Writing and Reading Ethnography


Ethnographic research is defined as much by its textual conventions as by its methods of data collection and analysis. Ethnographers reconstruct social worlds through their writing, and writing styles have varied between disciplines, generations of researchers, and theoretical orientations. There are important and long-standing parallels between ethnographic and literary writing. In recent years, ethnographers have become increasingly self-aware about their own and others’ writing and have explored the possibilities of different genres. Authors have therefore experimented with different, alternative, modes of writing. Awareness of textual conventions (among anthropologists in particular) has given rise to the “crisis of representation.” This has led to radical evaluations of how ethnographic representations are constructed. Textual awareness has also led to critical reflection on how ethnographic research is read.

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