Venkatesh has spent several years in conducting research of the community and interviews of the residents. The process in which the ethnographer collects their information can be done in numerous ways. Some concerns do arise when looking at the how the researcher does interact with the subjects of the study. A particular concern that does come to mind is; how close is to close for the ethnographer? At what extent has the researcher gone beyond the legal limits of obtaining information? For example with Venkatesh in Gang Leader for a Day is it to far when Sudhir rides along while his key informant is conducting gang activity?
Currently in Ethnography it is hard to define the way an ethnographer is supposed to interact with their subjects in their fieldwork process. Many ethnographers are expanding on the way they interact with individuals in who can provide information on the subject at hand. Currently ethnography’s primary means of collecting information is still done through participant observation and conducting key informant interviews. Which still gives a generous deal of information to the researcher but another way to become informed of a culture is becoming immersed into their world.
For an ethnographer to do this they may need to feel like they fit in, start doing activities that the ones being researched take part in. Also the researcher may change the way they look to be accepted into a foreign lifestyle to gain access to key information. The sources included provide multiple outlooks on the way ethnography is conducted. Some ethnographers like Katherine Irwin and Karen Lumsden took the approach of trying to get in deep with their sources to uncover the information they are looking for.
While other professionals in the field of ethnography take a more stand back approach to see what takes place in there setting to reveal an understanding for the society they are observing. Blackman, Shane J. “‘Hidden Ethnography’: Crossing Emotional Borders in Qualitative Accounts of Young People’s Lives. ” Sociology 41. 4 (2007): 699-716. Shane Blackman was a scholarship student at the Institute of Education, University of London where he received his PhD in 1990. Shane has conducted research into sociological and ethnographic aspects of young people’s culture.
Blackman has written several books, his latest titled Chilling Out: the cultural politics of substance consumption, youth and drug policy. A major part of ethnography is hidden ethnography, which is empirical data that is not released because it may be considered to controversial. This article explores the aspect of how an ethnographer explores the environment of his subjects to reveal the truth of their lifestyles to gain a better understanding. In Blackman’s fieldwork he explores low-income areas to understand what lead people to live in the conditions they currently do.
He also studied a group of young woman named the new wave girls, who are aged between 16 to 17. Blackman’s social skills allowed him to connect with his participants on an intimate level, which proved to be beneficial in his work. Professor Blackman used his own subjectivity, through cultural identity to create bonds with people, which allowed his participants to open up and expose themselves to his research. From this approach Blackman is able to ask questions for what he is looking for in his fieldwork. This approach by Blackman is a good approach to gain access to the information the researcher is looking for.
But also goes against guidelines established by the British Sociological Association, which state to the researcher that the subject should be reminded that they are taking place in a study and are the subjects of the material. Blackman states in his article to be against this guideline saying it can limit the about of information the ethnographer can receive. This method goes against Julia Davidson’s approach saying the subject can forget that they are objects to a study and that it is professional to ask for consent several time throughout the research and fieldwork. Davidson, Julia O’Connell. “If no means no, does yes mean yes?
Consenting to research intimacies. ” History of the Human Sciences 21. 4 (2008): 49-67. In the article “If no means no, does yes mean yes? ” by Julia Davidson she discusses the argument of people being studied by ethnographers are tuned in to objects and consumed by the readers. Julia Davidson is a Professor in Sociology at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. Over the past 15 years she focused her attention at prostitution and the different aspects that surrounds this culture. In this article by Professor Davidson she was introduced to a lady Desiree that runs a brothel in the UK where the prostitution is not illegal.
Over the period of nine months Professor Davidson spent one day a week at the brothel as a receptionist where she was able to interact with the customers and with Desiree the owner. The brothel is where her fieldwork was done, where she conducted interviews and interacted with clients. Professor Davidson focused on the aspect of the relationship she developed with her informant. Consent with the people being researched was very important to Davidson because she wanted the subjects to understand that being researched can change your life after it is published.
With the complete understand from Desiree that she is now the subject of her study they formed an intimate relationship that lasted for several years. This qualitative research relates with Lumsden’s fieldwork by addressing how to relate with the subjects. Both ethnographers were introduced in the their subjects culture from another person that was already linked to them. Over time they established themselves in the society to break past the fronts the subjects put up. This allowed for in-depth experience for the researcher to move in close to their subjects.
The difference between Lumsden and Davidson’s work is Davidson established consent with the subject over and over again while Lumsden was trying to fit in with the crowd. This allowed Davidson to obtain information easily from the source while Lumsden was struggling to get the information she was looking for. Emerson, Robert M. “Ethnography, interaction and ordinary trouble. ” Ethnography 10. 4 (2009): 535-548. In “Ethnography, interaction and ordinary trouble”, the author Robert Emerson questions if macro-issues can cause interference of the quality of fieldwork in ethnographic research.
Robert Emerson is a Professor Emeritus of sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles. His primary focus is in the study of ethnography and field research methods. Emerson has written his own book titled Contemporary Field Research: Perspectives and Formulations (2001) also co-authored Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes (1995). In this article Emerson looks at the relationship between two roommates in college and analyzes the ordinary issues that arise. According to Emerson students tend to focus on the big factors of the research and do not pay enough attention to detail on ordinary occurrences.
The issue that derives from this is lack of quality of information. It is important when producing interaction-rich ethnography to not just observe naturally occurring events, but to become involved to get a clear understanding. He encourages for researchers to get into the setting and conduct interviews to have a deeper appreciation of the background. Once the ethnographer has a more general focus on the troubles they will more clearly understand the situation and will be able to create better field notes. Emerson’s example in this article refers to college roommates and the challenge of living with someone else with different habits.
Emerson has interviewed the roommates looked at the micro-issues at hand to see where their problems were coming from. After completing interviews over time Emerson was able to understand how communication and the mundane troubles between the roommates. When an ethnographer is able to document the subtleties involved in ordinary troubles also holds promise for increasing the creditability of the research. Closely well thought-out accounts of the interaction process surrounding ordinary troubles gives the audience grounds for evaluating the truth behind the research.
In the article from Emerson he demonstrates the importance of identifying micro-contexts of his subjects. His work is not as in depth as Irwin’s work but still shows the importance of not over looking the underlying issue. Compared to Irwin’s work she was always concerned about her small actions and the effects that could have on her study. Emerson and Irwin both demonstrate the importance of getting to know the individual and how they interact with others in their lives. Irwin took the approach of being completely immersed in her research setting and getting to know her subject fter being accepted in the culture of tattoo artists. She used her informant as the primary source of becoming connected to others. Emerson focused on the ordinary troubles in the community while Irwin’s was more specific to the tattoo culture. Both research projects did focus on the underlying daily issues. Gans, Herbert J. “Participant Observation in the Era of `Ethnography’. ” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28. 5 (1999): 540. Hubert J Gans is an American sociologist who has taught at Columbia University since 1971, retiring in 2007. He initially made his reputation as a critic of urban renewal in the early 1960s.
Gans has written several books in the field of ethnography and is well known author from publishing books on participant observation. Gans writes about ethnography and how it has changed over the years. From this article it shows how modern day ethnographers are lacking in participant observation techniques. Gans has noticed trends in what ethnographers are doing. Firstly researchers are paying little attention to socioeconomic and political aspects of social injustice. This kind of ethnography has little to do with analyzing what subjects do with each other and how they interact with their social environments.
He points out the fact that today’s ethnographers are avoiding the hard work that participant observation entails. Gans has several outlooks on the direction that ethnography is going and knows that participant observation is the key element in conducting fieldwork to study a individual or a culture. One problem that Gans points, is the relationship modern ethnographers build with their subject. Some ethnographer’s now try to fit in and become attached to the people and have a hard time leaving the lifestyle they were researching because they have become accepted into the society.
In relation to Katherine Irwin’s study she was intrigued by her subject and ended up married to her primary informant that was also her key to access the study group at hand. This had a negative out come and made her research more difficult because she worried about crossing boundaries of her relationship as an ethnographer and as a wife. With individual guidelines set before an ethnographer immerses themselves into a culture, having limitations on how close to the subject or subjects at hand can provide trustworthy work for their readers. Irwin, Katherine. Into the Dark Heart of Ethnography: The Lived Ethics and Inequality of Intimate Field Relationships. ” Qualitative Sociology 29. 2 (2006): 155-175. In article of Into the Dark Heart if Ethnography, Katherine Irwin has placed herself in a research project that explores the question of; if you become intimate with your informant will it alter the outcome of your research? Irwin is an assistant professor at the University of Hawaii. She now lives in Honolulu and teaches courses in criminology, conducts research on juvenile delinquency, violence prevention, deviance and youth subcultures.
For this project Irwin placed herself in her boyfriends tattoo shop, which was her key informant, in which she dated for two years and eventually married during the course of her research. In her study Irwin shows that researcher and subject can form a intellectual bond as well as a intimate bond that still provides a outsiders prospective to their research. Her intellectual bond with her husband was strong but carefully balanced between her research. Every thing Irwin did she had to critique to not harm her husband or the other subjects in the study.
She also enjoyed the connection that intimacy brought to the research. Irwin became completely immersed in her study and followed guidelines about becoming intimate with your subject and how to keep the relationship balanced. If researchers and research participants enact inequalities when they are intimate, intimacy can be even more damaging and problematic. If there is any distinction between real and false intimacy, Irwin’s relationship with her husband and other study members was as true, real, and genuine as any. Being genuine, committed, and forging special bonds were not the problem.
The problem was the structures between Irwin’s study population and her. In the end, the bonds we formed were not strong enough to overcome multiple inequalities. Irwin’s work relates with Venkatesh’s research methods by getting completely immersed in their subjects’ environment. Both researchers went to a unfamiliar setting and committed themselves to knowing everything about both worlds. Each ethnographer explored how their subjects interacted with the community and wanted to truly understand how the society operates and how they deal issues.
Both studies required the researcher to get past the subjects fronts and truly understand the world as a insider experiences it. Only then will outsiders truly understand the knowledge of what it is like on the inside. Lumsden, Karen. “‘Don’t Ask a Woman to Do Another Woman’s Job’: Gendered Interactions and the Emotional Ethnographer. ” Sociology 43. 3 (2009): 497-513. In ‘Don’t Ask A Woman to Do Another Woman’s Job’: Gendered Interactions and the Emotional Ethnographer, Karen Lumsden makes the argument of woman facing different challenges during the course of observation then a male would in a masculine environment.
Karen Lumsden recently completed her PhD in from the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom. Her PhD was completed in Sociology, which was primarily focused on the ‘boy racer’ culture. Her researched involved immersing herself in a male dominated society of modified cars. This culture became a public concern and scrutiny because of their action in society. The culture of performance cars has been around since the 70’s and has had a reputation of being ignorant along with reckless driving habits with little self-concern for safety of others and themselves on the road.
Lumsden was curious about this culture and wanted to see what it was like for the woman involved with these car races and how woman interacted in a male dominate atmosphere. After spending over a year on the inside Karen has had multiple situations where because she was a woman she was discriminated against. One instance that stood out the most for Karen was when she was trying to park her car in a line for a photograph the group was trying to take. When she was backing into her spot for the photo she could not properly position her car.
Another woman came to Karen asking if she would like some help parking. While others on the side started to comment on the situation one person said loud enough for Karen to overhear: don’t ask a woman to do another woman’s job. Lumsden discovers that since she is a woman she is open to opportunities of mistreatment from the males. The other female members of the group who were active participants in the culture also adopted the male traits and were no longer the subjects to scrutiny. It could be argued that ethnographers should not be worried about fitting in with the culture or the group being studied.
However, conducting participant observation would be much more difficult for the researcher who could not build positive relationships with the subject or the group. Karen Lumsden study of boy racers relates strongly with Katherine Irwin’s study in the tattoo culture. Both cultures seem to be male dominant and being a woman studying the culture creates a more challenging situation for the researchers. Women have to be accepted into the group before others open up to the researcher. Being a female ethnographer can have many limitations placed on them in terms of behavior.
A woman who engages in a culture in such ways could be seen as stepping out of line and could create socially uncomfortable situations. James F. Short, Jr, and Hughes Lorine A. “Urban ethnography and research integrity: Empirical and theoretical dimensions. ” Ethnography 10. 4 (2009): 397-415 James Short is a professor at Washington State University and is currently Instructor to Professor Emeritus of Sociology, from 1951-present. Professor Short has held several academic positions to date after graduating from the University of Chicago with a PhD in 1951.
In this article by Short and Hughes it is argued that quantitative data is more important then qualitative data because it has a more developed system of keeping accurate records then qualitative research. Professor Short looks at the work of others in the social science field of ethnography and the integrity of the work. Integrity is critical to the ethnographer in recording information from fieldwork because if a researcher only sees a bias view the work is more focused on interactions about an individual and not observing the culture and how they operate in society.
Short and Hughes conducted a study with several gangs including adults and children also with non-gang members to view the integrity of quantitative research verses qualitative research. The three-year study included fieldwork of participant observation to interviews of the study group. The study concludes that ethnographic data integrity is critical to the development of social sciences. Both quantitative and qualitative research is important to ethnographers, but quantitative research when done properly is more universally recognized in the field.
It has been recognized that ethnography is a very contentious field and that integrity to research is critical. When related to Katherine Irwin’s “Into the Dark Heart of Ethnography” she conducts qualitative research with her subjects. During the course of her study she was confronted with many situations that she did not know how to handle. Because of that she lost her marriage with her husband that she truly fell in love with during the course of the research. Qualitative and quantitative research are effective ways to conduct research and with both done correctly and professionally ethnography can reveal interesting aspects of society.
Conclusion On one occasion J. T. lets Mr. Venkatesh get a taste of power and the problems that come with being a gang leader. He allows him to make the daily rounds of the platoons under his command, six-man crews that deal in crack cocaine and try to sort out the petty squabbles and mistakes endemic in a criminal enterprise comprising 250 underpaid, uneducated and violent soldiers. Without question, Venkatesh is dazzled by J. T. and seduced by the gang life. He maintains enough distance, however, to appraise the information he is given and to build up, through careful observation, a detailed picture of life at the projects.
Venkatesh used participant observation to compile most of his information also conducting interviews with many of the residents. His proper use of observation gained him key interviews with informants that explained the story of the Robert Taylor Homes and the community that surrounds the homes. When comparing Sudhir’s style of ethnography to others in the field like Karen Lumsden, Sudhir’s approach was done well. Every so often he and J. T. would talk about his research project and J. T. understood that he was under observation for Sudhir’s school project.
When Venkatesh introduced himself into the community he did not try to fit in like Lumsden. Sudhir kept his same personality and did not state that he changed his style of clothing to fit in with the gang. Lumsden did do this and it created a barier between her and her subjects limiting the amount of interaction that focused on her research. A valid point that Mr. Gans brings up is when a researcher becomes immersed into the fieldwork; some researchers try to turn the subjects of their study into friends. An example of this is when Katherine Irwin marries her key informant.
She states that she truly loved him for who he was, Irwin still did not allow herself distance from her informant which caused problems while she was trying to conduct her research. When researchers fail to distance themselves from their informants the rules of qualitative reliability and validity are sidestepped, It becomes much harder for sociologists and the readers to trust their work that was completed. Works Cited Blackman, Shane J. “‘Hidden Ethnography’: Crossing Emotional Borders in Qualitative Accounts of Young People’s Lives. ” Sociology 41. 4 (2007): 699-716. Academic Search Premier.
EBSCO. Web. 4 Mar. 2010. Davidson, Julia O’Connell. “If no means no, does yes mean yes? Consenting to research intimacies. ” History of the Human Sciences 21. 4 (2008): 49-67. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. Emerson, Robert M. “Ethnography, interaction and ordinary trouble. ” Ethnography 10. 4 (2009): 535-548. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. Gans, Herbert J. “Participant Observation in the Era of `Ethnography’. ” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 28. 5 (1999): 540. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Web. 17 Mar. 2010. Irwin, Katherine. Into the Dark Heart of Ethnography: The Lived Ethics and Inequality of Intimate Field Relationships. ” Qualitative Sociology 29. 2 (2006): 155-175. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 16 Feb. 2010. Lumsden, Karen. “‘Don’t Ask a Woman to Do Another Woman’s Job’: Gendered Interactions and the Emotional Ethnographer. ” Sociology 43. 3 (2009): 497-513. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010. Short, James F. Jr, and Hughes Lorine A. “Urban ethnography and research integrity: Empirical and theoretical dimensions. ” Ethnography 10. 4 (2009): 397-415. SocINDEX with Full Text. EBSCO. Web. 1 Mar. 2010.