Ethnographic studies are usually holistic, founded on the idea that humans are
best understood in the fullest possible context, including: the place where they live, the
improvements they've made to that place, how they are making a living and providing food,
housing, energy and water for themselves, what their marriage customs are, what language(s)
they speak and so on. Ethnography has connections to genres as diverse as travel writing,
colonial office reports, the play and the novel.
As ethnography developed, anthropologists grew more interested in less
tangible aspects of culture, such as values, worldview and what Clifford Geertz termed the
"ethos" of the culture. Clifford Geertz's own fieldwork used elements of a phenomenological
approach to fieldwork, tracing not just the doings of people, but the cultural elements
themselves. For example, if within a group of people, winking was a communicative gesture, he
sought to first determine what kinds of things a wink might mean (it might mean several things).
Then, he sought to determine in what contexts winks were used, and whether, as one moved
about a region, winks remained meaningful in the same way. In this way, cultural boundaries of
communication could be explored, as opposed to using linguistic boundaries or notions about