Overview• Discussion of Book Club• Proposals DUE April 9th or 16th• Your voices on this week’s readings on ethnography• Ethnography: Challenges and Dilemmas• Discussion of Canagarajah and Mills work on Critical Ethnography (Summer)
How would you like to organize the book club activity?It could include these four components:• A quick summary of the main arguments (chapter summaries if it is an edited book)• Context, research questions, methodology, findings if it’s a book-length ethnography/case study etc.• The main contribution to your discipline/areas of research: (E.g. Applied linguistics/TESOL; Comp/Rhetoric; Literacy Studies; Postcolonial studies; Creative writing)• Remaining critical questions
Erin (the issue of generalizability)• He [Hammersley] brought up some of the risks inherent in ethnographic research, such as overgeneralizing results to assume they characterize "typical" activity (5). Later, he notes that critics of ethnography have charged it with "only documenting the surface of events in particular local settings, rather than seeking to understand the deeper social forces that shape the whole society, and that operate within those settings" (7). I was interested in the conflict between these two positions and how and when, whether in ethnography or other research methodologies, we can move from the specific to the general and vice versa.• This conflict is present in Canagarajahs article as well, in that he first acknowledges the risk of the teacher/researcher position and details why his particular subject position (including his status as a native Tamil, bilingual English/Tamil speaker, and progressive professor) might bear on his findings. After examining this a bit, he then moves to assert the relevance of his data by stating, "Although the uniqueness of each teacher/researcher-student interaction should not be slighted in favor of the generalizability of this study, we have to note that almost all Sri Lankan ESOL teachers are Westernized, middle- class, bilingual, native Lankans like me" (620-621). Thus even though he is cautious about generalizing, he wants the reader to know that this data might be common across the experience of many Sri Lankan teachers.
Erin• Can one design a study that is both "micro" in its execution (i.e. involving specific and close analysis), yet allow the researcher to make larger claims? Should "larger claims," as Ive said clumsily here, ever be a researchers goal? Does it do a disservice to your subjects to attempt to make larger claims or to shy away from them? In what ways is the subject able to assist in, contest, or question your focus and its "size"?
Meg (on partiality ofrepresentation)• Hammersley notes at the end of his article that “the very character of ethnography has come to be contested” (11). It is threatened. The ideological underpinnings of what it means to “study” have been reveled. What I would argue is that this is not a bad thing. That those in ethnography perhaps need to just learn to be okay with partiality, with the idea that the apparatuses conducting any particular experiment are always going to control the results— always going to make the results. Those of us in the Humanities can do much to let them know that it’s going to be alright.• That, as Haraway recently explained, “No longer able to sustain the fictions of being either subjects or object, all the partners in the potent conversations that constitute nature must find a new ground for making meanings together” (“Otherworldly Conversations” 158).
Ana (Teaching ethnographicapproaches)• ….I believe that Kathy A. Mills’s self-reflection provides us with a great lesson towards the study of culture, society and language use; before proceeding to explain her research, Mills takes care to say “In this critical ethnography, I negotiated my multiple identities as researcher, PhD student, lecturer, and former classroom teacher” (4). Through this statement, Mills speaks to Hammersley’s view of ethnography as one way of telling a story, for our experiences and who we are affects how we see the world, in the same way that the students background affects how they benefit from the tools they use in the classroom.• In light of these ideas, it would be interesting to have students share their ethnographic work once they have reflected on it. In this way, they will be able to see how their views on the same event differ, even if only slightly, and they will be able to reflect on what may have promoted such different views. Last, but definitely not the least, it would be highly important to have students explore the language they use to “tell their stories” about the same event. By doing so, students would be able to see how language and language use do not occur in a vacuum, and so this would encourage their appreciation of key issues we have been exploring in this class such as the value of World Englishes or Code Meshing and their position in today’s society.
Cristina and Meg (onethnography as a political act)• Cristina: As for the political implications of ethnography, as Hammersley says " understanding people does not require sharing their beliefs, or being obliged to offer them support" (2006: 11) or, on the contrary, reject their ideologies. So the aims of ethnographic research just relate to understand the context behind a particular situation and do not imply a political position on behalf of the researcher.• Meg: In it he argues that “the ethnographer must neither be in the service of some political establishment or profession nor an organic intellectual seeking to further the interests of marginalized, exploited, or dominated groups. Both of these orientations greatly increase the danger of systematic bias” (11). It is frankly hard not to laugh here. Ethnographers should try to not have any political opinions or beliefs? It is a joke to believe that we can ever escape the ideological state apparatuses, the systems in which we function and simultaneously and often unknowingly replicate. I think deep down he knows this (some of the great questions that he asks elsewhere in his article would point to this), but he just can’t let go.
Sarah (On reporting thefindings in an ethical way)• Now, I want to go on to consider what seems to me the messiest aspect of ethnography: how to analyze and report your findings in an ethical way. Athanases and Heath (1995: 278) point out that “Ethnographic reporting is the construction of a reality, made possible by the researcher’s essential instrument, the self. In this way, all seeing is through a frame (Goffman, 1974), a perceptual lens.” They attempt to address this issue by insisting that the researcher make clear in his or her reporting the various lenses, biases, and assumptions through which he or she is reporting. And while I agree, of course, that this self- identification of the researcher is an important part of any research project, I’m wondering now if it’s enough. Just revealing your biases doesn’t mean that you can then feel free to proceed with representing the culture you are studying (even if it’s in the way you think is best) without fear of misrepresentation in some way. Hammersley (2006: 7) puts it this way: “a host of different stories could be told about any situation, each one placing it in a different temporal and spatial context. From this perspective, ethnography is simply one means among others for telling stories about the social world.” And what if the story you choose to tell is misrepresentative or damaging in a way that you could never see through your own perspective?
Irina• Turning to the role of ethnography in considering cultural contexts and working within them, the surroundings are impossible to escape while attempting to discuss what occurs in the classroom since the classroom is in no way an isolated space. The attempts to treat it in such a way when it comes to the study of language indirectly asks the students to turn a blind eye to society. When Canagarajah mentions fighter jets and bombs in the background of the students taking the English placement tests, the conscious social experience is at the forefront and the classroom cannot escape it. Inside the classroom, daily, perhaps subtle activities emphasized their identities as students in the larger social context. The example of correcting pronunciation, which revealed the distinction between standard and nonstandard Sri Lankan English (616), comments on the global, multiplying prejudices within a "single language."
Lisa (Ethnography and online communities).Does ethnography depend on the physicalpresence?• Hammersly’s query into how ethnographic research methods may be deployed in online communities is at the forefront of my mind. That we have a different relationship based in different kinds of sensory exposures to each other online makes for an interesting shift in research practices. Because I am interested in how different ratios of sensory perception may impact how we feel about each other in different environmental contexts, Hammersly’s essay may draw attention to what is omitted in online discourse. I don’t believe you can know whether the person on the other side of the screen is “real” or not. This Baudrillardian sense of hyperreality transforms ordinary human interaction. Put differently, one does not have the same kind of sensory engagement one does with another real-live human being or other creature. Sociological studies—Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together comes to mind—begin to examine the disconnect between face-to-face human interactions with online or robotic machine interactions. How does one do ethnographic research of robotic interactions? If so, how does one shift analytic components to reflect the non-human aspects of communication across this two- way bridge?
Ethnography• Ethnos: People; Grapho: to write. Writing about the culture of people.• Early ethnologists: Franz Boas,Margaret Mead, John Gumperz, Dell Hymes (linguistic anthropology): Discussed relevance of anthropology to education and linguistics.• Ethnographic approaches have their roots in anthropology and sociolinguistics. Characterized by (1) contextualization of a social phenomenon; (2) participants’ point of view (emic perspective); (3) finding connections between micro and macro processes by critically examining the web of social, cultural and political meanings.• Multiple kinds of qualitative methods are employed: E. G. DA, CDA, Micro-ethnography, narrative analysis, life history
Guiding principles(Athanases and Heath)• Researcher become immersed in the culture and act as a participant or distant observer• Data sources: Thick-description of people and their actions; abundant field notes, audiotaped/videotaped data; collecting cultural artifacts; ethnographic interviews; observations.• “The researcher who lack sensitivity to demands in the lives of informants, or who holds fast to the comfortable distance of authority rather than becoming a learner in the culture, severely limits the nature of the data and undermines the research” (p. 268)
Dilemmas• Selecting Research Sites:Was the site chosen merely it was easily available? Why did youchose this site? What key characteristics will allow findings fromthis study t be compared with those of other school research?• Negotiating Entry and Building Rapport:How do you establish rapport? How do you balance thedemands of participants’ local contexts and demands ofresearch? How do you build a nonjudgmental relationshipbetween researcher and all participants in the study?Selecting Participants:How do you decide who to select? What considerations effectyour decision?
Fieldwork• Field notes journals/Diaries• Texts about the field• Writing that records both what the ethnographer learns and observes.• A record of one’s reactions, comments and questions.• Construction and reconstruction of events: Observations and conversations.• Develop a log technique/ a strategy to take notes• You might pursue whatever is interesting and worth noting related to language, literacy and culture• You can jot down phrases, key words, incomplete sentences (sensory, visual etc.)• As opposed to classical ethnographies we see in 20th century, fieldwork carried out by many ethnographers today is likely to last months rather than years (Hammersley, 2006)
Identifying what to analyze• Decisions had to be made regarding which stretches of talk to analyze and how to do so. Balancing micro and macro-level analyses.• Analyzing macro-level themes or classroom events. Focusing on “rich poiins” (Agar, 1998) and “telling cases” (Michell, 1997).
Ethnographic Reporting• “Ethnographic reporting is the construction of a reality, made possible by the researcher’s essential instrument: the self” (p. Anthanases & Heath, 1995, 278)• “For this reason, the author of a well researched and wrll reported ethnography has the responsibility to reveal how theoretical assumptions and philosophical and political biases, as well as practical considerations, have shaped methodological choices and research moves” (p. 278)• Myth of value-free inquiry.• The uses of ethnography enables researchers to discover “the informal logic of actual life” (Geertz, 1973): How does this research contribute to theory or theories of human behavior?
Insuring credibility and rigor• Can I believe the researcher’s account? Can I trust this report?
Credibility and rigor• Triangulation of data sources to build consistent interpretations: teacher reflections, student interviews, field notes, observations, sample writing to check on emerging themes and trends.• Search for and write about conflicting themes.• Conduct member-checks and peer-debriefing with the participants during data transcription and analysis.
Reliability• Researchers can address the issue of reliability by making clear their decision rules and by reading their ethnographies through the eyes of not only their audience of professionals but also those at the center of the work (p. 282)
Areas of disagreement• Duration of time spent in the field• What is considered ethnography? Holistic vs micro- ethnographyHow are we to determine what is the appropriate wider contextin which to situate what we are studying? How are we to gainthe knowledge we need about that context?• Context as virtual? Does ethnography depend on the physical presence of the ethnographer in the midst of people being studied? Are there limitations of internet data from a traditional ethnographic point of view?