Definition Photographic Ethnography

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What is Photographic Ethnography to us?

  • You need to go into the Field to do it
  • Question the Western Canon of Theory - the application of it - know when it is appropriate and when it is not
  • What are the implications of this on the Anglo-American way of thinking?
  • Think about the implications of different perspectives on time/personhood/place
  • Be wary of conceiving of things as primitive/complex in a heirarchy (binary oppositions/Flip flop)
  • Do not buy into political correctness, be less dogmatic in our stance
  • Ask What is photography (or this photograph/y) for? Not just What is photography?
  • (Deal with emotion?)
  • Material and presentational form matter/ both the original material and presentation and the re-presentation and re-materialisation


From Schensul, Stephen L. Essential ethnographic methods observations, interviews, and questionnaires. Walnut Creek, Calif: AltaMira Press, 1999.

"Ethnography is a scientific approach to discovering and investigating social and cultural patterns and meaning in communities, institutions, and other social settings. One primary difference between ethnography as science and other social and behavioral science methods of investigation is that ethnographers discover what people do and why before they assign meaning to behaviors and beliefs. People's perspectives then form the foundation for building local theories that can be tested, linked to scientific literature, and adapted for use elsewhere. Unlike other social sciences, ethnography depends on the researcher as the primary tool of data collection, so ethnographers pay special attention to issues of bias and ways of ensuring accuracy of data.

Four guiding principles:

  • Ethnographic research is guided by and generates theory
  • Ethnographic research is both qualitative and quantitative
  • Ethnographic research is conducted locally
  • Ethnographic research is applied

(David)