclusions Ethnography extremely useful when subject matter is unclear. Or when subject matter does not lend itself to a clear alternative research methodology Also when research question is maybe not clear Of course this makes it difficult re for instance funding and ethics expectations Is also questionable when trying to claim status of social science Is the kind of thing that can be done by an anthropologist who is also something else


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