Writing Ethnography in Journals
When you first move into a new environment, you begin to find out that
the new place has its own conventions. When anthropologists or discourse
researchers study local practices, they write ethnographies, descriptions
of the local culture. You don't have to be an anthropologist to write
simple ethnographies. If you are a teacher in a new place, you might
begin describing the unexpected ways things are done, or if you are a
student in a new place, you might do the same.
Questions for Simple Ethnographies
- How did you find out about an unexpected practice, policy, or
procedure? Tell a little story.
- What are the details of this unexpected practice? Describe it in detail.
- How is that practice different from the way you are used to doing it?
- How, do you suppose, did this different way of doing things evolve?
- How strictly are the orthodox ways of doing things enforced? What is
your evidence for thinking so?
- What are the power relationships you have observed? Who has the most
- Do the power relationships reflect the official hierarchies of the
place? Contrast the official power lines with the ones that seem to be
the real ones.
- Is there an implicit class structure in this place? Describe it.
- What do the natives talk about when they get together?
- How do they talk about these things?
- What are the common stories being passed around?
- Have you run into any taboos yet? If so describe how you discovered
it and what it consists of.
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All contents copyright (C) 1997. All rights reserved.
Revised: April 7, 1997