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Transcript of On Ethnography
Brian V. Street's ON ETHNOGRAPHY Meet the Authors
http://www.shirleybriceheath.net/ http://www.literacyonline.org/sltp/presntr/street.htm King's College London University Best known for Literacy in Theory and Practice Best known for Ways with Words: Language, life, and work in communities and classrooms Heath has stayed very much with the idea that grounding in theories of linguistic anthropology and long-term comparative fieldwork provide a type of knowledge not available through short-term "ethnographic" methods. Chapter 6: Taking note of History and writing Ethnography The British: Malinowski was stuck in Trobriand during World War II and so what started as a social surveys trip stretched out and at the end of his time studying the Islanders' customs, systems, and beliefs he came back advocating for prolonged residence among a culture Malinowski's Influence: Malinowski's teachings led to more ethnographic work during which many ethnographers not only learned about new cultures but also began to question their own ingrained attitudes. Economic and Political ties to Ethnography: At times, govermental agencies have promoted ethnography to support data gathering on distant lands and natural resources. Americans: Use for Ethnography: As preservation of Indigenous languages and cultures Beginning in the 1940s as a means of gathering information on 'the enemy' exploration of distant places for natural resources and military base locations to learn more about refugee populations after the Vietnam War Responding to challenges during desegregation peace corps "Ethnographers must... give due credit to building their work on the shoulders of those that have gone before. From this history, ethnographers should realize that prior field reserach, as well as their own, has been shaped by contemporty political and economic pressures from governments, funding agencies, and review panels." (page 118) "Reflexivity, a process by which ethnographers reveal their self-perceptions, methodological setbacks, and mental states, often inclues broad general critiques of the field. Reflexivity enables ethnographers to see their research within historical and structural constraints that result from asymmetrical power distribution." (p 123) "Within the broad arena of applied anthropology, ethnography has a special role to play by documenting how social change institutions influence the choices and changes of the young face as they grow into adult members of their societies." (p 129) Chapter 4: Research Questions and Fieldnotes The footwork of doing Ethnographic Research Curiosity --> Self-Analysis --> Guiding Research Questions * Example: Researcher is curious about how first-generation organic farm communities break with the past and take on a new identity.
* Questions to be addressed: Where will the study take place - small or large farms? Which geographic region? Will the study be comparative? Will it involve only independent farmers or a collection of farmers or work as part of an agribusiness? Which prior convictions (e.g. as a vegetarian, farmer's daughter, or community gardener) do you bring to the research? What is realistic (in terms of residence and physical sites available for the research)? How will you collect your data (combination of survey, interview, observation only)? What do you already know about this topic? Research Question Modification - Researcher must be flexible and open to what life brings, refining questions and practices as needed Fieldnotes - the notes themselves, as well as the stories that go along with how these notes were collected can be fascinating - but, what do they mean? * Conceptual Memos - Heath and Street recommend that ethnographers write these each week in connection with logs of recorded data so that they can keep ideas and questions that arise from their data collection * Three sections: Problems and Setbacks, Overview, Patterns, Insights, and Breakthroughs * These memos come in very handy when writing final report as a quick search of key words in memos can map central themes, trends and insights Chapter 5: Analysis and Coming Home From the Field For an ethnographer everything is a matter of one thing leading to another, and that to a third, and that to one hardly knows what (Geertz 1995, p.20). What to do once you have the data. an ethnographer moves beyond initial hunches, and curiosity to collect data and develop theoretical frameworks to shape the final written product Select your lens of analysis. Main Points Only when the ethnographer knows what has and has not been researched and set forth as theories can analysis of one’s own data move generatively. Key theories on language, language socialization and multimodal literacies are essential to framing research data and findings. It is up to the ethnographer to record, sort re-think, revisit, and reconcile conflicting, non-parallel data, and misleading bits and pieces. Fundamental Pitfall of Data Collection/Handling Transcription: This can be a huge time suck if you let it. Failing to log recordings while you collect data can leave you with no coherent idea of what you are left with at the end of your fieldwork. Delaying the writing of weekly conceptual memos will mean that you have no retrievable trail of your own insights and breakthrough ideas while you are in the midst of the fieldwork. Chapter 3: Setting Decision Rules for Fieldwork •“Ethnographic fieldwork involves a series of choices. These choices and the theoretical reasons for them need to be presented explicitly to establish ethnographic validity.” Chapter2: The Ethnographer’s Field Entry and Tools of Practice •“Ethnography is a theory building enterprise constructed through detailed systematic observing, recording, analyzing of human behavior in specific spaces and interactions” •Authors do not equate ethnography with qualitative research•Refrain from having a good research question •Data collection: “Describe only what does happen, not what does not happen”
•Must lay out decision rules for themselves •Purposes of literature reviews
•Ethnographers as instrument and choosing tools and time frames Chapter 1: Language, Culture, and Learning: Ethnographic Approaches “Learning Ethnography” Observing, comparing, reflecting, assessing and “feeling”Practice and constant learningAuthors compare to juggling—trial and error Culture Humans produce “symbolic structure for one another”Modalities created, sustained, and adapted
Multimodal literacies—systems of representation, including written forms combined with oral, visual, or gestural modesCulture as a verb: dynamic not fixedRather than associating culture with racial group, ethnicity, or nation The Ethnographer’s Focus IndividualsGroupsHow groups change over time without realizingInstitutions (e.g. classroom)Groups created by external assignmentShaped by historical and political forces
Katie O'Brien McKay