Ethnography Essay

1083 words - 4 pages

Ethnography
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Reflexivity is a qualitative method of research that takes an ethnography one step further, displaying the personal thoughts and reflections of the anthropologist on his informants. Ethnographies generally take an outside or foreign perspective of a culture, like reading a text, and reflexivity introduces a new component of inside description. Here, the anthropologist may describe personal interactions and experiences with natives and use this inside information to make additional conclusions about the people being studied. The ethnographer may also reflect on his ethnic connections with his informants, or his acceptance into the society, explaining that it provides valuable, inside knowledge of the culture and ultimately leads to a greater understanding of the native people as a whole.

The importance of reflexivity is illustrated in Dissolution and Reconstitution of Self: Implications for Anthropological Epistemology, by anthropologist Dorinne Kondo. Her reflections lead her to realize that she has lost, or has almost lost, her identity as an American anthropologist and now sees herself as a young woman of Japanese culture. "What occurred in the field was a kind of fragmenting of identity into Japanese and American elements, so that the different strands, instead of interweaving to form a coherent whole, strained and tugged against one another" (78). As she became so immersed in the culture, Kondo began to understand and adopt cultural aspects that are unique to the Japanese, a thus adopted a new identity. At first, she practiced Japanese behavior to be socially accepted and gain the respect of her host family, but she was so successful that community members began to regard her as a fellow member of society and this indeed contributed to her disillusionment.

From her text we understand that her initial identity already resembled that of her informants, something which is not typical of ethnographers. Kondo writes, " As a Japanese-American young woman doing fieldwork in Japan, the Other was not totally Other for me" (75). This ethnic connection played a primary role in her acceptance by a Japanese family and eventually by Japanese society. She describes that, "later in the summer, the wife confided to me that she would never have allowed a 'true American' to live with them." Living with the Japanese family taught Kondo the proper etiquette of a Japanese female and the longer she stayed in Japan the more she transformed. She gained an insider perspective because she gained cultural acceptance, although she was still viewed by many as an other. Kondo began to develop relationships and soon after natives began to ask her to teach them English, and to attend several social gatherings. As more people asked her favors she became irritated, but after a conversation with her landlady she realized that the, "Japanese don't treat themselves as important, they spend time doing things for the sake of maintaining...

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