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Ethnographic Research Essay

1967 words - 8 pages

Ethnographic research is the scientific description of specific human cultures, foreign to the ethnographer. Each ethnographer has his or her own way of conducting research and all of these different ideas can be transmitted and understood in a number of different ways. Because there is no one set idea of how an ethnographer should go about his or her research, conflicts arise. In Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, Paul Rabinow uses a story like process to discuss his experiences during his research in Morocco. This makes it easier for the reader to understand his ideas then just having a technical book about the many different aspects of Moroccan life that he may have discovered. In Writing Culture: the Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, edited by James Clifford and George E. Marcus, many of the different ideas of how an ethnographer should go about his or her research are explored. Using their own ideas and incorporating them with the ideas of collogues, they emphasized a broad range of thoughts. Although these ethnographers have all these different ideas of how to conduct their research on the other, they always come back to the same questions. How are going to be able to identify something that is so foreign to us in a way that everyone else foreign may understand also?

If I were an ethnographer and had to do my own ethnographic research, I would take ideas from Rabinow, Clifford and Marcus. In George E. Marcus's words, I would use a "strategically selected locale, treating the system as a background." (Clifford and Marcus 1986 pg. 172) In other words, I would find a place where I think I would have the best opportunity, and the first thing I would do when I arrived at the place where I was studying would be to familiarize myself with the language if I did not know it already. This is an obvious step that all ethnographers must take before they even begin their research. Once I had become comfortable with myself and the language I would pick a part of the society that I would like to focus on. Similar to what Paul Willis's study, which Marcus described in his paper, of a group of twelve boys in a working class school, I would first go straight to the primary source. In Rabinow's book he takes the opposite approach and goes from place to place not focusing on one certain aspect of culture but a broad range of different ideas of society. I think that this approach may be more difficult because there os so much more that has to be looked at and understood. For instance, Rabinow must learn two different languages, French and Arabic just to understand the people around him. Then travel all around Morocco and obtain information on a numerous amount of different cultures. Though this practice of fieldwork has its benefits, describing one aspect of a society goes more in depth.

Focusing on one aspect of a culture, I would want to obtain an exact understanding of what these people were doing and how they felt they fit into...

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