The notion, here, is that we're all anthropologists. Many of us are card-carrying anthropologists, very literally. So we may be a bit biased, here. But it'd still be interesting to discuss the relationships between anthropology and other ethnographic disciplines. Especially since there seems to be some confusion about these relationships, even among card-carrying anthropologists.

Several anthropologists act and talk as if ethnography belonged to them. Anyone doing ethnography without an official affiliation to anthropology is an usurper. Ethnography is an exclusive prerogative of (some) anthropologists. A prominent linguistic anthropologist went as far as to say that members of other disciplines are "borrowing" ethnography from anthropology. That comment, interestingly enough, attracted strong reactions from members of the audience who were pointing out long-standing ethnographic work in other disciplines, such as sociology.
To a card-carrying folklorist, would seem quite strange to restrict ethnography to anthropology. Some folklorists have been claiming that pioneers of their discipline invented ethnography. It might require a bit of library research but it does seem accurate to say that there were folklorists and philologists doing ethnographic fieldwork before cultural anthropologists started doing it. In fact, this same linguistic anthropologist had previously mentioned ethnographic work done by Lucjan Malinowski and others in Habsburg-era Europe. Apparently, Bronislaw's father was publishing books with "ethnography" in the title before the prominent LSE scholar was born.
This question might be of special interest to ethnomusicologists, who tend to have cyclical discussions about defining their discipline. The origins of ethnomusicology are partly found in comparative musicology, which has more to do with psychology and acoustics than with ethnographic disciplines. But ethnomusicology has also had some very direct connections with folkloristics and "ethnology." In a way, one might say that ethnomusicology is an ethnographic discipline dealing with music, with some special connections to other approaches to music. Ethnomusicology does relate to anthropology, especially to cultural anthropology and linguistic anthropology. It doesn't tend to have much relation to archæology or biological anthropology. In this sense, the connection between ethnomusicology and anthropology has more to do with the ethnographic approach evident in both linguistic anthropology and cultural anthropology than with the four-fields anthropology departments which serve as a model in North America.

Do we own ethnography?

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Now, a personal part. Interpret it as a disclaimer, of sorts.
I've done my bachelor's and master's degree in linguistic anthropology at Université de Montréal. My PhD work has been at Indiana University's Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology, which was still called the Folklore Institute when I entered it. In this context, I've been trained in folkloristics and ethnomusicology. We had frequent contacts with people from the department of anthropology, especially those cultural anthropologists interested in verbal art and/or musical performance. But we were clearly separate from the anthropology department. Some of us were AAA members but we also belonged to non-AAA organizations like the Society for Ethnomusicology and the American Folklore Society.
So it probably makes sense that I've been thinking about ethnographic disciplines in a broader frame, outside of anthropology's "walls."
More recently, I've been noticing a lot of interest in ethnography from outside anthropology. This includes the use of ethnographic methodology in health research or consumer research. But it also includes such academic endeavours as microhistory and microeconomics, which "borrow" from ethnography much more than a set of methods.
In this context, everything started to make sense, for me. I'm an ethnographer.
Recently, I've decided to create an online presence for myself as an "informal ethnographer." Pretty much a second persona. One to which I can associate a number of things, including a podcast about ethnography.
After posting the second episode of my podcast, I was directed here by a friend and former student of mine. I was surprised that I hadn't noticed OAC, since I tend to be fairly active online. But I thought I'd join in.
I initially did a few faux pas, related to "informal ethnographer" as a self-assigned label. Because of these faux pas, I'm treading lightly. It would probably be inappropriate for me to shamelessly promote my podcast. It just so happens, though, that the second episode is about defining ethnography as an approach, with direct comments about ethnography's existence outside of anthropology.
So it's the context of my thinking about these issues.
Alexandre, I am glad that you opened this discussion which is very timely, as well as being appropriate to the OAC which after all invites broad participation. I include below some brief excerpts from a paper published elsewhere. This indicates where I am coming from on this topic.

The ethnographic paradigm has been moving for half a century in response to the anti-colonial revolution and other seismic changes in world history. But anthropologists have retained the method of face-to-face encounters while dumping the original object and theory. Paradoxically, while the anthropologists have rejected philosophy, history and anything else that could give meaning to the purpose of their discipline, the idea of ethnography has been adopted in everything from geography to nursing studies. Of course the anthropologists claim that the others don’t understand what ethnography is really about or how it is done by the people who know, themselves. But they have forgotten what it is about ‘anthropology’ that makes their version of ‘ethnography’ special. They no longer ask the basic questions that launched anthropology -- what makes inequality intolerable or how people can live together peaceably. So they can’t explain what is missing when others take up ‘ethnography’.

The rapid development of global communications today contains within its movement a far-reaching transformation of world society. ‘Anthropology’ in some form is one of the intellectual traditions best suited to make sense of it. The academic seclusion of the discipline, its passive acquiescence to bureaucracy, is the chief obstacle preventing us from grasping this historical opportunity. We cling to our revolutionary commitment to joining the people, but have forgotten what it was for or what else is needed, if we are to succeed in helping to build a universal society...Rather than obsessing over how we can control access to what we write, which means cutting off the mass of humanity almost completely from our efforts, we need to figure out new interactive forms of engagement that span the globe and to make the results of our intellectual labours available to everyone.

It matters less that an academic guild should retain its monopoly of access to knowledge than that ‘anthropology’ should be taken up by a broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole -- is a matter of urgent personal concern.

Keith
" A broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole -- is a matter of urgent personal concern" is a powerful, political ideal, one I am happy to share. But is this anthropology? Or the primary driver for ethnography? I have my doubts.

I imagine an anthropologist motivated to discover why "inequality is intolerable" and "how people live together peacefully" doing ethnography in a society where inequality is taken for granted or where endemic conflict is a fact of life and the issue is how to moderate it to a level where the group does not fall apart. What does she do when she discovers that her fundamental premises are wrong?

I think of an interesting discussion in Nonaka and Johansson Relentless: The Japanese Way of Marketing in which the authors note how much grief is avoided because Japanese sales people do not assume that they are peers of their customers with ego at stake in overcoming their resistance. They act, instead, on the assumption that okyakusama wa kamisama, the customer is God, and behave in a priestly manner, presenting multiple offerings and indicating their virtues. The salesperson is freed of the burden of ego invested in the sale, and the customer is free to ask for expert advice without feeling degraded. This God is not omniscient.

I think, too, of the Ndembu and Victor Turner's observation, influenced by Marx and Freud, that human life and human societies are inevitably shot through with conflicts and contradictions, which are sometimes resolved (the ritual is performed and the village stays together) and sometimes not (the village splits).

An ethnographer who assumed currently fashionable equalitarian and peaceful progressive ideals would, I'm afraid, make a hash of her study.
Keith Hart said:

The ethnographic paradigm has been moving for half a century in response to the anti-colonial revolution and other seismic changes in world history.

Which can bring us back to the relationships between anthropology (as a whole, not just cultural anthropology) and colonialism. Using, again, folkloristics as the contrast case, an argument could be made that some anthropologists, at least some of those tied to colonialist societies, are still flagellating themselves for their involvement in the colonial enterprise. To an extent, this self-flagellation may even be self-aggrandizing as it may overemphasize the role anthropology has played in the specific realities of colonialism. Folklorists are connected more directly to nationalism. Despite the extremely negative impacts of some forms of colonialism, this connection seems to be much less damaging to the discipline than the colonial connection is to anthropology. It's quite possible that things may shift completely once we leave the nationalist era. But, at this point, our sister ethnographic discipline of folkloristics is this "happy place" where ties to complicated events can be discussed freely. Not that the "crisis of representation" of the mid- to late 1980s didn't have an impact on the study of tradition. Folklorists were reading Clifford et al. as avidly as anybody else. But a mea culpa for partial involvement in nationalist movements seems unnecessary.

Of course the anthropologists claim that the others don’t understand what ethnography is really about or how it is done by the people who know, themselves.
The core point I was trying to make. Hence the emphasis on those disciplines which were autonomously ethnographic, without the need for an anthropological influence.

But they have forgotten what it is about ‘anthropology’ that makes their version of ‘ethnography’ special.

Good point. And it might be useful to "go down to the basics," here. Things like length of stay in the field, embedded theories, "exotic societies," etc.

They no longer ask the basic questions that launched anthropology -- what makes inequality intolerable or how people can live together peaceably.

Fascinating. This is where I may need a refresher course in the history of the discipline. Is this really the set of questions which launched anthropology or are we applying a contemporary perspective on our history? I can see these as being important in the Boasian line but I'll need to look into James George Frazer, Marcel Mauss, Lewis Henry Morgan, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Émile Durkheim, and Edward Burnett Tylor. Not to make sure that they were egalitarian pacifists, but to make sure that these were the questions which launched their work. It's been a while since I've looked into anthropology's disciplinary history.

The rapid development of global communications today contains within its movement a far-reaching transformation of world society. ‘Anthropology’ in some form is one of the intellectual traditions best suited to make sense of it.

If it doesn't miss the boat. Sounds to me that anthropology departments at large academic institutions may not be the best place to look for this kind of sense-making. For instance, academic anthropology would seem like the most likely context for Open Access, yet anthropological institutions have been especially reluctant to discuss how knowledge is disseminated. We may need more librarians. The "guild" angle is quite interesting, as anthropology does look like a protected trade, at times.
Isn't `"cultural awareness" a useful differentiator? In my mind, qualitative research which shows no cultural awareness isn't ethnographic. Qualitative research which does display cultural awareness, even if the methods used are distant from the ethnographic mainstream, could be considered ethnographic, in my perspective.
The trick, then, is to define cultural awareness. Not that easy a task, at least not if we want people to really "grok" it. As I'm teaching intro sociology (in a nursing school, actually), I can't help but find similarities with the so-called "sociological imagination," which becomes a measure of how efficiently people are at "thinking like a sociologist." In ethnographic disciplines, cultural awareness often sounds like a combination of epistemology and personal attitude. Giving some validity to the very concept of culture, and noticing what cultural diversity can provide, in terms of insight.

We can also reverse the model and say that ethnography is to qualitative research as population studies are to quantitative research. There can probably be some qualitative research methods used in population studies but the general pattern is that scholars in those fields are trained in statistics. It's also possible to use quantitative methods in ethnographic research and some ethnographers are quite proficient in terms of statistical analysis. But the overall mode of inquiry is more about insight than about precision, putting ethnography more "qual" than "quant."
Speaking of that distinction... Penny Eckert's work is, in my mind, a very effective combination of qualitative and quantitative methods. In fact, her work shows how social network analysis can reach to both sides of that divide. I personally found her Jocks and Burnouts remarkably insightful and some of her quantitative data would seem to be rather reliable.

Owen Wiltshire said:
Not that I claim to have an extensive exposure to anthropology, nor a good understanding of all the forms of ethnography.

I do find most disciplines share the same methods, using different names. Since so much ethnography today doesn't involve going away and hanging out in a particular place for a year, it's hard to differentiate it from a more general label of "qualitative research" ?




Owen Wiltshire said:
In looking at contemporary ethnography, I'd have to ask "who doesn't do ethnography?". The method itself is rather simple?

I agree that the questions anthropologists ask is key, but in the history of anthropology I read "equality" was never an object of discussion. The history I studied was about how anthropologists created categories of the 'other', placing them on evolutionary lines - creating concepts of "primitive", "backward", "undeveloped".... aka justifying inequality rather than seeing it as unjust.

What would be an example of an intellectual labour we could make available to everyone I wonder?
Actually I was trying to distinguish between academic anthropology and an interdisciplinary project called 'anthropology' that some anthropologists might join, along with historians, philosophers, sociologists etc. On an analogy with 'development', an interdisciplinary project aiming to reduce the gap between rich and poor countries, this one might have as its object the making of world society. Of course I know that temperamentally most paid up anthropologists would run a mile from this, citing ethnography as their principal concern. I posted the comment to indicate the problem I face in identifying anthropology with ethnography; but perhaps it is a diversion from the main purpose of this thread.

John McCreery said:
" A broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole -- is a matter of urgent personal concern" is a powerful, political ideal, one I am happy to share. But is this anthropology? Or the primary driver for ethnography? I have my doubts.
Sorry, I should have been more explicit in that soundbite. I was making a claim that modern anthropology has its origin in the18th century Enlightenment, in the revolutionary attempt to found democratic societies on what human beings have in common, their nature. I would select Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality and Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View as the two principal sources. And it was their questions I was referring to. There is no doubt that Morgan-Engels took their framework and basic approach from Rousseau and after them, people like Childe, Wolf and Goody. But the latter have been marginal to what academic anthropology has become in general. As for Kant, his existence is denied by professional anthropologists who make up a history that begins in the late 19th century, as prelude to their own ethnographic revolution.


They no longer ask the basic questions that launched anthropology -- what makes inequality intolerable or how people can live together peaceably.

Fascinating. This is where I may need a refresher course in the history of the discipline. Is this really the set of questions which launched anthropology or are we applying a contemporary perspective on our history? I can see these as being important in the Boasian line but I'll need to look into James George Frazer, Marcel Mauss, Lewis Henry Morgan, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Émile Durkheim, and Edward Burnett Tylor. Not to make sure that they were egalitarian pacifists, but to make sure that these were the questions which launched their work. It's been a while since I've looked into anthropology's disciplinary history.
As a Swiss citizen, I often appreciate the connection with Rousseau. As a feminist, I'd hope Wollstonecraft also had some impact. But if we are to talk about that part of our intellectual history, I'd also go from Rousseau to the Herder/Humboldt/Grimm line and then to Boas/Sapir, reconnecting anthropology with folkloristics, philology... and nationalism. Some details are a bit blurry, to me. I'm convinced they all fit together rather tightly, but I'm not enough of a diachronist to be able to provide a clear narrative.
What you say about contemporary anthropologists evacuating Kant is probably accurate. But I see it less as a way to telescope history than as the construction of a consistent master narrative.
In terms of social sciences in general, Kant is as unavoidable in his time as Hobbes and Descartes before him or Comte and Nietzsche later on. Yet Kant's work, to me, seems more useful as a backdrop than as a clear foundation for our discipline, especially in connection with ethnography as an epistemological approach. I may be way off. Kant's perspective on rationalism and positivism certainly influenced relativism, which is clearly foundational for ethnographic disciplines.

One thing I like about this thread is that it allows me to go outside of my "comfort zone." Even if some of my comments appear naive, I think the discussion is useful in reassessing some assumed connections in our history. Reminds me of those "History of Ideas" seminars from my student days.
This is where the informality of online conversations can help us achieve a broad perspective.


Keith Hart said:
Sorry, I should have been more explicit in that soundbite. I was making a claim that modern anthropology has its origin in the18th century Enlightenment, in the revolutionary attempt to found democratic societies on what human beings have in common, their nature. I would select Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality and Kant's Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View as the two principal sources. And it was their questions I was referring to. There is no doubt that Morgan-Engels took their framework and basic approach from Rousseau and after them, people like Childe, Wolf and Goody. But the latter have been marginal to what academic anthropology has become in general. As for Kant, his existence is denied by professional anthropologists who make up a history that begins in the late 19th century, as prelude to their own ethnographic revolution.

They no longer ask the basic questions that launched anthropology -- what makes inequality intolerable or how people can live together peaceably.

Fascinating. This is where I may need a refresher course in the history of the discipline. Is this really the set of questions which launched anthropology or are we applying a contemporary perspective on our history? I can see these as being important in the Boasian line but I'll need to look into James George Frazer, Marcel Mauss, Lewis Henry Morgan, Alfred Radcliffe-Brown, Émile Durkheim, and Edward Burnett Tylor. Not to make sure that they were egalitarian pacifists, but to make sure that these were the questions which launched their work. It's been a while since I've looked into anthropology's disciplinary history.
I personally don't perceive it as a diversion and, as OAC administrator, you're allowed as many diversions as you want...
In fact, it centres the issue of "anthropology" as a concept, demonstrating how restrictive academic departments of anthropology may have become. Is "anthropology," the academic discipline, not more "anthropological" than "humanities" as academic disciplines are "humanistic?"

Keith Hart said:
Actually I was trying to distinguish between academic anthropology and an interdisciplinary project called 'anthropology' that some anthropologists might join, along with historians, philosophers, sociologists etc. On an analogy with 'development', an interdisciplinary project aiming to reduce the gap between rich and poor countries, this one might have as its object the making of world society. Of course I know that temperamentally most paid up anthropologists would run a mile from this, citing ethnography as their principal concern. I posted the comment to indicate the problem I face in identifying anthropology with ethnography; but perhaps it is a diversion from the main purpose of this thread.

John McCreery said:
" A broad intellectual coalition for whom the realization of a new human universal – a world society fit for humanity as a whole -- is a matter of urgent personal concern" is a powerful, political ideal, one I am happy to share. But is this anthropology? Or the primary driver for ethnography? I have my doubts.
Owen Wiltshire said:
I do find most disciplines share the same methods, using different names. Since so much ethnography today doesn't involve going away and hanging out in a particular place for a year, it's hard to differentiate it from a more general label of "qualitative research" ?
>
Whoops. I took too long editing a reply and Ning didn't get it.

Briefly. "Ethnography" has, like "culture," escaped the control of those who would define it in ways specific to anthropology. That said, the traditional anthropological approach, that "going away and hanging around in a particular place" that Owen mentions may deserve closer consideration. What I discovered during my fieldwork in Taiwan was (1) that I had been granted the extraordinary privilege of two years in which I had nothing to do but pursue my interests and (2) was equipped by my graduate training in anthropology with all sorts of questions that it would never occur to the missionaries, diplomats, business and military people I met to ask.

Then came a long illustrative anecdote. I'll hold off on that unless someone really wants to hear it.


John McCreery said:
Owen Wiltshire said:
I do find most disciplines share the same methods, using different names. Since so much ethnography today doesn't involve going away and hanging out in a particular place for a year, it's hard to differentiate it from a more general label of "qualitative research" ?
>
I do want to hear it. But having to rewrite these things can be frustrating, so don't feel forced to do it.

As for the "control," there may even be an issue of different spheres of influence. As anthros, we do tend to "own" the concept of culture in some contexts. But we're absent from other spheres and may have isolated ourselves from broader discussions about cultural diversity. I'm thinking more specifically about the technological part of globalization. Many anthros have written extensively on topics relevant to this "globally connected world" some think that we live in. Yet, is the anthro voice heard? A few people have done important work in terms of raising anthro awareness (for instance, OAC member Mike Wesch). But there's still a disconnect, it seems to me.
All this while the United States have an anthropologist's son as a president!

John McCreery said:
Whoops. I took too long editing a reply and Ning didn't get it.

Briefly. "Ethnography" has, like "culture," escaped the control of those who would define it in ways specific to anthropology. That said, the traditional anthropological approach, that "going away and hanging around in a particular place" that Owen mentions may deserve closer consideration. What I discovered during my fieldwork in Taiwan was (1) that I had been granted the extraordinary privilege of two years in which I had nothing to do but pursue my interests and (2) was equipped by my graduate training in anthropology with all sorts of questions that it would never occur to the missionaries, diplomats, business and military people I met to ask.

Then came a long illustrative anecdote. I'll hold off on that unless someone really wants to hear it.


John McCreery said:
Owen Wiltshire said:
I do find most disciplines share the same methods, using different names. Since so much ethnography today doesn't involve going away and hanging out in a particular place for a year, it's hard to differentiate it from a more general label of "qualitative research" ?
>

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