Studies & Degrees in Ethnography

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Ethnography is an important part of cultural anthropology which deals with the understanding of human societies by observing groups of people such as the place they live, the developments they made while staying in a place, how to make a living, their culture, religious practices, and many more. Methodologies that ethnographers use whenever they are in the field varies and one cannot claim theirs as superior nor can any of them be evaluated philosophically. The effectiveness of a methodology depends on the research subject and the purpose of the research.

The history of Ethnography will take us back to the time when it was first established as a method in the latter of the 19th century. Franz Boas, a German anthropologist and known as the father of American anthropology, made significant contribution to Ethnography by introducing linguistic and documentary techniques in observing people. During the World War I, Bronislaw Malinowski, another anthropologist who was also considered, aside from Boas, the most influential anthropologist, developed one of the methodologies used by modern ethnographers who were consisted of spending a great amount of time immersed in the subject or the people being observed. In the 20th century, theoretical and practical changes in the methodologies used in Ethnography were made although many still used the classic methods Boas and Malinowski developed. The most note-worthy change that happened was the disturbance caused by post-structuralism, post-modernism, feminism, and neo-Marxism on the foundations of religious shifts, and economic patterns. Also, with the downfall of colonialism, the world as described by Boas and Malinowski was very different from the modern one. This gave space to many other great ethnographers such as Clifford Geertz to develop their own methodologies that were not applicable during Boas and Malinowski’s time.

Should they choose to take Ethnography, students will learn about the cultural and social diversity existing in our world. They will have to learn how humans see themselves as an individual and as a member of a particular group, how they see other people, and how they work together. Students will also have to learn to understand the matters about history, politics, finance, nation, religion, and society that affect people’s lives. Both theoretical and practical knowledge are important that’s why students spent half of their time researching and studying previous anthropological documents, and half of their time immersing in the field where students will have a chance to use the ethnographic methodologies they will learn. The students, in order for their fieldwork to succeed, will need to understand their subject’s taboos, sports culture, health conditions, organisational culture, globalisation issues, the formation of norms, etc.

Most ethnographers follow the classic career path of immersing oneself in a community, observing the people then writing about all of one’s findings and publishing an ethnographic book or paper. There are, however, many other choices ethnographers have when picking a career path to follow. Aside from working in universities or anthropological institutions, ethnographers can work in museums or become authors of anthropological journals. Many companies, especially those that sell products to specific markets, employ ethnographers to study the choice-making patterns of a specific group of people. By making clear observation of the targeted group of people, ethnographers can make accurate prediction as to what kinds of products these people will look for next.