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The Gendered Dynamics of Urban Ethnography: What the Researcher’s “Location” Means for the Production of Ethnographic Knowledge

Urban Ethnography

ISBN: 978-1-78769-034-9, eISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

ISSN: 1047-0042

Publication date: 22 October 2019


In this chapter, I analyze how the intersection of geographic and social locations shapes ethnographic relationships in urban areas. While early urban ethnographers were acutely aware of the importance of geographic location, I argue that researchers’ social locations were ignored, obscuring how their bodies and social identities lead to different forms of knowledge about the metropolis. I use data from a two-year ethnographic research project conducted in Caracas, Venezuela as well as interviews conducted with women qualitative researchers to consider gendered dynamics of fieldwork experiences and data collection. Using a framework of embodied ethnography, which posits that all ethnographic knowledge is shaped by researchers’ bodies, I argue that men and women confront similar but distinct challenges while conducting fieldwork, and discuss what this means for data collection in cities. Specifically, I focus on how social control mechanisms, the gendered meanings attached to researchers’ bodies, and geographic barriers in urban areas can facilitate and restrict fieldwork. Critiquing hegemonic standards within ethnography that encourage researchers to leave their bodies out of their tales of the field, I advocate for the incorporation of gendered research experiences in our ethnographic writing with the aim of producing more complete narratives, but also to better prepare future ethnographers for fieldwork.




I would like to thank Richard E. Ocejo, Verónica Zubillaga, and Francisco Sánchez for their insightful comments on this chapter, and Patricia Richards for her valuable feedback as well as her research collaboration.


Hanson, R. (2019), "The Gendered Dynamics of Urban Ethnography: What the Researcher’s “Location” Means for the Production of Ethnographic Knowledge", Urban Ethnography (Research in Urban Sociology, Vol. 16), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 173-192.



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