Sociology | Topics in Qualitative Methods
S652 | 4123 | Corsaro


Topic:  Ethnography

In this course we will consider ethnography as a method of social
research as routinely practiced in sociology and anthropology.
Ethnography is both a method and a theoretical orientation in that
one's approach to ethnography reflects a particular conception of
culture and social structure.  We will concentrate primarily on more
interpretive approaches to ethnography and culture with a focus on
collective processes of negotiation, action, and interpretive
understanding.  The particular ethnographic methods we will read
about, evaluate, and employ are routinely utilized in a range of
research areas in sociology (as well as anthropology, education,
folklore, and psychology).

A general goal of the course is for the class to engage and confront
a range of ethnographic texts (both actual ethnographic reports and
descriptive and didactic discussions of particular methods) and to
appropriate the wisdom of these texts in a series of written
projects over the course of the semester.  I will insist that the
engagement and appropriation of these texts will be primarily a
collective process.  I will do some lecturing and students will be
individually responsible for written reports.  However, I expect
students to be prepared to participate routinely in class
discussions and every project will be dialogic in that students will
actively engage each other and me in the process of producing
written assignments.

Assignments include: (1) a set of commentaries and evaluations of
the ethnography each student selects to examine and evaluate for the
course; (2) the filling out of a Human Subjects Proposal for the
interview requirement in the course; (3) a field note collection and
evaluation project; (4) an interview project in which each student
interviews another class member about a life transition and
evaluates the interview process; (4) a final paper in which each
student does an overall evaluation of their selected ethnography and
writes up a proposal for an ethnographic study they builds on and
expands the ethnography they evaluated over the semester.

The books required for the course are:

Charles Briggs, Learning How to Ask: A Sociolinguistic Appraisal of
the Role of the Interview in Social Science Research. New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1986.

Richard Emerson, Rachel Fretz, and Linda Shaw, Writing Ethnographic
Fieldnotes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.

Richard Jessor, Anne Colby, and Richard Shweder, Ethnography and
Human Development: Context and Meaning in Social inquiry.  Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1996.

Katherine Brown Rosier, Mothering Inner-City Children: the Early
School Years. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 2000.

In addition a set of readings will be made available on electronic
reserves.