ethnography

qualitative research design aimed at exploring cultural phenomena

The term 'ethnography' refers both to a distinctive style of social research and to the product of this type of research. An older term with partially overlapping meaning is 'ethnology', but this is now rarely used. Ethnography is a form of inquiry that usually relies heavily on participant observation, on the researcher participating in the setting or with the people being studied, at least in some marginal role, and seeking to document, in detail, patterns of social interaction and the perspectives of participants, and to understand these in their local contexts. It had its origin in social and cultural anthropology in the early twentieth century, but spread to other social science disciplines, notably sociology, during the course of that century. Ethnographers mainly use qualitative methods, though they may also employ quantitative data. A wide range of types of group and organisation have been studied by this method, including traditional communities, youth gangs, religious cults, and organisations of various kinds. While, traditionally, ethnography has relied on the physical presence of the researcher in a setting, there is research using the label that has relied on interviews or documents, sometimes to investigate events in the past such as the NASA challenger disaster. There is also a considerable amount of 'virtual' or online ethnography, sometimes labelled netnography or cyber-ethnography. Ethnography entails examining the behaviour of the participants in a given social situation and also understanding group members' own interpretation of such behaviour. Dewan (2018) further elaborates that this behaviour may be shaped by the constraints the participants feel because of the situations they are in or by the society in which they belong. Ethnography, as the presentation of empirical data on human societies and cultures, was pioneered in the biological, social, and cultural branches of anthropology, but it has also become popular in the social sciences in general—sociology, communication studies, history—wherever people study ethnic groups, formations, compositions, resettlements, social welfare characteristics, materiality, spirituality, and a people's ethnogenesis. The typical ethnography is a holistic study and so includes a brief history, and an analysis of the terrain, the climate, and the habitat. In all cases, it should be reflexive, make a substantial contribution toward the understanding of the social life of humans, have an aesthetic impact on the reader, and express a credible reality. An ethnography records all observed behavior and describes all symbol-meaning relations, using concepts that avoid causal explanations. Traditionally, ethnography was focussed on the western gaze towards the far 'exotic' east, but now researchers are undertaking ethnography in their own social environment. According to Dewan (2018), even if we are the other, the ‘another’ or the ‘native’, we are still ‘another’ because there are many facades of ourselves that connect us to people and other facades that highlight our differences.
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main subject: ethnography

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