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留学生定制assignment需求-IMPORTANT NOTE-The participant observer ox(3)

时间:2011-03-14 16:39来源:留学生论文网 编辑:英国作业网 点击:
Participation enables the ethnographer to learn about events, feelings, rules, norms in context rather than asking about them. It enables a focus on what actually happens rather than what tends to hap

Participation enables the ethnographer to learn about events, feelings, rules, norms in context rather than asking about them. It enables a focus on what actually happens rather than what tends to happen. It enables the entire context of an event to be included in the observation rather than relying on the interpretation, recollection and reordering of events that tends to go with reporting. But it can be more involved than this. Some ethnographers turn their ethnographic gaze onto a field in which they are already implicated, sometimes as participants. Aid workers or relief workers, for example, may use their personal commitment to the group as the focus for a critical ethnography. Here participation might come before observation, with an insider role already well-established (insider ethnographies).

For others still, as with Sue Estroff (1981), the role of participation is to sensitise oneself  to the world of others through experience and through the co-construction of that world. In her ethnographic study of psychic disorder among clinical outpatients, Estroff talks about learning from research participants rather than about them. Her aim was for herself and then her readers to ‘discover their worlds’, not to attempt to impose coherence or order on their lives. Similarly, Matthew Desmond (2006), for his ethnography of high-risk occupations, Becoming a firefighter, not only shared experiences with the research participants but his body bore the scars of what we might call acculturation. Desmond, who collected data while working as a wildland firefighter in northern Arizona, explains:

By taking the ‘participant’ in ‘participant observation’ seriously, by offering up my mind and body, day and night, to the practices, rituals and thoughts of the crew, I gained insights into the universe of firefighting, insights I gleaned when I bent my back to thrust a pulaski into the dirt during a direct assault on a fire or when I moved my fingers through new warm ash to dig for hot spots. My body became a field note, for in order to comprehend the contours of the firefighting habitus as deeply as possible, I had to feel it growing inside of me (2006: 392).


The participant observation continuum
In contemporary ethnography the extent and role of participation can vary dramatically between and within studies. The distinction between participation and observation now takes place on a continuum from full immersion in the setting or culture to very minimal participation, not only between but also within individual studies. In my research in Spain (O’Reilly, 2000) the balance between observer and participant shifted constantly. On one occasion, crippled from having fallen down concrete steps the previous day and with a huge swelling on my right eye from a mosquito bite, I resolutely turned up for a pre-arranged interview only to find the couple on their way out for a swim. Unperturbed they invited me to join them saying, ‘the water will do you good’. On this occasion I was a participant rather than an observer, learning from experience about various aspects of life in Spain as well as the pain and disappointment felt by (and the flexibility required of) an ethnographer. On another occasion, a council meeting with expatriate organisations, I was not permitted to participate but was allocated a seat at the edge of the room. As is discussed in participant observation, these decisions are often practical ones as well as theoretical and ethical. There may be times when a reflexive ethnographer who aims to experience and participate in the co-construction of the social world is cast in the role of researcher, or even journalist, and times when the detached observer is drawn in against her will and asked to adjudicate, help out, or otherwise become involved.  The important thing is to know why you want to become involved before pursuing (or not) a fully participant role, and then to reconcile your intentions with practical issues on the ground.



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