why isn’t there more team ethnography?

A major methodological issue with ethnography is replication, in the sense of having multiple people visit a field site to see if they observe the same thing. This actually has an easy solution – team ethnography, where multiple people visit the same site to make sure one ethnographer isn’t being unusually biased or careless in observations. This relatively simple solution, not perfect but useful, is extremely rare in practice in the sociological discipline. That is extremely odd because multi-person ethnography has appeared from time to time in the history of social science, such as the Manchester school of anthropology.

Why?  A few guesses:

  1.  No professional reward: Like other forms of data assessment and validation, the reward simply isn’t there. And it’s worse for ethnography, since the cost of running an experiment or redoing a regression model is usually much less than spending a whole year revisiting a field site.
  2.  Anonymity: Sociological ethnographers still stick to the custom of making everything anonymous. If nothing else, it makes repeat or multi-person ethnography impossible.
  3.  Not sexy or cool: A lot of ethnographers get mileage out of doing unusual or odd field sites. Few have access to them, so replication is not possible. Also, who wants to admit they do the same darn school ethnography as everyone else?

I think there is one practice that might address many of these issues: having baby ethnographers practice via replication. If your qual methods prof is a neighborhood ethnographer, then have students do their MA paper on the neighborhood your prof studied. Repeat ethnography can be bundled together and maybe published in a journal like Sociological Science, which welcomes replication studies.



50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($4.44 – cheap!!!!)
Intro to sociology for just $1 per chapter – INSANE BARGAIN!!!!!
A theory book you can understand!!! Theory for the Working Sociologist (discount code: ROJAS – 30% off!!)
The rise of Black Studies:  From Black Power to Black Studies 
Did Obama tank the antiwar movement? Party in the Street
Read Contexts Magazine– It’s Awesome!!!!

Written by fabiorojas

September 27, 2019 at 2:33 am

Posted in uncategorized

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Maybe that’s why ethnographers seek such sites — the unlikelihood of a validation study. Not consciously of course.


    Don F

    September 27, 2019 at 2:58 am

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: