How can travel books and narrative ethnography be compared? This article systematically examines the works of an eminent travel writer and an anthropologist with respect to paratexts, themes, lexis, named entities, and narrative positions. It combines quantitative methods with a close reading of three books. The article discusses whether a mixed-methods approach of close reading and quantitative analysis can be applied to comparing larger corpora of travel writing and ethnography.
Comparative Perspectives on Travel Writing and Ethnography
Jörg Lehmann and Thomas Stodulka
The Uses of Ethnography in a Contested Field of Scholarship
Since the 1980s, there has existed a field of scholarly inquiry into a range of phenomena termed New Age. The relative lack of ethnographic studies in this field was identified several years ago, in response to research that focused merely on the discourses within alleged key writings. However, the employment of ethnographic methods does not by itself resolve the problems inherent in other modes of research; attention also has to be paid to how ethnography is used in practice. This article examines ethnographies of the New Age in terms of the extent to which they contextualize data within their immediate social frames, by paying attention to actors' practices and interactions, and to the ways in which beliefs and discourses are constructed and contested. The article demonstrates the strong tendency among New Age ethnographic studies to veer from 'the social' and to rest instead on analytically problematic conceptualizations of agency. It argues that epistemological revision is required to form the basis of a more sociologically adequate understanding of the phenomena addressed.
Disentangling Provenance, Provenience, and Context in Vanuatu Assemblages
James L. Flexner
The archaeological value of museum collections is not limited to collections labelled “archaeology.” “Ethnology” or “ethnography” collections can provide useful information for evaluating broadly relevant theoretical and methodological discussions in the discipline. The concepts of provenience (where something was found), provenance (where the materials for an object originated), and context (the ways an object is and was interpreted and used within a cultural milieu) are central to much archaeological interpretation. Archaeologists have often looked to living societies as analogues for better understanding these issues. Museum ethnographic collections from Vanuatu provide a case study offering a complementary approach, in which assemblages of ethnographic objects and associated information allow us to reconstruct complex networks of movement, exchange, and entanglement.
A Northern Perspective
Dmitry V. Arzyutov and Sergei A. Kan
The conceptualization of the “field” in early Soviet ethnography had its own dynamics and elaborations within the discursive arenas of the Leningrad ethnographic school. Beginning with the prehistory of the idea of the field among the Enlightenment naturalists and travelers, we turn toward a description of long-term expeditions of the first generation of Soviet ethnographers of the North. Comparing field diaries, photographs, questionnaires, lectures, and textbooks, we consider the patterns and flexibility in the concept of the field in the first half of the twentieth century. We conclude with a discussion of how post–World War II Soviet anthropologists departed from the ideas of participant observation and long-term fieldworking prominent in earlier conceptualizations of fieldwork in Soviet ethnography.
Researching the Micro Worlds of Girls through Visual Auto-ethnographic Practices
Gerry Bloustien and Sarah Baker
How can visual ethnography help us to understand the nature and the complexity of the (ethnic/gendered/classed) experience of growing up? Drawing on two ethnographic projects, we discuss the purposes and the difficulties of the particular methodology of auto-visual ethnography which we deployed. Our speciﬁc focus was the relation- shipand the tension between the representation and the individual everyday experiences. Through focusing upon the micro worlds of the young people themselves within their wider ‘parent’ cultures, their engagement with home, school, and outside leisure activities, were revealed to be strategically (if sometimes unconsciously) part of much larger overlapping social spheres and powerful cultural inﬂu- ences. The pre-teenage and teenage female participants were invited to document any aspects of their worlds on cameras and video.
My Ethnography of the University (EUI) course 'Muslims in America' introduces undergraduate students to the racialisation of Islam and Muslims in the U.S. at large, and in the University in particular. In this article, I describe how an anti-racist pedagogy coupled with student ethnographic research can yield a rich learning process. Beginning with one of the key debates in the scholarship on Muslims in the United States, I introduce students to the productive ways in which a multiracial history of American Islam can inform their ethnographic research. Additionally, I elaborate the potential for student research to transform university policy. The University offers a valuable ethno- graphic site for the critical study of the history and place of Muslims in U.S. society, politics and culture.
Ethnography between the Virtue of Patience and the Anxiety of Belatedness Once Coevalness Is Embraced
In view of this issue's focus on time and temporalities, I want to discuss a distinctive problem concerning the ethnographic representation of fieldwork experiences. Faced with increased time pressure to complete degree work and the present trend that emphasizes efficiency in graduate training, scholars are finding traditional ideals of temporality in research to be challenged as a professional standard of ethnography at the outset of their careers. To me, this compelling development in the current evolution of social and cultural anthropology needs detailed discussion in reassessing the norms of the long-established ethos of anthropological research.
The Ethnography of the University Initiative (EUI) joins a long history of critique, challenge and transformation of higher education. EUI courses are an important site for the creation of non-traditional narratives in which students challenge 'business-as-usual' in higher education. For under-represented students, this includes inquiry and analysis of the racial status quo at the University. In this article, I provide a student's perspective on EUI through my own experiences with EUI research as both an undergraduate and later graduate student investigating race and racism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (U of I). Using ethnographic methods and drawing on critical race theory, I provide two examples of EUI research that critiqued the University's management of race. The first example is a collaborative ethnography of the Brown versus Board of Education Commemoration at U of I – a project that I joined as an undergraduate (Abelmann et al. 2007); and the second is my own dissertation on 'racial risk management', a project that emerged from my encounter with EUI. I discuss both projects as examples of Critical Race Ethnography, namely works based on empirical research that challenge institutions' racial composition, structure and climate.
Whither an Interdisciplinary Role?
Susan A. Crate
Using longitudinal ethnographic material, anthropologists are skilled to discern how change, in its many forms, interacts with the livelihoods of affected communities. Furthermore, multi-sited ethnography can show how local change is both a result of global to local phenomena and of origins affecting similar local contexts. Ethnographic material is therefore critical to interdisciplinary understandings of change. Through case study in native villages in north-eastern Siberia, Russia, this article argues for ethnography's unique capacity to understand change. In addition, it argues for ethnography's much-needed contribution in interdisciplinary efforts to account for attributes of global change both highly local and human.
The Temporalities of Ethnographic Fieldwork
Anthropologists working in a culturally unfamiliar field site carry out an experiment in time by interacting with people who do not share a common cultural past with them. Their real time interaction will therefore engender miscommunications and interpretative breakdowns. The 'invisibility' of temporal patterns results from the tendency of human consciousness to focus on difference and forget repetition. This article argues that the methodological intervention of ethnographic fieldwork is to transform repetition into difference by participating in events over a period of time. Building on the premise that anthropologists and their collaborators often act from different temporal orientations or 'timescapes', the article suggests that similar differences develop within societies between actors in different life situations and representing different cultural interests and traditions. Only through the long-term study of a particular group of people can the complexity and dynamics of different timescapes be discerned.