Becoming a ‘Native Ethnographer’: Learning–Teaching Practices in Trinidad and Tobago Carnival Mas' Camps


This case study explores the exigencies of a ‘native ethnographer’ who chose to use a Euro western frame in a study of learning–teaching practices in her country's Carnival mas' camps. I am a native Trinidadian and former educator in the formal education system who used mas'-making practices of the Pre-Lenten Carnival festival as the unit of analysis in my study. Active participation in the community afforded me the opportunity to gain legitimacy within the group and become an accepted member of the community. I adopted an anthropological perspective and used sociocultural theories of learning, my personal theories, and ethnography to conceptualize the research design. Postcolonial theory acted as my ethical discourse as I participated in the mas'-making activities and engaged with members of various mas' camps. James Spradley's domain and componential analysis and Ward Goodenough's propriospect were the major heuristic devices I used in my transformation of the data. In spite of the successful outcomes of the study, I had to deal with the dilemma of being an insider who was born in the country, but also an outsider, a scholar studying in the United States. It meant that I did not assume that I knew the culture of the mas' camps and was careful about the decisions and choices I made about data collection and analysis and my interaction with the participants. Moreover, I ensured that the participants' requests, interests, and needs were as important as my goal to understand their perceptions of the learning–teaching practices.

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