Reading and Research:
Key Terms

Summary Here

What is ethnography? As you are probably by now aware, “ethnography” refers not only to a specific way of doing research — immersing oneself in a naturally occurring social setting — but also to the book-length genre of scholarly writing in which such research often culminates.

What is thick descriptionTo invoke a term popularized by Clifford Geertz, every description is already ‘thick’ with interpretation. And an interpretation is not a view from nowhere but one that is necessarily grounded in a specific position.

 What is Theory? In some social sciences like economics or government, “theory” refers to explanatory or predictive models into which data of varying types may be fed. In contrast, anthropologists tend to think of “theory” in ways more similar to their colleagues in the humanities: as an interpretive lens to be borrowed from one context and adapted to another for the purpose of illuminating it. (See below for brief descriptions of our favorite theorists!) 

What is reflexivity and why is it important? If you are new to anthropology, you may find the mixture of objective and subjective stances displayed in ethnographies frustrating and difficult to parse. For instance, your prior notions of what qualitative research or social science ought to look like may be shaken when you read an author’s discussion of how his own gender, ethnicity, upbringing or sexuality shaped the direction of his research and its conclusions. Isn’t social science supposed to be impersonal and detached? Not necessarily. In fact, such concerns are not at all out of place in the human sciences, whose key difference from natural sciences lies in dealing with value-laden data (like behaviors and symbols), which, by their very definition require interpretation. [continue]



We need ARCH words too