Sensory Ethnography


Sensory ethnography is a methodological approach to utilizing the senses as both an object for analysis and the mode by which research can be conducted. This entry provides an account of sensory ethnography that positions it broadly within the field of qualitative research, locating it as an approach that intersects with a variety of interrelated methodologies. Developing a “sensory sensibility” means utilizing the role of the senses in conducting research and demands attention to researchers’ own emplacement and reflexivity to the field in their aim of elucidating complex meaning from cultural life. As such, this method offers an expanded approach to embodiment and expression that is inherent to the process of interpretation and negotiation in the ethnographic encounter. Sensory ethnography is then broken down into specific methods that can be incorporated into each of the research phases—design, data collection, analysis, and writing—while being mindful of any artificial distinctions or boundaries between them within the overall research project, as well as presenting some of the ethical and political complexities to be managed while conducting sensory ethnography. The entry then provides case studies of research that utilised sensory ethnographic techniques to provide the reader with a more concrete grounding for the application of concepts presented. This entry concludes with an entreaty for sensory ethnographers to develop practices of exploratory openness and attentiveness to the senses not solely as resources to be mined for data but as a fundamental product of the ethnographic process.

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