George Orwell is most widely known as the teller of dystopian tales
of oppression. A closer look at his oeuvre reveals a courageous truth
seeker who frequently lived and worked with his literary subjects. In
his fieldwork he used the methods of classic ethnography including
participant observation, semi-structured interviews and field notes.
This article argues that Orwell was an ethnographer in his research
methods and that both Down and Out in Paris and London and The Road
to Wigan Pier are ethnographic texts with valuable insights into marginal
groups in the early to mid-twentieth century in Europe. The
writer’s clear-sighted and humane depiction of ‘otherness’ shows his
skill as an ethnographer. His personal investment with his subject
matter, reflexivity and attention to broader social and political phenomena
in his narratives mark Orwell as an autoethnographer.