Empirical observation and objective analysis are some of the core tenets of sound scientific inquiry. These processes lead to the recording of data and presentation of findings which confirm or disprove hypotheses, thus renewing the drive for further studies. Particularly in the social sciences, this is more of an ideal than a reality. The nature of social processes and interactions does not lend itself to concrete physical observations that can be homogeneously interpreted, and hence social theories are never definitively proven. In the past, anthropologists have maintained that a fully scientific study of a foreign culture was an attainable goal; as such, they have traditionally rejected any work that was not considered objective enough. The postmodern movement within anthropology has rejected the traditional stance that ethnographies somehow present a complete analysis of a given culture. These scholars argue that ethnographers should embrace the ethnography as fiction concept as a vehicle for imbuing their work with a personalized, biographical richness and depth that could not be achieved with objectivity as the ideal.
[...] Leach, Edmund R “Tribal Ethnography: past, present, future” Pp. 34- 47 in History and Ethnicity, Chapman. Routledge: New York. Venkatesh, Sudhir. 2008.Gang Leader for a Day. [...]
[...] In recognition of this discourse and in an attempt to integrate it into an ethnographic strength (rather than weakness), postmodern, feminist and other scholars have argued for the conscious insertion of an “autobiographical” and reflexive standpoint that acknowledges the nature of the ethnographer's interactions with those he/she studies and includes a narrative form that lends insight into the ethnographer's personal perspective. Hence, the nature of the ethnographic narrative appears to be shifting to embrace an incomplete and inherently fictional account which more faithfully reflects the disjunctive relations within the cultures under study and within the discipline itself. Sources: Bell, Diane “Introduction Pp. 1-17 in Gendered Fields: Women, Men and Ethnography. Ed. [...]
[...] Ethnographies in context and as fictional representations Empirical observation and objective analysis are some of the core tenets of sound scientific inquiry. These processes lead to the recording of data and presentation of findings which confirm or disprove hypotheses, thus renewing the drive for further studies. Particularly in the social sciences, this is more of an ideal than a reality. The nature of social processes and interactions does not lend itself to concrete physical observations that can be homogenously interpreted, and hence social theories are never definitively proven. [...]
[...] The ‘insiders' and ‘outsiders' participate in quite different ways” (Leach 1984:7). Perhaps this is a coincidence, but it seems that Leach's comments about his privileged informational position in the academy closely parallels his awareness that most ethnographies (usually done by ‘outsiders') are “fiction” in the sense that the information gathered is intertwined with the person who is doing the gathering. Bell echoes this sentiment when she explains that, because their subordinate status in mainstream society can transfer to the field, women often cannot gain access into traditionally male spheres, especially when they are working close to home, as she did in Australia (similarly, she points out that male ethnographers usually have limited access into—or limited interest the female-dominated world of childrearing, which she argues is a crucial element to understanding a culture). [...]
[...] One sociologist who made a conscious attempt to include himself in his ethnographic account published for public consumption is Sudhir Venkatesh. In Gang Leader for a Day, Venkatesh makes several references to limits of [his] narrow experience” as an upper-middle class grad student attempting to immerse himself in the lives of inner city gang members (2008:8). In revealing some of the situations where his personal biases may have affected what was observed, his work highlights the role of an ethnographer's biography is shaping his inherently subjective fieldwork account. [...]
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