Ethnography

“Ethnography” literally means “writing” (graphy) about the culture of a group of people in their particularity (ethno). The term became attached to the discipline of anthropology in the early 1900s, and refers both to a method for research and an outcome of research. The ethnographic method is characteristically empirical, interpersonal, predominantly qualitative, and holistic (e.g., Peña 1997; Burawoy 1982). Once closely aligned with anthropology, the term is now used to describe qualitative research in many disciplines. In general, it aims for in-depth description and analysis, “thick description,” in Clifford Geertz’s memorable phrase (1973). An ethnography (as outcome) offers an account of a way of life. The most inspiring ethnographies bring readers into the experience of life within a world of meaning, generating empathy as well as understanding, and raising questions as well as answering them. Questions of who we are as humans are given breadth and …

This essay may be found on page 110 of the printed volume.

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