A Reflection On Ethnographies Essay

1447 words - 6 pages

1. An important concept described in Hedican’s book, Up in Nipigon Country is “reflexive understandings”. The concept of reflexivity in anthropology is the process of reinterpreting data from someone else’s point of view, from someone who actually lives in the ethnographic site that the anthropologist is researching (Hedican 2001: 12). Hedican confesses that he finds this process to be very complicating (Hedican 2001: 12). Hedican states that the step-by-step process of “understanding the ethnographic reconstruction is necessary in learning about the way we accomplish our task as fieldworkers” (Hedican 2001: 12). He also states the “ability to transform nebulous currents of social behaviour into a comprehensive stream of understanding is a minor miracle in itself” (Hedican 2001: 13). Furthermore, Hedican is describing the difficulties that reflexive understanding has brought to him and how it is a long process when conducting fieldwork.

“Participant observation” is another key concept described in both Henry’s ethnography, as well as Hedican’s ethnography. My personal understanding is that participant observation means living in a culture that is not your own while also keeping a detailed record of your observations and interviews. Also, it is described as a research method to gain a close relationship with a given cultural group. Henry explains that “anthropology has a long tradition of identifying itself as a distinctive discipline on the basis of its methodology – fieldwork or participant observation” (Henry 1999: 56). Additionally, Henry suggests that “being there” (Henry 1999: 56) and “placing yourself within a field of sociality allows you to fully experience and understand the situational field” (Henry 1999: 56). I think that Henry is describing the term “participant observation” as a research method that anthropologists must use in order to achieve and create a successful ethnography. Also, the concept “participant observation” is used in Hedican’s ethnography to suggest that “reality is not apt to know much about through interviews or questionnaires, but mainly through participant observation” (Hedican 2001: 86). This means that surveys and questionnaires will not allow you to fully understand someone else’s cultural viewpoint, but participant observation does. Hedican also states “for it is only through fieldwork, with its participatory and observational techniques conducted in the on-going glow to social life, that we gain glimpses of the structured patterns of behaviour that coalesce into the actual institutional bases of society” (Hedican 2001: 87). I think that Hedican is proving the point that in order to fully understand another culture’s way of life; you must fully immerse and engage yourself in their daily activities.

An extremely important concept is “ethnographic site/regions” which is defined as a specific geographical location to conduct fieldwork where a unique culture of group exists (Henry 1999: 53). In Confronting...

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