Ethnography 540

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  • 1. Ethnographic ResearchEnglish 540
  • 2. Overview Discussion of Book Club Proposals DUE April 9th or 16th Your voices on this weeks readings on ethnography Ethnography: Challenges and Dilemmas Discussion of Canagarajah and Mills work on Critical Ethnography (Summer)
  • 3. How would you like to organize the book club activity?It could include these four components: A quick summary of the main arguments (chapter summaries if it is an edited book) Context, research questions, methodology, findings if its a book-length ethnography/case study etc. The main contribution to your discipline/areas of research: (E.g. Applied linguistics/TESOL; Comp/Rhetoric; Literacy Studies; Postcolonial studies; Creative writing) Remaining critical questions
  • 4. Erin (the issue of generalizability) He [Hammersley] brought up some of the risks inherent in ethnographic research, such as overgeneralizing results to assume they characterize "typical" activity (5). Later, he notes that critics of ethnography have charged it with "only documenting the surface of events in particular local settings, rather than seeking to understand the deeper social forces that shape the whole society, and that operate within those settings" (7). I was interested in the conflict between these two positions and how and when, whether in ethnography or other research methodologies, we can move from the specific to the general and vice versa. This conflict is present in Canagarajahs article as well, in that he first acknowledges the risk of the teacher/researcher position and details why his particular subject position (including his status as a native Tamil, bilingual English/Tamil speaker, and progressive professor) might bear on his findings. After examining this a bit, he then moves to assert the relevance of his data by stating, "Although the uniqueness of each teacher/researcher-student interaction should not be slighted in favor of the generalizability of this study, we have to note that almost all Sri Lankan ESOL teachers are Westernized, middle- class, bilingual, native Lankans like me" (620-621). Thus even though he is cautious about generalizing, he wants the reader to know that this data might be common across the experience of many Sri Lankan teachers.
  • 5. Erin Can one design a study that is both "micro" in its execution (i.e. involving specific and close analysis), yet allow the researcher to make larger claims? Should "larger claims," as Ive said clumsily here, ever be a researchers goal? Does it do a disservice to your subjects to attempt to make larger claims or to shy away from them? In what ways is the subject able to assist in, contest, or question your focus and its "size"?
  • 6. Meg (on partiality ofrepresentation) Hammersley notes at the end of his article that the very character of ethnography has come to be contested (11). It is threatened. The ideological underpinnings of what it means to study have been reveled. What I would argue is that this is not a bad thing. That those in ethnography perhaps need to just learn to be okay with partiality, with the idea that the apparatuses conducting any particular experiment are always going to control the results always going to make the results. Those of us in the Humanities can do much to let them know that its going to be alright. That, as Haraway recently explained, No longer able to sustain the fictions of being either subjects or object, all the partners in the potent conversations that constitute nature must find a new ground for making meanings together (Otherworldly Conversations 158).
  • 7. Ana (Teaching ethnographicapproaches) .I believe that Kathy A. Millss self-reflection provides us with a great lesson towards the study of culture, society and language use; before proceeding to explain her research, Mills takes care to say In this critical ethnography, I negotiated my multiple identities as researcher, PhD student, lecturer, and former classroom teacher (4). Through this statement, Mills speaks to Hammersleys view of ethnography as one way of telling a story, for our experiences and who we are affects how we see the world, in the same way that the students background affects how they benefit from the tools they use in the classroom. In light of these ideas, it would be interesting to have students share their ethnographic work once they have reflected on it. In this way, they will be able to see how their views on the same event differ, even if only slightly, and they will be able to reflect on what may have promoted such different views. Last, but definitely not the least, it would be highly important to have students explore the language they use to tell their stories about the same event. By doing so, students would be able to see how language and language use do not occur in a vacuum, and so this would encourage their appreciation of key issues we have been exploring in this class such as the value of World Englishes or Code Meshing and their position in todays society.
  • 8. Cristina and Meg (onethnography as a political act) Cristina: As for the political implications of ethnography, as Hammersley says " understanding people does not require sharing their beliefs, or being obliged to offer them support" (2006: 11) or, on the contrary, reject their ideologies. So the aims of ethnographic research just relate to understand the context behind a particular situation and do not imply a political position on behalf of the researcher. Meg: In it he argues that the ethnographer must neither be in the service of some political establishment or profession nor an organic intellectual seeking to further the interests of marginalized, exploited, or dominated groups. Both of these orientations greatly increase the danger of systematic bias (11). It is frankly hard not to laugh here. Ethnographers should try to not have any political opinions or beliefs? It is a joke to believe that we can ever escape the ideological state apparatuses, the systems in which we function and simultaneously and often unknowingly replicate. I think deep down he knows this (some of the great questions that he asks elsewhere in his article would point to this), but he just cant let go.
  • 9. Sarah (On reporting thefindings in an ethical way) Now, I want to go on to consider what seems to me the messiest aspect of ethnography: how to analyze and report your findings in an ethical way. Athanases and Heath (1995: 278) point out that Ethnographic reporting is the construction of a reality, made possible by the researchers essential instrument, the self. In this way, all seeing is through a frame (Goffman, 1974), a perceptual lens. They attempt to address this issue by insisting that the researcher make clear in his or her reporting the various lenses, biases, and assumptions through which he or she is reporting. And while I agree, of course, that this self- identification of the researcher is an important part of any research project, Im wondering now if its enough. Just revealing your biases doesnt mean that you can then feel free to proceed with representing the culture you are studying (even if its in the way you think is best) without fear of misrepresentation in some way. Hammersley (2006: 7) puts it this way: a host of different stories could be told about any situation, each one placing it in a different temporal and spatial context. From this perspective, ethnography is simply one means among others for telling stories about the social world. And what if the story you choose to tell is misrepresentative or damaging in a way that you could never see through your own perspective?
  • 10. Irina Turning to the role of ethnography in considering cultural contexts and working within them, the surroundings are impossible to escape while attempting to discuss what occurs in the classroom since the classroom is in no way an isolated space. The attempts to treat it in such a way when it comes to the study of language indirectly asks the students to turn a blind eye to society. When Canagarajah mentions fighter jets and bombs in the background of the students taking the English placement tests, the conscious social experience is at the forefront and the classroom cannot escape it. Inside the classroom, daily, perhaps subtle activities emphasized their identities as students in the larger social context. The example of correcting pronunciation, which revealed the distinction between standard and nonstandard Sri Lankan English (616), comments on the global, multiplying prejudices within a "single language."
  • 11. Lisa (Ethnography and online communities).Does ethnography depend on the physicalpresence? Hammerslys query into how ethnographic research methods may be deployed in online communities is at the forefront of my mind. That we have a different relationship based in different kinds of sensory exposures to each other online makes for an interesting shift in research practices. Beca