Cultural Ethnography and the Various Opinions Shared by Ethnographers

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Indicating the meaning of ethnography is not a straightforward matter, but it observes all behaviours including describing symbols, landscape, social meanings and covers history of culture. Some definition implies considering some core elements and sometimes pointing out conflict in it: Ethnography is a research process in which the anthropologist closely observes, records, and engages in the daily life of another culture. An experience labelled as the fieldwork method and the writes accounts of this culture, emphasizing descriptive detail. These accounts are the primary form in which the fieldwork procedures, the other culture and the ethnographers’ personal and theoretical reflections are accessible to professionals and other readerships. (Marcus and Fischer, 1986: 16)

Ethnography research framework does not parallel with qualitative research, ethnography research used prior to fieldwork and the results interpreted in the context of frameworks for scientific reliability. The lack of immersion in a social group they study makes a qualitative research cannot be considered as ethnographic as the core in ethnographic research is the participant observation as way to immerse into the group of social life, to be able to understand and the interpretation of their experiences.

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Michael Burawoy in his published article of American Sociological Review discussed about the ethnographic approach of focused revisits, where an ethnographer going back to the fieldwork sites which research previously has been carried out. His crucial focus to “disentangle movements of the external world from the researchers’ own shifting involvement with the same world” (Burawoy 2003, 646), the differences of ethnographic revisits and ethnographic reanalysis, where it is considered ethnographic revisits when an ethnographer doing participant observation with comparing their view of what he studies with same one being studied earlier wither by themselves or others. While ethnographic reanalysis in contradictory involves the questioning of an already existing ethnography study without doing further fieldwork. He specifically highlight how this particular approach and the differences of previous and later studies gives different experiences and understanding the social change as in the “relationship of observer to participant”, “theory brought to the field by ethnographer”, “internal processes within the field site itself”, and “forces external to the field site”. In constructivist sense of replicability, it is important to stay out of biases or theoretical view to lessen the sense of our presence and influence in the field we study. But for revisits it is almost impossible to come to site without any theoretical view, it focuses on the fieldwork dilemmas in participating to world they study with the need of carrying the theoretical view to the field.

Same ethnographer will have different interpretation of the same events is because of the changes on historical context took place and the different concerns and perspective of the revisitor in viewing and understanding the world the study. These differences can be explained through the example of revisits to a factory done by Burawoy (1979) that study the Geer Company factory that has been studied by Roy in the year of 1944 to 1945. Burawoy found that it was difficult to explain the causes of the differences on their experiences in studying the factory because Roy’s finding has covered almost everything. Not until he come out with four hypotheses in explain the differences, comparing the possible differences in constructivist and realist explanation. Later, he found out that the different relation they have to the people they studied might do not affect the differences but probably the different theories they bring into field as different theories have different central point. Both opposes the idea of human relation school but, Roy particularly focus on the people while Burawoy focuses on the workplace. The realist explanations touch on the internal process and external forces. The cyclical imposition could not help to explain the shifting in 30 years therefore the external forces used to explain the secular shift to hegemonic regime in the factory. “To use the term external forces instead of external context it means to underline the way the environment is experienced as powers emanating from beyond the field site, sharpening the site yes existing largely outside the control of the site” (Burawoy 1979, 653). 

These forces are rather flux compared to the context where it is fixed and static that unable to look through the changes in social order. He also justified the need to taking the theoretical framework delamination and conceptualization of the studies. “Reflexive ethnography is an approach of participant observation that recognizes that we are part of the world we study” (Burawoy 1979, 655). He believes that by cross-question our relation to the world we study is a need to be able to understand and explaining. Hence there will always be restriction in our study and the difference of internal and external unavoidable. This lead to the four types of focused revisits that is refutation (type 1), reconstruction (type 2), empiricism (type 3) and Structuralism (type 4). Constructivists focused revisits are depending on the relation or engagement of the ethnographer to the field they study that create the difference of the predecessor and successor experience, while in contrary the realist focused revisits are particular about the historical changes. In the constructivists, refutation (type 1) focus on the association between the observer as the participant and the successor will use revisits approach to disprove the predecessor studies without adding any alternate explanation to it. 

Claiming the predecessor bring in illogical theory, type 2 reconstruction focuses the alternate theory brought to replace the original theory. For the realist focused revisit, type 3 empiricism highlight the internal process, where to say that the limitation of ethnographer could explain their study is only when they themselves limits their ability to describing it. For example the study of Middletown, Lynd’s revisits (1937) to describe the changes by narrowed the attention of study only to the community but as she arrived to the field and go deep into the explanation only she realised that it motivated to delve into beyond the community. The type 4 structuralism disclose the external forces in the historical explanation. These distinguishing of constructivist and realist revisits is based on whether they are focus on the advance refutation or reconstruction of “knowledge of the object” or focused on the historical changes in the “object of knowledge” (Burawoy 1979, 667).  

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