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Exorcising an Ethnography in Limbo

The Lost Ethnographies: Methodological Insights from Projects that Never Were

ISBN: 978-1-78714-774-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-773-7

Publication date: 7 January 2019


The author feels haunted; troubled by the ethnography that the author conducted some years ago of a new partnership group that was attempting to set up a community learning centre. The author is aware that it doesn’t sound like a particularly alarming research topic, and perhaps that is where some of the issues began. The author did not expect an ethnographic haunting to occur. The partnership recruited the author less than a year into the creation of the project and spent two years as a sort of ‘researcher in residence’. The original idea was that the author would observe the initial development of the project and then, when the community learning centre was established, the author would research the centre’s activities and how they were experienced by village residents. However, fairly soon into the project, problematic dynamics developed within the group, leading to irreconcilable conflict between members. The community learning centre was never established and the author was left to piece together an ethnography of a failed partnership. Researching an increasingly dysfunctional partnership was an emotionally exhausting activity, especially when relationships between members became progressively hostile. Managing data collection and analysis at this time was difficult, but the author was shocked that, a number of months (and now years) later, revisiting the data for publication purposes remained uncomfortable. The author managed to produce the PhD thesis on the back of this study, but the author has not felt able to go back to the data, despite there being findings worthy of publication. This ethnography is in a state of limbo and is at risk of becoming lost forever. In this chapter, the author explores the reasons for this and discusses lessons learned for future projects.



Vigurs, K. (2019), "Exorcising an Ethnography in Limbo", Smith, R.J. and Delamont, S. (Ed.) The Lost Ethnographies: Methodological Insights from Projects that Never Were (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 17), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 133-146.



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