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Our Research

Ethnography

The basis for social life, no doubt, is that people (such as social scientists) have  empathy for other people, or sympathy, as founding father Adam Smith used to say more than 200 years ago. Interpreting what others say, feel and do also lies at the heart of ethnographers, as well as looking closely, and then some more. 

Arguably the most classic introduction to ethnography is the first chapter in Malinowski, Bronislaw (1922),  Argonauts of the Western Pacific. The entire book is online. Other classic ethnographies include: E.E. Evans-Pritchard (1940),  The Nuer, and Margaret Mead (1928),  Coming of Age in Samoa.
Also delightful is Becker, Howard S. (1958) 'Problems of inference and proof in participant observation',  ASR 23: 652-660, because he makes no - fruitless - boundary between qualitative and quantitative research, which many more recent scholars others did. On “how not to lie with ethnography,” see Mitchell Duneier (2012) Sociological Methodology 41: 1-11.  Because individuals are always interdependent, they have to be studied as such, namely in fields rather than in places: Matthew Desmond (2014) Theoretical Sociology 43: 547-579.

One of the experts at the AISSR is Tina Harris. 

Recommended textbooks, handbooks, and edited volumes

  • Bernard, H. Russel. 2002.  Research methods in Antrhopology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Walnut Creek: Altamira Press
  • Clifford, James, and George Marcus, eds. 1986.  Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Crang, Mike and Ian Cook. 2007.  Doing Ethnographies. London: Sage.
  • Davies, Charlotte Aull. 2008.  Reflexive Ethnography: A Guide to Researching Selves and Others. London: Routledge.
  • Emerson, Robert M. et al, ed. 2011.  Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Schensul, Stephen L., and LeCompte, Margaret. 1999.  The Ethnographer's Toolkit. Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press. (Note this comes in five different volumes, with each volume concentrating on a different aspect of ethnographic research).
  • Spradley, James P. 1980.  Participant Observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.

Examples of different approaches, including urban ethnography (Bourgois), multi-sited ethnography (Nordstrom), and life history (Crapanzano, Myerhoff) are the following

  • Bourgois, Philippe. 2002.  In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Childs, Geoff. 2004.  Tibetan Diary: From Birth to Death and Beyond in a Himalayan Valley of Nepal. Berkeley: University of California Press
  • Crapanzano, Vincent. 1985.  Tuhami: Portrait of a Moroccan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Myerhoff, Barbara. 1980 (1978).  Number Our Days. New York: Touchstone.
  • Nordstrom, Carolyn. 2007.  Global Outlaws: Crime, Money, and Power in the Contemporary World. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Powdermaker, Hortense. 1966.  Stranger and Friend: The Way of an Anthropologist. New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Smoothening the transition from ethnography to data analysis

  • Abramson, C and Dohan, D. (2015) Beyond text: Using arrays to represent and analyze ethnographic data. Sociological Methodology 45: 272-319. These arrays can then be analyzed with Python or R programs.