Reviewing ethnographic texts

The objective of REVIEWING ETHNOGRAPHIC TEXTS (course SVF 3101) is to provide a tool for exploring and reviewing ethnographic texts systematically, using either monograph or thesis.

While articles often focus on limited aspects of the research projects, monographs and thesis provide insights into the total research process, where methodological, empirical, analytical and theoretical issues are addressed individually and merged into a whole. In monographs the richness of the empirical material is presented, while articles often have a more clear-cut theoretical or methodological focus.

The major reason for putting a monograph/ thesis review at the beginning of your study plan is to make you aware of the “totality” of the research process of your up-coming master project.

Learning Tool: Reviewing ethnographic texts

This tool is based on independent learning and research.

The student will choose a monograph or thesis and will review it using a set Text Review Form. The structure of the form is a useful guideline for analysis. The form will be filled out online using a link at the bottom of this page.

Text Review Form structure:
1. Historical identification/ intertextuality
1a) The Text 6
1b) The Author 6
2. Systematic text analysis 8
2a) Composition/ structure 8
2b) Objectives 8
2c) Identifying the ethnographic material 9
2ci) Actors- activities- arenas 10
2cii) Reflexivity 11
2ciii) Emic & etic 11
2civ) Arguments and production of new knowledge 12
2d) Modes of representations & style 13
3. Text Review 14
3a) Tentative synthesis 14
3b) Applicable value 15

The student will have access to an example text assignment written by a VCS student from a previous year. This assignment should only be used to demonstrate one way of solving this task.

The final result will be a written assignment that fulfills the following course goals.

• Provide a tool for revealing the text’s ability to communicate its purpose, to reveal how the author has built the text’s arguments and to raise consciousness on the objectives of the text
• Provide a tool for raising your consciousness on your own reading and writing processes and on the writing conventions we tacitly follow in practice
• Allow you to work with the monograph/thesis independently and systematically at your chosen time and place

When we work with ethnographic films, we approach the film due to its ability to mediate its purpose. We explore the filmmaker’s grip on montage, the film’s style, and thematic, and its success in mediating lived life, the empirical ‘facts’ we build our stories on. Watching films informs and inspires your own filming activities, from planning the fieldwork to the editing process. Text reading has similar potential, or rather, it is this potential VCS want to utilize in the practical work with the texts. The way social reality is conveyed through writing involves also authorial voice. The author’s perspective exhibited through voice marks particular ethnographic styles and genres.Before you start we want you to take a closer look at the interview with Clifford Geertz made by Alan Macfarlane 5th of May 2004. This extract of about two minutes from an interview of two hours concerns the discussion on writing and methodology, and the need to be more self-reflexive as in literary criticism. In the interview Geertz addresses the need for more writings on how anthropological texts are constructed.

The whole interview is also accessible on “youtube” or at this address, where you also get access to other ancestors’ “voices”:

Important Notes:

* Please look through the entire test form before you fill out the test.

* Please write the answers out on a document in your computer. Only when you are finished with the whole text should you fill out the test form online. Partially answered or unsent forms will not be automatically backed up on the website. To review the exam offline press here.

To the test