HS 3630-Fieldwork - Doing Ethnography and the Challenges of...

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DoingEthnographyand theChallenges ofFieldworkHS 3630fOctober 28th& 30th,2013Readings: Bolton and Simon
Outline of lectureContextualizing the readingsReview of Bolton and Simon’s articles“Doing fieldnotes”
Memoirs of a neophyte
“yes, I am the token White guy”
Contextual information: key termsEthnography: literally, it means “adescription of a people or ethnic group”It also refers to the published accounts orbooks that contain our descriptions(ethnographies)Our fieldwork is also referred to asethnography
Participant-observationResearcher joins the group, spendssignificant time observing theirinteractions, and participates in as manydomains of social life as possibleTraditionally, this meant living for yearswith a group of people, learning theirlanguage, being ‘adopted’ and given aname by the hosts, marrying into thegroup, dressing and eating like locals,and undergoing religious or rituallyprescribed transformations en route tobecoming “one” with the group
Why or why not?
P-O, cont’dA major shift occurred in how social scientistsapproached, understood, and wrote aboutfieldwork and doing ethnography during the 1980sWe began to realize that objectivity is sometimesimpossibleand that our presence often generatessignificant socio-cultural change within the societieswe studyIs objectivity always necessary??Linked with the need to include ‘ourselves’ asplayers in the construction of knowledge and someof the problems that we encounter in the field
The “reflexive turn”The necessity of analyzing our methodologies usingsimilar principles that we adopt to analyze our field sitesDo our methods “fit” within our fieldwork context?i.e., is a survey the best way to gather data about theconstruction of sexuality?While doing my doctoral research I tried be conscious ofmy own experiences across different domains of humanactivityAre theDevadasisideas about sex, men, their bodies,menstruation, raising children, and so on that differentfrom mine?Am I aware of the cultural lens through which I amgathering and analyzing my data?
The world according to meBetween the beginning of the ‘reflexive turn’ andnow, there were some theoretical andmethodological growing painsThe subjective pendulum swung too far and someanthropologists began to write about ethnographymainly from their own experiencesProblems: the primacy of the anthropologist overthe research participants, “poor me” narratives,and a brand of post-modernism that seemed a bittoo big for its own britches
Classic example of auto/selfreflexivity: Ruth Behar
Participant (?)-observationA component of our re-evaluation aboutdoing ethnography involves asking thequestion: how much do we “really”participate in the lives of the people wework with?

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Term
Summer
Professor
NoProfessor
Tags
Anthropology, Health Science, Gender Studies, Human Sexuality, Sexual intercourse, Human sexual behavior

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