This normally involves residence among one's informants for a long time, typically a year or two, sometimes ten or more. For class purposes, this is not feasible, and data collection is more dependent upon formal interviews. Informants are usually delighted to talk to you, especially to tell you about things that they are expert about and interested in, such as themselves.
In this second post, I share the steps I go through to squeeze an ethnographic experience into what are admittedly short, one-term courses 12 weeks. Here are my five steps: Explore Sending students out into the world is less institutionally daunting than it may seem.
Course theme and coincidence largely guide my choice as to how to structure where students will do their observations. I have sent all my students to the same place and have let them choose their own—both ways work.
In a third year Politics of Indigeneity course, I had students watch patrons pass through or not the Aboriginal Canadian exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum. This challenges them not to leap to ethnographic writing assignment format criticism of the exhibit, but to attend to what happens through it.
I keep the instructions simple: There are great sources out there on writing field notes. My preference is to have students read thematic content, and so I accept that the exercise of writing an ethnographic paper for early undergraduates is an incomplete introduction to fieldwork.
Instead of readings, I show them student samples I find online from similar courses and I share my own field notes. Many students want to search for an authoritative voice for note taking. Usually this means listing demographic facts in the hopes of sounding thorough or scientific.
I try and show them how this leaves little to work with when writing time comes. The less they put into the notes the harder it is for me to pull a paper out. First-time ethnographic papers feel a bit like grabbing a rabbit out of a hat—there is some degree of hocus pocus involved.
I admit this piece is much easier in smaller courses where you can meet one-on-one with students. The hardest part is getting them to see their field site as a window into a debate, and not an exploration of the site for itself.
The rabbit goes where it goes and their job is to follow. These are the best moments if they are open to the chase.
Once I see the themes of the papers emerge, I group students into research communities. They almost always cluster well, with only one or two real outliers.
In larger classes, I reorganize tutorial groups by these shared interests. I decide on key article s they should read. Sometimes this means asking colleagues or TAs, if you are lucky to have them.
The requirement for the final assignment is to put their field materials into conversation with the targeted reading, and any others from the course. This anchors all the papers in the group to a debate.
Revisit I almost always have them do multiple visits because it usually opens up their observation skills and brings in richer data. Write To get them into the flavor and feel of ethnographic writing, I start one or two classes with free writing exercises geared at getting them to find their voice, or the story they are going to tell.
I do these exercises along with them so they can see that thoughts wander and some pieces will be good, while others need work—lots of work. A full-blown paper may not always be the best way to assess what they have learned. It may also be too much work for some courses. For example, in my large linguistic anthropology course, exams are mandatory.
I have framed the essay question to be answerable with their collected data. This spares them writing an exam separate from a paper, and provides mental relief for me, too.
In a compressed summer course in Women and Gender Studies, where the anthropological approach is new to many students, I elected to have them write extended essay proposals in lieu of papers. Some were taken with the process and elected to write full papers.
Ethnography allows them to enter these debates by starting from a place they feel comfortable—their everyday worlds.
Gradually, they learn that theory has to be accountable to the everyday and they start to see themselves as capable interlocutors. My motivation for organizing courses around mini-ethnographic papers is also partly selfish.
It greatly improves the interest factor when marking time comes. Not only are they attending to content and argument, but also style and narrative.
Images courtesy of UTSC.Putting Ethnographic Writing in Context by Seth Kahn This essay is a chapter in Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2, a peer-reviewed open textbook series for the writing classroom. Download the full volume and individual chapters from. Another common type of research and writing activity in anthropology is the ethnographic assignment.
Your anthropology instructor might expect you to engage in a semester-long ethnographic project or something shorter and less involved (for example, a two-week mini-ethnography). Ethnographic writing and research approaches have now extended beyond Anthropology to include fields like Composition Studies, in which writing students may be asked to conduct short-term observations of a group and write an ethnography using their observations.
Ethnography or the study of people who live in a similar way to those of the past can help archaeologists identify material evidence left over the ancestral civilizations found in dig sites. When archaeologists come across artifacts they are not familiar with, they refer to ethnographers who in turn try to link the ancient objects to the.
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Samples. This newspaper article is a great example of journalists also examining a subculture with some elements of ethnography. The thrust of the assignment is this: Students are responsible for investigating what writing looks like in their major (or in a major/field that intrigues them), for conducting primary research into their field via a professional interview and field observations, and for synthesizing and reflecting on these experiences.