By methods@manchester and Social Anthropology, University of Manchester 6th April 2011
This event was intended to provide an introduction to ethnographic methods, as employed by anthropologists, for those who are interested in how these methods might be used in applied settings whether that is in business, government or development contexts. It was attended by a cross section of students from third year undergraduates in anthropology to PhD students from across the faculty including the Manchester Business School, the School of Environment and Development and the School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures. This wide array of academic backgrounds shows that there is an interest in applying ethnographic methods in a variety of contexts across the disciplines and made for a day of interesting discussions. What was interesting to me is that although ethnography means different things in different contexts there was a high level of common ground about how it can add value to a research project.
As well as myself and Dr Keir Martin from Social Anthropology the day was facilitated by inputs from Dr Lucy Pickering who teaches at the University of Glasgow and has done applied research on drug users’ access to medical services; Martine Zeuthen and Marie-Louise Hoilund-Carlsen from Integrity Research Consultancy who are professional anthropologists who specialise in doing research in applied contexts and Dr Damian O’ Doherty from the Manchester Business School who is working on an ethnographic study of Manchester Airport. All these experts provided inputs on different aspects of using ethnographic methods in applied contexts while students worked on developing example research projects. Issues discussed during the day included different disciplinary understandings of ethnography, maintaining a critical distance and designing a project with the users in mind whilst retaining academic integrity. Ethical issues took centre stage in the afternoon as questions were raised about obtaining consent, insider ethnography, protecting the interest of both participants and users and how to deal with illegal activity taking place during fieldwork. The ethics of online ethnography were also raised and debated.
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