But so is another that I have tentatively labeled "Alternative Ethnographies," thinking of work like Sutherland and Denny's Doing Anthropology in Consumer Research, Tom Boelstroff's Coming of Age in Second Life , Chris Kelty's Two Bits about the free and open software movement, my own Japanese Consumer Behavior: From Worker Bees to Wary Shoppers and my current project: "Winners' Circles: SNA-Driven ethnography of award-winning creative teams in Japan." Here the common thread is the authors' grappling with how to adapt ethnography to the opportunities and challenges of a world very different from that in which Malinowski or Boas defined our primordial model.There's room for a lot of discussion about current approaches to ethnography, the potential for ethnographic research in the future, and the embedding of ethnographers in movements for social change.
I'd go with the latter. Those people who are so vocal about what ethnography isn't may not have that clear an idea of what ethnography should be, but they do seem to think that there's a clear distinction between real ethnography and some facsimile. The cynic in me would argue that some of it is simple posturing or turf wars. No disrespect to those who say these things. Actually, there might actually be a set of reactions coming from annoyance at being compared to work which is only ethnographic by borrowing methodology and doesn't participate in the ethnographic approach.Isn't a big part of the problem that we know longer have a consensus on what "real" ethnography is? Or, alternatively, waste too much time on essentializing arguments about what it "should be"?
This is probably where our perspectives differ the most, in this discussion. (And, yes, I'm looking forward to a broader discussion.) Though the Malinowskian prototype is still taught to a large number of cultural anthropologists, I don't perceive it as the basis for comparing ethnographic models. It's still relevant, but I'm not that sure that it's what most people compare ethnographic projects to.We know that, on the one hand, we have the Malinowskian prototype: a year or more living in a single place where the ethnographer starts out not knowing the language and having a professional commitment to non-judgmental observation of what he observes. On the other we have research that is now often short-term, multi-sited, and conducted by native anthropologists who start out with language competence . . .
Cultural anthropologists want you to know that you’re probably not doing “real ethnography” in design researchAnd there are several anthropologists who use disciplinary boundaries to draw those distinctions.
Agreed!In practice, we must situate ourselves in relation to the actual situations in which we find ourselves.
We also need to discuss with these people, whether or not they might be competitors. After all, it's not about "Ethnographers vs. The World."What we might be able to do better than competitors with different kinds of training in a particular context is a useful discussion.
Even the "real ethnography" notion is excluded from this distinction in that it tends to be about whether or not the researcher has training in cultural anthropology.
That's pretty obvious. Who besides anthropologists worried about maintaining disciplinary boundaries gives a rat's ass about defining "real" ethnography?Folklorists, ethnomusicologists, microhistorians, sociologists, philologists, market researchers, social anthropologists, geographers, demographers...
But if Malinowski isn't the prototype, who or what is? I'd be really curious to know how other people answer if asked, "Can you give me an example?"Wilhelm von Humboldt, Ibn Battuta, Wilheim and Jakob Grimm, Evans-Pritchard, Béla Bartók, Marcel Griaule, William Jones, Constantin Brăiloiu, Henry Glassie...
P.S. When Alexandre mentions not having read Argonauts of the Western Pacific, I find myself both amused and bemused. It wasn't until three decades after graduate school that I got around to reading the real stuff: the two volumes of Coral Gardens and Their Magic and The Sexual Life of Savages. Us sluggards these days think we've done ethnography if we've gathered enough material for a short paper. M produced a library! And it's filled with incredible detail that allows theorists of virtually any persuasion to find relevant data -- if, that is, they bother to look.I do bother to "look," but mostly through dialogue and collaboration. So many people have read BM that it's relatively easy to get much of the insight from his work by working with other people. Yes, it's "second-hand," but we can always go back to the source.
Folklorists, ethnomusicologists, microhistorians, sociologists, philologists, market researchers, social anthropologists, geographers, demographers...
Wilhelm von Humboldt, Ibn Battuta, Wilheim and Jakob Grimm, Evans-Pritchard, Béla Bartók, Marcel Griaule, William Jones, Constantin Brăiloiu, Henry Glassie...
Lucjan Malinowski wasn't the only one to write things like "Listy z podrózy etnograficznej po Śląsku." (The reason I keep mentioning Lucjan is that we tend to perceive his son to have "invented ethnography from scratch.") The OED uses a quote from 1834 about German usage as among the earliest references to "ethnography." But "ethnographie" is found in the early 1700s.
As you can guess, I'm not one for "canons." In fact, it might be a common attitude among French-speaking academics to distrust canonical works.
I have yet to meet anyone doing anyone but anthropologists who engage in this debate.Talked to a folklorist, recently? Some of them feel that anthropologists are borrowing ethnography from them. Sure, folkloristics isn't huge in most English-speaking contexts (though I hear it's quite significant in Ireland where some ethnographers view it more highly than anthropology). But it's quite prominent in different parts of Europe and South America.
They just do what they do and call it ethnographyDoesn't seem like an accurate statement about what ethnomusicologists do.
My own discovery of of the scale of the Malinowski corpus had nothing to do with "canons."Nothing?
In graduate school I read the then obligatory Argonauts and Magic, Science and Religion and dissed Malinowski the way everyone else did as the ancestor of the less-interesting of the two functionalisms (the other being structural-functionalism a la Radcliffe-Brown).Sounds like you were exposed to it as part of the canon.
Being an old-fashioned kind of guy, I thought that I was supposed to look at everything a scholar wrote on a topic before assessing his work.Assessing somebody's work by yourself does sound a bit old-fashioned.
The man was a superb observer and a meticulous honest reporter who provides mountains of data that are so well contextualized that they will continue to be valuable when his theories are dead as phlogiston -- and the theories are not nearly as shoddy as their straw man reconstructions in secondary sources make them out to be.Had much of the same reaction to Boas as a folklorist and to Sapir as a linguist. We know of their work but few people bother to look.
Those who rely on those secondary sourcesWho talked about relying? Aren't researchers supposed not to rely on any specific source?
We know that, on the one hand, we have the Malinowskian prototype: a year or more living in a single place where the ethnographer starts out not knowing the language and having a professional commitment to non-judgmental observation of what he observes. On the other we have research that is now often short-term, multi-sited, and conducted by native anthropologists who start out with language competence and -- we must add -- unavoidable --often deliberately cultivated if they are political -- biases about what they are observing.A bit restrictive, but we can still start from that.
I haven't denied that other people could claim that they do ethnography or that some, e.g., the folklorists might claim they were doing it before the anthropologists did. I do not doubt that you are right in what you say, that folklorists and ethnomusicologists might worry about boundary issues. If anything they are smaller academic minorities than the anthropologists and these turf wars may be important to them.John did say that: "they don't get proprietary about it. They don't have a dog in this race." I disagree with these two statements based on my own experience and I care about this issue because I care about anthropology's "sense of ownership."
The main point there isn't that there are two models (the Malinowskian prototype and "current research") but that we have a set of paramaters with which to work. * Length of stay
* Local scope
* Language knowledge
* Nature of profession
* Observational attitude
* Origin of bias
* Researcher's identity