Ethnographic fieldwork as practiced within contemporary social anthropology is a powerful way of opening up and extending understandings of how human beings live in the world. Ethnography is a disciplined preoccupation with the enactment, articulation and transmission of social imaginaries (values, ideas) and material practices. It is a relational approach to social life in which the researcher is fully implicated.
Unlike some methods, ethnography is not a technique that can be first mastered and then applied because in some ways every ethnography is unique, it is something the ethnographer does, a particular mode of attention that requires skills of patience, endurance, perspicacity, diplomacy – and most importantly perhaps for the western academic the willingness to unlearn. In this sense ethnography is also not something that somebody else can easily do for you, and the empirical, the analytical and the theoretical are inter-twined from the start – their relationship crafted in the writing of an ethnographic text.
The key theoretical aims of ethnographic work are:
- to clarify the relational dynamics that hold existing ways of thinking (and acting) in place in relation to specific situations
- to enquire into the spaces in which people make up their minds about things, insisting that making up your mind is always a relational process not the autonomous choice of an individual
- to show that things might be otherwise than had previously been assumed, and to bring new questions to the table.
Manchester experts and projects
The anthropologists at Manchester University all work ethnographically in many different regions of the world and on diverse projects. The School of Social Sciences PhD supervision page provides details of people’s interests and projects.
The texts below offer interesting accounts of ethnographic work.
- Westbrook, David. 2008. Navigators of the Contemporary: Why Ethnography Matters. The University of Chicago Press. Interesting because it is written by a non-anthropologist – a lawyer who passionately believes that ethnography can revitalize intellectual engagement with the contemporary world.
- Cerwonka, Allaine and Liisa Malkki. 2007. Improvising Theory: Process and Temporality in Ethnographic Fieldwork. The University of Chicago Press. This text is useful as it tracks the fieldwork conversations between a doctoral student and her supervisor.
- Robben, Antonuis. 2007. Ethnographic Fieldwork: An Anthropological Reader. Blackwell. A useful collection of writings on ethnographic fieldwork from the 1920s to the present day.
Staff interested in ethnography
- Dr James Evans - Environment, Education and Development, Politics of environmental governance
- Dr Oscar De Bruijin - Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS)
- Prof Debra Howcroft - Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS), Socio-Cultural change
- Prof John Hassard - Alliance Manchester Business School (AMBS), Organisational analysis
- Dr Daniel Brockington - Environment, Education and Development, Conservation, Environmental change and development
- Dr Pauline Prevett (nee Davis) - Environment, Education and Development, Education/Research Methods
- Prof Sarah Green - previously Social Anthropology, Anthropology
- Dr Andrew Irving - Social Sciences, Anthropology
- Dr Gillian Evans - Social Sciences, Social Anthropology
- Dr Hannah Knox - formerly Social Sciences, ESRC Centre for Research on Socio-cultural change
- Dr Nick Crossley - Social Sciences, Sociology
- Dr Rupert Cox - Social Sciences, Social Anthropology
- Dr Stef Jansen - Social Sciences, Ethnography
- Dr Virinder Kalra - Social Sciences, Anthropology/ Racism & Ethnicity
- Dr Alberto Corsin Jimenez - formerly Social Sciences, Ethnography
- Dr Christian Greiffenhagen - previously Social Sciences, Ethnography
- Prof Rob Procter - formerly Social Sciences, MeRC - Informatics
- Prof John Gledhill - Social Sciences, Social Anthropology
- Prof Karen Sykes - Social Sciences, Ethics, Aesthetics and Property relations
- Prof Paul Henley - Social Sciences, Director, Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology
- Prof Penny Harvey - Social Sciences, Ethnography
- Prof Sharon Macdonald - previously Social Sciences, Social Anthropology
- Dr Katja Stuerzenhofecker - Religion and Theology, in Arts, Languages and Cultures
Download PDF slides of the presentation 'Ethnography'