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Alexandra Allan is a doctoral research student based at Cardiff University, Wales. Her research interests mainly lie within studies of genders and sexualities, children and childhood and educational success and achievement. Her doctoral research is a qualitative investigation of how primary school girls manage their gender identities as ‘girls’ with their academic identities as ‘pupils’ in a single sex, selective, private school setting. This research is mainly based in the primary school, but extends to the early years of secondary education where it is concerned to explore the transition process and how identities are managed during this important period. Alexandra also has a strong interest in qualitative research methods and methodology. In particular, she is interested in using photographic methods in her research as a way of encouraging children to participate in research and to (re)present themselves visually.
Ethnographers in the field aim to familiarise themselves with processes and practices of local cultures in their chosen research setting. This usually means that they collect a wide range of data using diverse, multiple methods such as participant observation, interviewing and document collection. As we have suggested previously, the gaze of ethnographers often tends to be drawn to visible and audible activities; therefore, we also wanted to ask how to observe, record and analyse silence. We argued that it is more difficult for participant observers to focus on mundane everyday practices and stillness and silence than it is to record the use of voice and movement during lessons and breaks (Gordon, Holland, Lahelma, & Tolonen, 2005). Here, I shift the focus and examine how a researcher looks at what is eventful and striking in the field. Usually, in the course of a school day there are numerous incidents that are clearly visible to the ethnographer's gaze or loudly audible to her ears. I ask what strikes the researchers as particularly symptomatic among the many observations they make in the course of the day; why and how are some incidents interpreted as laden with significant meanings.
One thing that is very important with respect to Marxism in social research such as ethnography is the understanding adopted there of what kind of theory Marxist theory is…
One thing that is very important with respect to Marxism in social research such as ethnography is the understanding adopted there of what kind of theory Marxist theory is and isn't and what consequences this has for its key concepts, their status, and what they represent philosophically as well as practically (i.e., in praxis). One important concept is the concept of social class. The Marxist concept of social class is very different to the class conceptions held in other research traditions. This isn't always fully appreciated by all critics of Marxist analysis in the social sciences.