mini ethnography about Baptism

World cultures: mini ethnography about Baptism Custom Essay

Now you have the two major ingredients for your final report:

  1. Your descriptions
  2. Your interviews

Now you will combine these together in order to produce a mini-ethnography about the situation you have chosen to describe and discuss.

There are two goals you should keep in mind when designing this final report:

  1. What is it about your particular scene that it shares with other similar scenes found locally? In other words, “stereotype” your scene by emphasizing what it shares with other similar scenes and playing down those characteristics and traits that make it unique. This requires you to think about what other examples of your scene are like, or even go to other examples to see how common or unique your first visit was. In other words, you are “generalizing” from one specific example to a whole set of examples of the same thing. Where your particular scene is indeed unique, also try to explain that, too: why does this scene exhibit certain characteristics not found in any other, but still related, scenes? In the end you will have a “typical” scene that still allows for its own unique traits.
  2. What makes your mini-ethnography representative or typical of local culture? That is, what makes it “local” and “familiar?” What does your “stereotyped” scene say about local culture? So of course, the first thing you have to decide, define, and identify is just what exactly is “local culture.” You may want to see how your scene is limited to the college, to the upper class, middle class, or working class, to males or females – or any other distinctions such as religion, ethnicity, parochialism, internationalism, or whatever. In other words, scene “X” is not so much representative of ALL of society as it is a particular SEGMENT of the local community (urban, upper class, male, and so on).

You will want to write this as a formal report. No contractions, no second person pronouns. Write in the present verb tense, what anthropologists call the “ethnographic present.” This gives your report some enduring, timeless qualities, reinforcing its validity, accuracy and authenticity. Again try to write it as if you are writing a scene in a movie or soap opera, now with dialogue. The dialogue from your interviews should only be used to add color or mood to your report, or

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when there is something controversial that you need to show urgently and quotes from informants adds to the reality of your report. But at the same time it adds some liveliness to the report as well.

A good set of examples can be found in the book The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society by James Spradley and David McCurdy. The book contains 12 ethnographies done by college students. You might want to look them over – they’re not too long – to see the kind of style the students use in writing up their own field work. Take a look at how they write their material. There are first person pronouns (“I”) but are used to bring the reader into the ethnography and convey some basic truth or essential issue that the author finds important.

Thus you will want to be objective, non-judgmental, observant, detached, impartial and neutral. At the same time you will want to write well, carefully, calmly, and as if you are really interested in the topic. Be personal at times but not too chatty and not too informal.

Artistically weave together your descriptions and dialogues and any other interesting pieces of information you might have uncovered in ways that make your report pleasant and fun to read.

  • Ask “open ended” questions. “Close-ended” question are those which elicit very short answers – a “yes,” “hmmm,” “maybe” or “no” – and that’s it. Close-ended means that there is a limited number of possible replies. In open ended question, you’re letting the informant talk, and talk, and talk, answering the question the way s/he wants to, although ultimately in the way you want him/her to, engineering or manipulating the interview in a polite, subtle, but conscious way.
  • Ask questions that go over concrete situations. Asking abstract questions, philosophical, or theoretical questions enables the informant to talk wildly about all kinds of things, to go off on tangents you never dreamed off, and ultimately give you a bunch of words that have very little meaning. Abstract questions and abstract answers usually mean the informant is making the comparison, s/he is doing the analysis, s/he is finding the insights. They’re drawing conclusions before you do. This reduces your role in this project, it denies your responsibility and relieves you of any control over the research project. Your informant is doing the project, not you. So keeping the interview concrete gives you information that you yourself can analyze later.

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