Lindsey's Discussion Board Reflections

Tue Jan 08, 2002 19:06

My name is Lindsey Larkin and I'm a senior sociology major. Before attending Oakland I was a political science major in the James Madison program at Michigan State. I ended up shifting my focus, and politics ended up as a "hobby", and thankfully not a career aspiration. I've also been involved with numerous non-profit organizations such as Peace Action, Student Peace Action Network, NARAL, Affirmations, and PFLAG. In the future, I would like to link my interests by researching issues raised by these non-profits sociologically. The areas of research I'm interested in include feminist sociology, women's health, human sexuality, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered issues/Queer theory, and social movements. I took this class because the type of research I'd like to do would be qualitative, using interviews and participant observation. It seems with qualitative research the ability to write and describe what is observed is vital.

I've has some research experience. I worked as a research assistant with Terri Orbuch this past semester on her early marriage and divorce study. I've also done some quasi-ethnographic projects in my sociology classes at Michigan State, for example, observing people's behavior in elevators. I'm excited about this class and I'm looking forward to learning a lot from everyone.

Thu Jan 10, 2002 11:39

1/8 8pm (In my dorm room, with low lighting, music playing in the background, sitting in front of the computer) Re-read the Webct discussion board assignment and then went to the link offered on the page. Out of all the links offered, I was first drawn to student field notes, interviews, and ethnographies at Occidental College. I visited the site and began to look at the student's projects. I thought it might be good to see example to help me understand what ethnography is. I got lost on the website. I read a lot of the student assignments and final ethnographies. I was particular interested in the one on ultimate Frisbee and ended up reading the student's final paper. I found it to be fascinating, I think I learned from these examples that the writing used a lot of descriptive language and talked about things that normally people wouldn't pay attention to in a certain social setting or group. Her final paper, the ethnography of her team and their activities seemed to be an in-depth description of the group that discussed different relationships and events in the group. I was wondering how correct or how good of an example this were, since it student written. Near the end I felt that I had wasted an hour and a half on the example and felt bad that I didn't go look at something more concrete, like the definitions or something on the other websites.

1/9 11am (Walking to class at Oakland University, people all around me walking in different directions, in from of the library) I all of a sudden thought of a book I read for a class a long time ago. It reminded me of what an ethnography would be like. The book was called Gender Play, by Thorne, I think. It surprised me that I remembered the book after so long. I remember really enjoying the book because it was about just daily life, everyday things that children were doing in the playground. She seemed to take these everyday things and use the mundane, things people might overlook to explain some things about gender.

1/9 10 pm (In my dorm room again, quiet, peaceful, music playing softly in the background) I suddenly remember another book I read that could be an ethnography. It was called Ain't No Making it. It was by Mcleoud, or something like that. It was basically a study of two groups of high school students. I found it interesting looking back on it now and wondered if he became part of their lives, or they new he was observing them. I wondered how he built their trust, and elicited some of the information that he collected.

1/10 9am (In my dorm room, warm, and quiet, I'm at the computer again looking on the websites for the definition and explanations of ethnography) I found that it is a qualitative method that using interviews and observations. It uses a lot of description. I also started thinking about some strengths and weakness. Mainly the use of case studies as both a strength and weakness.


I found that ethnography is a qualitative research method. It is often used in cultural anthropology. Research questions about the link between culture and behavior or cultural processes over time are best answered by using ethnography. It uses observations and interviews to study a particular place, group of people or subculture, or event. Ethnographies only focus on a small number of cases, which is both one of its strengths and weakness. The ethnographer wants to gain an insiders point of view on the group or situation by being cognizant of your own biases. It seems an ethnographer is the middle person, transcribing what they see and hear into writing. One of the goals of ethnography is to make the strange familiar and the familiar strange. This means taking nothing for granted in a familiar social setting, and at the same time finding some basic cultural similarities across the board.

Tuesday, January 15, 2002 9:32am

I really enjoyed reading this selection, and I would like to read the whole book. A lot of Wolf's ideas are things I have never thought about before, at least in the area of ethnography. I found it interesting to include feminist theory and power analysis to explain and describe the experience of research and ethnography. I liked the fact that the author used gender to examine some issues related to field work, particularily around colonialism. In Third world settingings, I could see how gathering information could be a negoiation between those who carry culture and those who want to understand it. The power balance could shift. I would be interested in reading some narratives by ethnographers in the field who experienced this first hand, particulary men. I do agree wtih Wolf when she says that feminist critiques in the social sciences are important becuase of a history of male domination in the field. Bias can effect knowledge, and I think that many of the assumed thruths of sociology or anthropology still need to be examined. Throughout the whole piece she mentions reflexivity and I'm not sure I'm completely clear on her use of that word. I found that her discussion near the end of the selection on ethnographic responsibility interesting. For some reason I hadn't given much thought about the informants actually reading and studying what was written about them. Lastly, agree that much of academia can be exclusive and that it is that very exclusivity that undermines the goals of ethnography.

Monday, January 21, 2002 1:21am

What can be learned about ethnography from 24 hours at the Golden Apple?

What first struck me about listening to 24 Hours at the Golden Apple was the lack of interpretive voice-overs. Letting the people speak for themselves made the program much more interesting to listen to. For me it illustrated the point that nothing profound needs to be said to find “profound” meaning in what was said. I also noticed so many themes that were covered sometimes in so few words. I think that listening to this gives me some idea of what data analysis in ethnography will be like, listening to interviews or compiling field notes and searching for meaning.  I realized from the beginning that I didn’t really know why the “study” had been done. Listening to the program then also illustrated, for me, how developing a guiding question, while important in the beginning of a study, isn’t exactly crucial. The research process of being in the field may provide some new insights and the direction of the project can change. I think in sociology, and probably anthropology, the term I’m thinking of is grounded theory; where research questions or hypothesis aren’t drawn in the beginning, but emerge throughout the research process. After listening to the program the researchers could have examined routines, community building and “alternative” family bonds, different functions of the restaurant i.e. not just for food, changing neighborhood structures, gentrification, racism, or sexuality.

Monday, January 21, 2002 8:58pm

During the course of reading the first 2 chapters of Rose’s piece I kept waiting for the introduction to end. I suppose I had expected to read a little of an ethnography. Now that I reflect on what I have read it seems Rose almost wrote an ethnography of his experience with an ethnographic study. I think the introduction was also necessary for his readers and himself due to the gap between the completion of the study and the publishing of his book. I liked how he led the readers through the process of his project, and the different ways he came to think about it.

I liked his description of reflexive or auto-ethnography, meaning to travel within and draw close on our own versions of national identity. I also agreed with his point that doing ethnography within ones own culture is about more than about making the mundane exotic. Rose says that in a culturally diverse country like the United States, “there are ways of life that at once disconnect a group of people from their neighbors and yet allow them to firmly partake in the national identity.” This description of the goal of doing ethnography in a familiar location stuck out to me. In a way, I would find it much more interesting to read an ethnography written by someone who is working in a space they are familiar with and inhabit. I also liked his discussion of the role of the self in ethnographic research. The sentence, “reflexive ethnography is another way of making us more available to ourselves,” gave me a lot to think about.

Also interesting was his discussion about covert vs. overt inquiry. His eventual decision, influenced by Irving Goffman and his wife Karen, to become an “undercover agent” in the study seemed to greatly affect both his personal life and his work. Rose did a good job conveying what it felt like in the field doing covert work, as well as the benefits and set backs of such research.

I feel that some of the piece was cloudy because of my lack of knowledge on the theories and philosophies of Husserl and Heidegger. I am particularly interested in his discontents with Heidegger’s Being and Time in relation to ethnographic research.  I’m still trying to understand, but right now all that I can really figure out is that Heidegger doesn’t really include cultural relativism. I think it means that questions about meaning and existence can’t be answered in anyone else’s framework but the framework of the group being studied.