Treading a Fine Line

I noticed a common theme in the readings for this week that when conducting ethnographic research one has to be very, very careful to become accepted as a trusted outsider - but at the same time avoid actually becoming a member of the group you're hoping to observe.  Luker expressed it best, I think, when she pointed out all the tiny actions that make up the act of living in a given environment that get taken for granted unless seen with an outsider's eye.  I'd thought that gaining access to groups and gaining acceptance would be the most challenging part of this sort of research...but upon further reflection upon the readings, I've thought back on how many untenable situations I've ended up in purely out of the human desire for acceptance and to be liked, and I actually think now that the more difficult part would be avoiding such entaglements.

As a completely unprofessional aside, I get that Luker's based the information in her book on a metaphor, and I even acknowledge that it's a useful one, but honestly - mentioning it once or twice a chapter to tie things together would do quite nicely.  Four times in a single page is overkill and I've got to the point where every time I read salsa-dancing I now want to scream and throw the book at a wall.



Amy. said...

Haha! After Luker, I will never think of actual salsa dancing in the same way I had before.

In regards to your first point - I also pondered for a while about the difficulties an ethnographer might face when it comes time to publish or share their research. I wonder if, at least at first, it would be difficult to convey one's ideas and findings to an audience completely unfamiliar with the subject at hand. After complete submersion into a culture or social environment, I'm not surprised that researchers can get lost in their new surroundings - and I agree that avoiding such entanglements could prove to be difficult.

Stephanie Lauren said...

I know what you mean Aaron... I find myself cringing every time I read "salsa dancing social scientist." I do like her writing style overall though. I just really wish her editor had crossed out "salsa dancing" a few more times.

I find that the practice of ethnography simultaneously intimidates and interests me. Not only are you trying your hardest to be accepted by a group of people, but you also need to keep a healthy distance so that you can then write about said group afterwards! That's a pretty hefty juggling act if you ask me.

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