Monday, October 25, 2010

A descriptive science...

As a bear of very little brain I continue to be somewhat uncomfortable with ethnography. That's after having covered some aspect of it in almost all of my classes, mind you. Despite Luker's nod to Foucault and acknowledgement of doxa, etc., the notion of "field" research somehow rings a little false in my mind. (Although I will acknowledge the two assumptions I was making when reading this chapter: First, that "field" research meant human-human interaction. I was somewhat surprised when Luker mentioned her friend who was a primatologist doing ethnographic work with baboons. I think part of my discomfort with the notion of "field" research is that it seems a little bit like putting the human "other" in the zoo. I suppose that, of course, I could extrapolate that ethnography could include animals or any number of other environments, but I keep focussing on the human environments. Second, although Luker has made acknowledgements aplenty of the need for social scientists to be careful about exerting the "special kind of power" that social science has over readers/consumers of the research, I was encouraged by the Shaffir article which says that ethnography is meant to be descriptive, and "attempts to... diminish the subjective component" of that research are folly. Equally interesting is the expansion of ethnographic research to include the researcher's motivations for pursuing the study, which does seem to remove some of my concern about the possibility of privileging the account of the researcher at the expense of "the whole story." I'm an English student, and I guess my concern is that an ethnography runs the risk of reading like a good novel.

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