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Becoming a Social Scientist
Sociology & Policy Department
TP2 Developing Research Skills and Practice
Week 7: Ethnography ...
Lecture’s Sequence
• Reminder of the Quantitative Methods:
• Week 2: Quantitative Data Gathering I.
»Surveys, What The Are...
Lecture Outline:
LECTURE Week 7:
· 0.- REMINDER
· 1.- INTRODUCTION
· 2.- REFLEXIVE ETHNOGRAPHY: REFLEXIVITY
· 3.- ACTION R...
The Question we are addressing this lecture is:
• As long as, we define the Ethnographer as the Social Scientist
researchi...
Key Texts
• Bryman, A. (2004), Social Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University
Press. Pp. 288-289,
• Hammersley, M. and...
Lecture Outline:
0.- REMINDER:
• What ethnography is
• Ethical issues ethnography raises
• How ethnographic data may be st...
1.- INTRODUCTION
• In previous lectures:
• We highlighted that Ethnography provides ways for us,
as social researchers:
• ...
1.- INTRODUCTION
1) It differentiates qualitative research from the ‘positivism’ of
quantitative research through the beli...
1.- INTRODUCTION
• This implication of this concern with the SUBJECTIVE – with
human understanding – has in recent years p...
1.- INTRODUCTION
• Attention to the implications of
these subjective positions has
produced much discussion of
the need fo...
1.- INTRODUCTION
ETHNOGRAPHER
SUBJECTIVITY
OBJECTIVITY
REFLEXIVITYAction Research Participatory Techniques
• Interpretivist ethnography argues that humans construct their social worlds
• These human constructions are responsible ...
• Ethnography has to contend
with the double hermeneutic
(Giddens) – researchers give
meaning to their subject’s
meanings ...
• What is reflexivity?
– Human understanding of how one stands in relation to the
world and how this world relates to one
...
• Reflexive research practice entails: “an understanding
of the social conditions of social scientific knowledge
productio...
• To defend the claim that ethnography can comprehend a ‘real’ world that exists
independently of our capacity to represen...
• Reflexivity as anti-realist ethnography
• Post-structuralist and post-modernist theoretical influences deny
the‘authenti...
• These are points of theory and debate – for knowledge (epistemology) and for how things
exist (onotology)
• But they als...
• Naturalistic (naïve/simple)
ethnographic realism is
unsustainable – it cannot
acknowledge its own
constructedness
• Refl...
1.- REFLEXIVITY
1.- REFLEXIVITY
Giddens, for example, noted that constitutive
reflexivity is possible in any social system, and
that this ...
1.- REFLEXIVITY
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate
problem or a reflective process of ...
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
2.- ACTION RESEARCH
3.- PARTICIPATORY TECHNIQUES
• Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to
research in communities that emphasiz...
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ETHNOGRAPHY III: Theory & Reflexive Ethnography

This is a lecture that Dr Calzada delivered on Ethnography by linking it with Action Research and Reflexivity.

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ETHNOGRAPHY III: Theory & Reflexive Ethnography

  1. 1. Becoming a Social Scientist Sociology & Policy Department TP2 Developing Research Skills and Practice Week 7: Ethnography III Theory and Reflexive Ethnography Dr Igor Calzada
  2. 2. Lecture’s Sequence • Reminder of the Quantitative Methods: • Week 2: Quantitative Data Gathering I. »Surveys, What The Are and How to Do with Them. • Week 3: Quantitative Data Gathering II. »Statistics and Content Analysis. • Quantitative Methods: Ethnography • Week 4: Ethnography I. »What it is, Where It Came From and How to Do It. • Week 5: Ethnography II. »Data Analysis and Writing Ethnography. • Week 7: Ethnography III. »Theory and Reflexive Ethnography.
  3. 3. Lecture Outline: LECTURE Week 7: · 0.- REMINDER · 1.- INTRODUCTION · 2.- REFLEXIVE ETHNOGRAPHY: REFLEXIVITY · 3.- ACTION RESEARCH · 4.- PARTIPATORY TECHNIQUES
  4. 4. The Question we are addressing this lecture is: • As long as, we define the Ethnographer as the Social Scientist researching qualitatively the social sphere: – How can we make sure that viability of the ethnographic ‘naturalism’? – Do we need a ‘reflexive’ turn in Ethnography? Yes. – Do we need to consider ‘ethnographic reflexivity’ in terms of realist and anti-realist positions? Yes. – Do we need therefore to provide an assessement? Yes.
  5. 5. Key Texts • Bryman, A. (2004), Social Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press. Pp. 288-289, • Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P. (2007), Ethnography: Principles and Practice, London: Routledge. Chapter 1. • May, T. (1999), ‘Reflexivity and Sociological Practice’, Sociological Research Online, 4 (3). • Pink, S. (2007), Doing Visual Ethnographyl London: Sage. Chapter 1. • Skeggs, B. (1997), Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable, London: Sage. Chapter 2. • Sayer, A. (2000), Realism and Social Science, London: Sage. Chapter 2. ‘Realism for Sceptics’ • Willis, P. (1997), ‘Theoretical confessions and Reflexive Method’, Gelder, J. and Thornton, S. (eds.), The Subcultures Reader, London: Routledge
  6. 6. Lecture Outline: 0.- REMINDER: • What ethnography is • Ethical issues ethnography raises • How ethnographic data may be stored and analysed. This lecture provides a more focused consideration of: • Role of Social Theory. (Veblen, Gramsci, Frankfurt School,…) • Action Research in Ethnography.
  7. 7. 1.- INTRODUCTION • In previous lectures: • We highlighted that Ethnography provides ways for us, as social researchers: • to get close to people and to participate in their lives • to know in some detail how they live • to comprehend their experiences and lived realities • To ascertain how they understand and attach meanings to the people and institutions that make up their daily lives. • This emphasis on knowing the meanings that people possess (i.e. ‘hermeneutics’).
  8. 8. 1.- INTRODUCTION 1) It differentiates qualitative research from the ‘positivism’ of quantitative research through the belief that the phenomena that constitute the social world are markedly different to the phenomena that constitute the natural world. 2) These meanings form the basis of human action; people act on the meaning they hold and are capable of applying these meaning to their worlds. 3) Ethnography clarifies how different groups within society hold different meanings, so that we can speak of society being differentiated, for example, according to gender or ethnicity.
  9. 9. 1.- INTRODUCTION • This implication of this concern with the SUBJECTIVE – with human understanding – has in recent years produced intense debate within ethnography. • If people understand the world in different ways, then perhaps we need to speak of multiple ‘realities’ rather than a single one? • Moreover, if ethnography reveals how people construct their own social worlds according to their understanding of it, then perhaps there is no ‘objective reality’ for ethnography to discover? • And given that ethnographers cannot escape their own subject positions – they carry their own meanings and understandings with them into the field – then perhaps the ethnographer is involved in the construction of ‘reality’, rather than its discovery, through the ways in which she/he represents the world that she/he has discovered.
  10. 10. 1.- INTRODUCTION • Attention to the implications of these subjective positions has produced much discussion of the need for a REFLEXIVE ETHNOGRAPHY and for ethnography as involving the construction and representation of knowledge, rather than accounts of a ‘real’, external world.
  11. 11. 1.- INTRODUCTION ETHNOGRAPHER SUBJECTIVITY OBJECTIVITY REFLEXIVITYAction Research Participatory Techniques
  12. 12. • Interpretivist ethnography argues that humans construct their social worlds • These human constructions are responsible for producing distinct/different social ‘worlds’ – e.g. social organisations, cultures, sub-cultures etc. • But ethnographers/researchers also construct and interpret the world – they write ethnographies • There is thus a tension/conflict within naturalistic realism between a concern with the meanings/understandings (held by human beings) and the creation of meanings/understandings (by other human beings) about these (Giddens’ ‘double hermeneutic’) • So, the claim that naturalistic ethnography represents ‘real’ external worlds is not so straightforward i.e. research cannot simply ‘mirror’ the real world but must produce accounts/representations of that world • Ethnographies are, in fact, social constructions! They are part of the world as it is socially constructed, since they are constructed accounts of that world • A telling critique – naturalistic ethnography as foundational knowledge (i.e. ethnography ‘mirrors’ reality) is untenable 1.- REFLEXIVITY: What is the problem?
  13. 13. • Ethnography has to contend with the double hermeneutic (Giddens) – researchers give meaning to their subject’s meanings and these, in turn, can feedback into their subject’s meanings (e.g. ‘moral panic’) • To ‘solve’ this problem ethnography has become ‘reflexive’ in conceptualisation and practice • There are, however, disagreements about what this reflexivity should involve and the implications of adopting a reflexive position ‘Mods and Rockers’ Moral Panic – Stan Cohen 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Where does this leave Ethnography?
  14. 14. • What is reflexivity? – Human understanding of how one stands in relation to the world and how this world relates to one • For ethnography this means giving central importance to the subjectivity of both the objects of research (i.e. human participants) and the researcher his/herself • Ethnography must recognise this subjective dimension and develop a ‘reflexive methodology’ which acknowledges research as a social relationship between researcher and his/her subjects • Researchers must also understand that their own orientation to the social world is contextually produced (i.e. their assumptions, ideologies, values, subject position) • Influence of feminist thinking on ‘reflexivity’ – not to eradicate value judgements but to understand their place/role within research process 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Reflexive Ethnography
  15. 15. • Reflexive research practice entails: “an understanding of the social conditions of social scientific knowledge production and its relation to knowledge reception and context and thus its capacity for action.” (May 2001: 183) • What are the consequences of this for ethnography? – Reflexivity as the means to produce a better/more adequate understanding of social reality? (To defend a non naturalistic realism) – Reflexivity as requiring the abandonment of the commitment to ethnographic realism? (To abandon realism) 1.- REFLEXIVITY: The Reflexive Turn
  16. 16. • To defend the claim that ethnography can comprehend a ‘real’ world that exists independently of our capacity to represent it, researchers must: – Recognise that one cannot observe or describe the world in theoretically/conceptually neutral ways – Acknowledge that ones orientations are shaped by ones social origins and social positioning – Make concepts (assumptions) held and subject positions clear (positionality – Skeggs 1997) – Make overt political assumptions/implications clear – Recognise that research involves power relations (in the field and the ability to represent the lives of others) • So, researchers must make explicit their position within the research process; and critique their own ways of thinking/researching the world, or at least open these up to the scrutiny of others • We can thus accommodate or transcend researcher subjectivity • The goal is to produce reflexive ethnographies able to produce better (i.e. more useful) accounts of social life: ‘to examine our pre-theoretical knowledge in the spirit of producing more adequate accounts of the social world’ (May 1999;; Hammersley and Atkinson 2007) 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Reflexive Ethnography / Realism
  17. 17. • Reflexivity as anti-realist ethnography • Post-structuralist and post-modernist theoretical influences deny the‘authenticity’ of ethnographic description • Instead, ethnography is itself socially constructed. Ethnography is: – A representation that inevitably reflect the viewpoint/perspective of the author/creator – Always partial and contextually specific narratives (i.e. we cannot generalise from them) – Jointly constructed accounts and agreed ways of representing the world (Pink 2007) • Ethnography is one among many ways of creating narratives about the world; or representing the experiences of those whose lives we are interested in; • Ethnography is not a search for the truth, since this is not possible and thus not desirable • Ethnography creates ‘fictions’ (Geertz), stories about how people live from a particular point of view and with a particular purpose. 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Post-structuralism & Post-modernism
  18. 18. • These are points of theory and debate – for knowledge (epistemology) and for how things exist (onotology) • But they also have crucial practical consequences for ethnographic fieldwork, including: – The extent to which we can ever know the reality of other people’s lives – Whether or not ethnography can provide authentic accounts of the lives of others – Our ability to research/know the lives of categorical ‘others’ • For instance, can men do feminist research, can adults research children, can blacks r3esearch whites? (Power inequalities, exploitation, whether or not we need a shared identity) – The ethnographer/academic as vanguard (e.g. ‘we’ know how people feel or what is in their best interests) or providing a god’s eye view (i.e. ‘we’ can raise ourselves to a position of all-seeing and all-knowing – Ethnographic data is constructed and not ‘out there’ to be collected – Against grounded theory, data collection can never be theoretically neutral – fieldwork inevitably proceeds from certain assumptions – Against grounded theory, data analysis involves constructing categories from the data, rather than discovering categories already existing within the data 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Some practical consequences
  19. 19. • Naturalistic (naïve/simple) ethnographic realism is unsustainable – it cannot acknowledge its own constructedness • Reflexivity as abandonment of realism – Explicit about values and politics – Reveals power relations and encourages cooperation – does ethnography as ‘fiction’/representation (Pink 2007) lead to relativism? – Inward-looking and self- referential (rather than publicly facing and issue orientated) • Must abandon naïve realism but can retain a ‘subtle realism’ (Hammersley and Atkinson 2007) • To say that we can only know world as it is represented/constructed does not necessitate abandoning realism • A pragmatic realism – work with what we have while recognizing it to be fallible • A critical realism (Sayer 2000): social research can represent the world in more or less ‘practically adequate’ ways • Practical adequacy provides a guide for action 1.- REFLEXIVITY: Assessment.
  20. 20. 1.- REFLEXIVITY
  21. 21. 1.- REFLEXIVITY Giddens, for example, noted that constitutive reflexivity is possible in any social system, and that this presents a distinct methodological problem for the social sciences. Giddens accentuated this theme with his notion of "reflexive modernity" – the argument that, over time, society is becoming increasingly more self- aware, reflective, and hence reflexive.
  22. 22. 1.- REFLEXIVITY
  23. 23. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH Action research is either research initiated to solve an immediate problem or a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.
  24. 24. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  25. 25. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  26. 26. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  27. 27. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  28. 28. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  29. 29. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  30. 30. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  31. 31. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  32. 32. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  33. 33. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  34. 34. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  35. 35. 2.- ACTION RESEARCH
  36. 36. 3.- PARTICIPATORY TECHNIQUES • Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. • It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection. • PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. • Within a PAR process, "communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers" (Reason and Bradbury, 2008, p. 1). • PAR contrasts with many research methods, which emphasize disinterested researchers and reproducibility of findings.
  37. 37. Thanks for your attention

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