Best Practice in Ethnographic Research

19 Apr

Bose offers a description of best practice in ethnographic research that rests upon skepticism toward data, building trust with one’s research subjects, and having flexibility in the research process – “including adjusting research strategies in order to refine both research questions and the appropriate methods of investigation, reporting back to communities, and making publicly available research findings” (288). This approach is itself based upon Reason‘s concept of “participative inquiry” (1998). The basis of this approach is that the principal investigator(s), while maintaining responsibility for creating an outline of the research issue and key questions, “must be open to having his or her views and designs challenged, complicated, and even modified by the participants in the project. The goal is to leave the research itself as an emergent process, where issues become crystallized not as a top-down directive from the researcher, but as a dialogue and debate between discussants” (289). This understanding itself shares some correlation with that of Kipnis‘s concept of “good-faith communicative reason”, which presupposes that politics in scholarship should not become reductive to the point where scholarship simply becomes politics: “In contrast to the forms of identification that facilitate scholarly relational objectivity, politicized identities are marked by a lack of specificity….One reason for these contradictions is that political identities exist, not for intellectual precision, but to create large constituencies. Their very purpose is to gloss over significant difference” (2008, p. 133). It is worth pointing out that Kipnis’s “good faith” is not a question of politicisation versus depoliticisation; as Kipnis points out, “[t]he production and reception of a good-faith work of scholarship can have politicizing effects. It can challenge the powers-that-be views and question prevailing assumptions. The challenging and questioning, however, does not take place in the spirit of reinforcing a permanent state of politicization and enmity, but in seeking a reply that might move the entire dialogue in an unexpected direction (ibid., 138).

Bose, P.S. (2012), “Mapping movements: interdisciplinary approaches to migration research”, in C. Vargos-Silva (ed), Handbook of Research Methods in Migration, Cheltenham, UK & Massachusetts, USA: Edward Elgar Publishing, pp. 273-294.

Kipnis, A. (2008), China and Postsocialist Anthropology: Theorizing Power and Society after Communism. Norwalk, CT: EastBridge.

Reason, P. (1998), “Three approaches to participative inquiry’, in N.K. Denzin and Y.S. Lincoln (eds), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, pp. 261-91.




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