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Matt maycock on Ethnographic methods 28th jan 2015

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A presentation outlining an approach to ethnography

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Matt maycock on Ethnographic methods 28th jan 2015

  1. 1. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Ways of Knowing Culture: On Method Dr Matt Maycock MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit 28th January 2015
  2. 2. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Session overview • Ethnographic methods and an outline of participant observation • What are the strengths and weaknesses of ethnographic methods (including ethical considerations)? • Illustrated with the following example: • PhD research - contemporary slavery in Nepal • Discussion this weeks readings • Exercise focusing on the practical application of ethnography to understanding ageing
  3. 3. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Ethnographic Methods “From one point of view, that of the textbook, doing ethnography is establishing rapport, selecting informants, transcribing texts, taking genealogies, mapping fields, keeping a diary, and so on. But it is not these things, techniques and received procedures, that define the enterprise. What defines it is the kind of intellectual effort it is.... Ethnography is thick description” (Geertz 1973: 6, 9-10)
  4. 4. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Participant Observation Participant Observation (PO) • ‘Deep hanging out’ • Interviews • Surveys • Draw and Talk • Genealogies etc etc
  5. 5. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Some Practicalities of Participant Observation • live in study site for extended time • learn local language and dialect • participate in wide range of daily activities • use everyday conversation as interview technique • informally observe while participating • record observations in fieldnotes • continually reflect on experiences and data • use both explicit and tacit information in analysis (adapted from Dewalt and Dewalt, 2002)
  6. 6. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Strengths of Ethnography • Produces rich and detailed research material • Validity of research material: • Research material does not arise from artificial research setting • Reported behaviour can be compared with observed behaviour • Actions can be seen in relation to specific social contexts • Area of enquiry is only partially pre-defined • inductive
  7. 7. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Strengths of Participation • Greater understanding of how life is experienced • embodied experience • tacit knowledge • Development of trusting relationships • long-term contact • solidarity of shared experience • Almost continually open to new data over long period • observe different social contexts • witness unexpected • continually testing/ confirming appropriate behaviour
  8. 8. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Limitations of Participant Observation • Very expensive • very time consuming • both collecting and analysing data • requires skilled researchers • Can create substantial amounts of research material • Private behaviours v. difficult to observe • Difficult to replicate • Inherently conservative
  9. 9. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Subjectivity • Data and their interpretation inevitably shaped by individual researcher • centrality of personal relationships • selection of data to record • PO data result from interaction between researcher and researched • Explore subjectivity • don’t pretend objectivity • be aware of biases and how one interacts • ‘participant objectification’ (Bourdieu) • Initial findings are about oneself and social conditions that gave one one’s culture
  10. 10. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Ethics • Informed consent • initial introductions but continual process • fully informed consent undermines main strength of PO • concealing specific foci • Confidentiality and reciprocating gossip • Intervening against local practices • Maintaining integrity across different groups • degree of candour about own views
  11. 11. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. PhD research far-west Nepal, 2013 Masculinity, Modernity and Bonded Labour: Continuity and Change amongst the Kamaiya of Kailali District, far-west Nepal (School of International Development, UEA, Norwich)
  12. 12. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. PhD fieldwork far-west Nepal 2009 Yearlong fieldwork in Nepal: • Three month language training and key informant interviews • Nine months in two fieldsites My thesis addressed the the following research questions: • How have the links between Kamaiya bodies and Kamaiya masculinities changed following freedom? • How are working patterns changing following freedom, and what implications does this have for Kamaiya masculinities? • What are the Implications of modernity for Kamaiya masculinities in family settings?
  13. 13. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Methods • Household survey • Life History interviews • Participant observation • I wore clothes similar to my research participants and made a conscious effort not to display conspicuous signs of consumption. • I tried to behave like the men of my age at both fieldwork sites as far as possible. On occasion this involved doing the work that the men in Kampur were involved in, although this did not include driving a rickshaw as the rickshaw drivers found the idea ridiculous. • I took part in various agricultural and hunting activities. • I took part in the social life, which posed various difficulties for me.
  14. 14. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. My home for nine months…
  15. 15. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow.
  16. 16. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Participant Observation - Going ‘hunting’
  17. 17. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Going ‘hunting’
  18. 18. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Going ‘hunting’
  19. 19. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Going ‘hunting’
  20. 20. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Issues of Participant Observation/Fieldwork • Trying to ‘keep up’ with the men in both fieldwork sites in various ways was problematic and I was unable to do it in many respects, particularly in relation to drinking, which was an important daily occurrence • Domestic Violence seemed to be most likely after a night at a local bar many village women did not approve of their husbands going there, especially as it meant they would be spending a large proportion of the household’s limited income. Therefore, I did not want to be a part of daily drinking, and felt very uncomfortable about being associated with it. • Not going to a local bar on a consistent basis allowed me to form relationships with other people in the village, not least the women and older men, who disapproved of the bar and what went on there. • Isolation • Incompetence • Mental health implications of hearing disturbing narratives
  21. 21. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Positionality • As Reinharz (1997) indicates, researchers have multiple identities apart from those associated with being a researcher; mine include being white, Welsh, heterosexual, male and, at the time, unmarried. • My positionality through the various identities I brought to the research – my gender, race, class etc. – influenced both how I collected data and its interpretation (Mullings, 1999) • My position constituted both an advantage and a disadvantage. West (2003) found that being positioned as an ‘outsider’ brought certain benefits in his research with victims of torture in Mozambique’s war for independence. It allowed some of his research subjects to discuss issues that they found it difficult to speak about with members of their community.
  22. 22. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Positionality continued and reflexivity • I had not considered the implications of having a long-term girlfriend living with me in the field before going to my fieldwork sites. That I was in a long-term relationship and unmarried caused some consternation, as it was rare at both sites. • It was often initially assumed that because I was white, I was a development worker or involved with the UN in post-conflict work. • Working with two research assistants provided the opportunity to approach situations from different perspectives. • Reflexivity was central to all stages of my research in Nepal. Hollway and Jefferson (2000) outline how reflexivity can make an important positive contribution to qualitative research, especially in relation to the misreading of narratives.
  23. 23. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Some implications of my fieldwork… • I have a long term commitment to these two fieldsites. After 2009, I visited in 2011, 2013 and 2014 and will continue to visit the same sites as long as I am able. • Ethnographic methods have helped me to think differently about my own identity, the places and people I know • Having experience of using ethnographic methods is transferable to other contexts (such as Scottish prisons) • Sometimes it is hard not to think ‘ethnographically’
  24. 24. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Some potential dangers/ issues
  25. 25. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Discussion of Readings Bourgois, P. (1996). In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Dettwyler, K. (1994). Dancing Skeleton: Life and Death in West Africa. Prospect Heights: Waveland Press Mol, A. (2004). The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice. Durham, Duke University Press • Briefly summarise the reading • Give an outline of what ethnographic methods are used and how these methods are described • Consider some of the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of the methods used • Consider how the researcher positions him/herself in relation to the research subjects being studied, how is rapport established?
  26. 26. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Ethnography – commercial applications • Intel started using ethnography in the early 90s • Ethnography helped to illustrate the potential for home commuters, through deeper understandings of domestic spaces • The “Anywhere at work” study of fishermen in Alaska helped Intel focus on mobile computing • Intel has one of the biggest corporate teams of anthropologists • In house anthropologists now focus on a range of healthcare solutions and technologies • Intel is studying people in an effort to drive healthcare solutions and technologies to help people look after their health in their own home…
  27. 27. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow.
  28. 28. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. The Application of ethnographic methods Imagine you are a team of ethnographers at Intel with an interest in health. Work two teams to think about how you would use ethnographic methods the better understand the health implications of a new type of health watch: • What can ethnographic methods contribute to understanding the health implications of wearing a health watch that other methods can’t? • How will you approach participant observation? • How will ethnographic methods complement other sources of data collection? • What issues or challenges do you envisage?
  29. 29. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. Conclusions • Ethnographic studies have demonstrated that illness and medical care are socially constructed according to the cultural context in which we live • Ethnographic methods can contribute illuminating insights into health and illness within and between cultures • Ethnographic methods are being utilised in an evolving and diverse range of contexts
  30. 30. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow. GU Ethnography group The next meeting is 11th February 12:30-2 matthew.maycock@glasgow.ac.uk www.matthewmaycock.com Contact and connections

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