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Articles on Ethnography

Listed below are articles on this topic from the Campus Writing Program library. Short summaries and citations are provided when available.


Cain, Mary Ann. "Uses and Abuses of Ethnography: Creating Self- Consciousness of Our Own Ideologies." No citation.

Author has conducted ethnographic study of use of writing in an economics class. Describes tension between her colleagues' desire for her to evaluate what she observed in the classroom, and her need to believe in what her "subjects" were doing in order to be a participant-observer in it. Argues that the point is not to ask whether a professor's practice is right; it's to ask what it means. Then the professor and the ethnographer will become more self-conscious about their own and each other's practices.

Clark, Irene L., and Dave Healy. "Are Writing Centers Ethical?"Writing Program Administration 20 (1996): 32-48.

As writing centers have become independent of specific departments, concerns about tutoring ethics have increased. These concerns generally focus on problems arising from assessing the degree to which students are responsible for their own work. Practices that try to alleviate these concerns, though, also fall on ethically shaky ground because these practices may be counterproductive to student learning. An appropriate writing center ethics would include three traits: a proactive approach to the student's work in which attention would be given to the process of writing the assignment rather than to the product, a committment to collaborative learning while still maintaining more focused upon the writing than to the sense of consensus, and to take advantage of its function to provide individualized writing instruction in an atmosphere that respects the degree of ownership inherent in any piece of writing.

Duranti, Alessandro. "Ethnography of Speaking: Toward a Linguistics of the Praxis." Linguistics: The Cambridge Survey (Language: The Socio-Cultural Context, vol. IV). Ed. F.J. Newmeyer. Cambridge UP, 1989. 210-228.

Discusses the principles that guide ethnographers of speech. ES studies language as it is actually used; aims to describe communicative competence; stresses (sociocultural) context; analyzes speech events. CA, on the other hand, doesn't rely on sociocultural context (only on turn-taking system, which it claims is universal?).

Freed, Richard C. and Glenn J. Broadhead. "Discourse Communities, Sacred Texts, and Institutional Norms." College Composition and Communication 38.2 (May 1987): 154-165.

Freed and Broadhead consider the new emphasis in composition on having students understand the "discourse communities" -- the bodies of knowledge, conventions, and strategies -- that they belong to. To look at the effect of a discourse community on the writing process, they examine the corporate cultures of an accounting firm and a consulting firm to show how their institutional outlooks affect proposal writing. Following this analysis, Freed and Broadhead conclude with a call for ethnographic writing to help students recognize and understand the norms of specific cultures.

Geertz, Clifford. "The Way We Think Now: Toward an Ethnography of Modern Thought." Local Knowledge. New York: Basic Books, 1983. 147-163.

States that thought is multiple across cultures-- people in different cultures think differently. How, as thinkers and people in a culture ourselves, can we understand our own thought or that of others? Answer: using ethnography. Discusses 3 methodological themes from ethnography that might be relevant to understanding thought: the use of convergent data, the formation and definition of category labels, and the examination of the life cycle.

Gumperz, J. J. "Interethnic Communication." Discourse Strategies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1982. 172-186.

Analyzes parts of an interview between a NS and a NNS; shows how each participant's (inaccurate) inferences about what's going on lead to inabilities to negotiate common topics for conversation and shared expectations.

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