Anthropological And Ethnographic Essay

The ethnographic photo-essays that students from Anthropology 380: Visual & Ethnographic Methods have submitted here are examples of how IWU anthropology students learn to conduct ethnographic research with visual media--in this case, still photography. One of the challenges students in this course face is deciphering the differences between photo-journalism, which they are more exposed to through glossy magazines such as National Geographic , and visual anthropology, a sub-field of anthropology that has its own distinct set of methods. One of the most important points of distinction is that while journalists are beholden to the "citizenry" at large, anthropologists are beholden to the community under study and their prime directive is to "do no harm" to them in any way. To uphold this modus operandi, students carefully select a community in which they are interested, spend time building rapport with members of that community, conduct ethnographic interviews, observe and participate in community events, and work with community members on all phases of the photo-essay: topic selection, image production, image selection. What results is a photo-essay produced through collaborative research methods that enhance the self-awareness of the community under study (attained through the process of visual self-representation) and a more enlightened view of the community by outsiders. In 2013, Anthropology 380 focused on the theme of immigration as part of the "Making Human Rights Real" curriculum cluster. For more information, please read the news story.

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Submissions from 2016

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“Don’t Cross Momma!” A Visual Representation of LGBTQI Woman Leader Jan Lancaster, Lucy Bullock '17

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Sacred Partnership: A Visual Ethnographic Study of Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe, Anna Kerr-Carpenter '17

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Women Leaders as Change Agents: Mary Campbell’s Story of Academic and Community Leadership, Raelynn Parmely '17

Submissions from 2013

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American by Citizenship or American at Heart? An analysis of becoming an “American” as seen through the eyes of an Indian-American immigrant, Helen Brandt '14

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Pierogies to Hamburgers: An immigration story, Madeline Cross '13

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The Long Road to Becoming American: One Kenyan’s Immigration Journey Filled with Perseverance, Discrimination, and Student Visa Restrictions, Katelyn Eichinger '14

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Bicultural Living: Maria Luisa Mainou’s Experience with Immigration and Cultural Change, Alicia Gummess '13

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Russian-Jewish Immigration and the Life Experiences of Dr. Marina Balina: A Photo Essay, Lauren Henry '14

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Snapped into Focus: Addressing the Challenges Faced by Undocumented Mexican Immigrants in the United States, Nora Peterson '14

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An American who Emigrated from Poland: The Significance of Education and Family Support in the Acculturation Process, Stephanie Pierson '13

Submissions from 2012

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Smile and Style: An Ethnographic Analysis of ISU's Gamma Phi Circus, Sarah Carlson '13

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Building Christ-based Relationships, Disciples, and Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Illinois State University, Cassandra Jordan '12

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When Words Fail, Music Speaks, Hannah Williams '12

Submissions from 2011

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Exploring Acupuncture in the American Midwest, Shuting Zhong '11

Submissions from 2010

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Luck Be A Lady: An Exploration of the Bloomington Bingo Community Through Visual Ethnographic Methods, Monica Simonin 11

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Getting High: An Inside Look into College Students' Lives with Type 1 Diabetes, Amber Spiewak 11

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Twin City Chess Club: a Visual Ethnographic Examination of Chess, Morgan Tarbutton 11

 

Essay on Cultural Anthropology and Ethnographic Fieldwork

1790 Words8 Pages

Cultural Anthropology and Ethnographic Fieldwork

James P. Spradley (1979) described the insider approach to understanding culture as "a quiet revolution" among the social sciences (p. iii). Cultural anthropologists, however, have long emphasized the importance of the ethnographic method, an approach to understanding a different culture through participation, observation, the use of key informants, and interviews. Cultural anthropologists have employed the ethnographic method in an attempt to surmount several formidable cultural questions: How can one understand another's culture? How can culture be qualitatively and quantitatively assessed? What aspects of a culture make it unique and which connect it to other cultures? If…show more content…

This interpretation must make meaning from the culture in the same way that natives draw meaning. According to Spradley (1979), the structural components of cultural meaning come from what people say, what they do, and what artifacts they use (p. 9). In anthropological field work, he or she attempts to observe and document these cultural aspects. In addition, and more importantly, the anthropologist must then, as accurately as possible, make inferences which parallel those of the natives.

The grandiose task of wearing another's cultural skin understandably comes with a host of opinions on how such a job can be accomplished. Anthropologists have long argued about the accuracy of ethnographies (Levinson & Ember, 1996, pp. 419-21). Much of the discussion stems from the assumption that some cultural aspects are ineffable and subconscious. Can an anthropologist approach his subject, as Spradley argues, "with a conscious attitude of almost complete ignorance"? Is it possible to consciously withhold one's own cultural interpretations while attempting to study that very thing in another culture?" (Spradley, 1979, p. 4 & Levinson & Ember, 1996, pp. 419-21).

Anthropologist Robert M. Keesing, in his essay "Not a Real Fish: The Ethnographer as Insider-Outsider," (1992) deals candidly with the problems of fully becoming an

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