Geomethodologies han.. - University of Colorado Boulder

Sarah Tynen
GEOG 5161- Research Design
Geomethodology Presentation
March 4, 2013
Ethnography: The art of deep hanging out
What is ethnography?
Ethnography is a research strategy that allows researchers to examine the cultures and societies
that are a fundamental part of the human experience. It involves observing, interviewing, and
interacting with people in their natural surroundings.
The goal of ethnography is to gain insight into learned attitudes as well as the social contexts and
cultural understandings that underlie thought processes that produce behavior.
What are some methods and techniques of ethnography?
A complete ethnography should include at least a combination of both observations and
interviews, and may also include a collection of site materials, documents, and images.
Participant observation, informal interviews (aka conversations), semi-structured interviews,
mapping, autoethnography, kinship charts, life histories, oral histories, and narrative storytelling
are some other methods that can be employed.
Mapping- Maps can serve as a representation of the geographic layout and will require
you to think carefully about the role of space in social and cultural phenomena.
o From the very outset, space helps us to understand why particular cultural and
social phenomena are present or absent. Humans move through space in ways that
are culturally influenced.
o Drawing and analyzing maps of domestic spaces can reveal and represent many
facets of society and culture, including gendered behaviors, sociospatial divisions,
separations of sacred and profane, separations of public and private spheres,
extended kinship ties, and domestic economic activities. A close examination of
these domestic spaces and spatial relationships can be used to detect linkages
between daily activity and broader processes on the local, national, or even global
o Maps are most likely to be helpful additions to the ethnographic record when one
or more of the following situations appears in ethnographic research:
 The physical or social environment seems to play a role in shaping culture
 There are significant flows of people or goods
 Space serves to divide groups of people
Interviews- Offer you the chance to ask direct questions and gain access to personal
thoughts and experiences
o Interviews should start off as thoughtful conversations
o Avoid producing idealized answers to questions
o A good interviewer is a good listener
o Be ready to learn and adapt as your research subjects can help guide your research
Sarah Tynen
GEOG 5161- Research Design
Geomethodology Presentation
March 4, 2013
What are some strengths of ethnography?
Ethnography is particularly well suited for researching the connections and interactions between
different elements of society and culture (for instance, between economics and religion or
between politics and gender).
Ethnography allows the researcher to discover and analyze the categories and questions that are
most relevant for the people being studied and participating in the research. The researcher has
the opportunity observe and to personally experience events and conversations firsthand as
manifestations of society and culture in action.
Ethnography is about the messiness of human lives, which offers the opportunity to study reallife human behavior and to gain an understanding of the context that informs such behavior.
What are some weaknesses of ethnography?
The results can be limiting and biased without proper application of critical reflexivity of your
positionality in the field.
The process of ethnography can perpetuate unequal power relations and further the self-other
binary, resulting in unintended consequences of overgeneralization and essentialism.
There is a danger of focusing too much on observation and conversation, which can lead us to
forget to analyze what is unseen and unsaid.
The lack of quantitative methods may result in a lack of concrete, conclusive, and scientific data.
What are some examples of published ethnographies?
Bourgois, Philippe. 2003. In search of respect: Selling crack in el barrio. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press.
Frank, Katherine. 2002. G-strings and sympathy: Strip club regulars and male desire. Durham:
Duke University Press.
Ghannam, Farha. 2002. Remaking the modern: Space, relocation, and the politics of identity in a
global Cairo. Los Angeles: University of California.
Thomas, Mary. 2011 Multicultural girlhood: Racism, sexuality, and the conflicted spaces
of American education. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Wood, John. 1999. When men are women: Manhood among Gabra nomads of East Africa.
Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.
Zhang, Li. 2010. In search of paradise: Middle-class living in a Chinese metropolis. Ithaca:
Cornell University.