Ethnography and Ethnographic Methods


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Ethnography and Ethnographic Methods

  1. 1. Ethnography and Ethnographic Methods in Autobiography Professor Alana L. Jolley
  2. 2. Bronislaw Malinowski British scholar who conducted first ethnographic research in the Trobriand Islands, in New Guinea, 1915-1918, publishing his findings. His Ethnography: Argonauts of the Western Pacific His theory of Function in culture: “ . . . in every type of civilization, every custom, material object, idea and belief fulfills some vital function, has some task to accomplish, represents an indispensible part, within a working whole.” Cultural Anthropologist
  3. 3. Participant Observation and Autobiography • A research method where one learns about a group’s beliefs/behaviors by social participation and personal observation in the community. • A person writing his/her autobiography has been a participant observer of his/her own life, and all life events, social and family ties, and the connections so evident to all those happenings.
  4. 4. Ethnographic Research Methods and Autobiography Participant observation is extended fieldwork in a community.
  5. 5. Ethnographic Research Methods and Autobiography Urban Ethnic center fieldwork: China Town Los Angeles, California Writing one’s own autobiography may mean doing fieldwork in different places.
  6. 6. Ethnographic Research Methods may be used in Autobiography Informal interviews: unstructured and open-ended Formal interviews: structured, based on prepared questions
  7. 7. Informed Consent and Autobiography If an autobiographer needs participants, he/she should get consent.
  8. 8. Ethnography and Autobiography 1. Ethnography: Detailed description of a culture primarily based on fieldwork. 2. A personal history, written by another person, based on research, interviews, and/or recordings 3. Autobiography: Written/recorded history of a person, by that person, which may include ancestral research and ethno-history
  9. 9. Ethnographic Methods Applied in Autobiography • Describe particular situations, practices, or events as they exist, or as previously existed. • Information or responses to a particular question from a memory-jogger list compiled by an ethnographer • Observations of actual events and activities. • Relevant historical information, including ethno-history • Statistical data or quantitative data. Qualitative data. • If connected to a particular claim or position – the autobiographer must explain his/her connection.
  10. 10. “Key Consultants” and Autobiography • A “key consultant” is a member of the society being studied. He/she provides information, which helps the researcher understand the meaning of what is observed. • An autobiographer is his/her own key consultant for the society he/she is a member of, and must think clearly about meanings of the ideas, observations and events to be detailed. An autobiographer may also use “key consultants.”
  11. 11. Describing One’s Own Culture • To accurately describe one’s own culture an autobiographer should consider three kinds of data: 1. His/her own understanding of his/her own culture and the general rules of that culture, which he/she shares with others in the society. 1. To what extent does he/she believe that he/she and others observe the rules of his/her culture? 1. Is his/her own behavior consistent with what he/she says or writes about?
  12. 12. Ethno-history and Autobiography • A study of one’s own culture of the recent past through oral histories, accounts of explorers, missionaries, traders, and analysis of records such as land titles, birth and death records, maps or other archival materials, which may be available from the family or reliable sources is considered ethno-history. • This data collection is qualitative data, because it is nonstatistical.
  13. 13. Multi-sited Research and Autobiography • In researching Chinese identities, anthropologist Andrea Louie (center) completed multi-sited research: St. Louis, San Francisco, Hong Kong, and China. • Autobiographers may do the same, depending on his/her own ethnicity.
  14. 14. Photographs and Autobiography • Photographs are very important, such as this fourgeneration one. • It tells a story. Who are the people? What year? Location? Season? Who can identify them? What was the occasion? Who took the picture? Why?
  15. 15. Digital Ethnography and Autobiography • Use digital technologies - audio and visual to collect, analyze, and present ethnographic data. • Due to digital technology the autobiographer may not have to write much – if he/she dictates to a computer. • Putting it altogether may just be a matter of editing the final draft.
  16. 16. Documentation and Autobiography • In science – as well as writing an autobiography, all data and information should be accurate. • Without reliable documentation, even an autobiography cannot be accurate. • Check/double-check: sources, dates, interviews, photos, documents, names, events, memories.