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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Thomas Corcoran, Jennifer Abrams and Jonathan Wynn

As a method in sociology, urban ethnography is rather straightforward: it conducts participant observation in cities. In essence, urban ethnographers study place, and yet…

Abstract

As a method in sociology, urban ethnography is rather straightforward: it conducts participant observation in cities. In essence, urban ethnographers study place, and yet how place is portrayed is too often absent from ethnographic descriptions. Indeed, place is always present in the lives of people, but it becomes difficult to understand how place works in an ethnographic context. To reflect upon this puzzle, the following text offers a language for how we may make better sense of place as urban ethnographers and the role of place as a central actor in urban life. By revisiting classic and current ethnographies, we consider how place is constructed as an object of analysis, reflective of social phenomenon occurring within a city. Further, in identifying six tensions (in/out, order/disorder, public/private, past/present, gemeinschaft/gesellschaft, and discrete/diffuse), we demonstrate how descriptions of place are either present or absent in these ethnographies. To understand these tensions as they depict place, we maintain, it is to better understand how place is represented within ethnographies claiming to be urban. In conclusion, we present future directions for urban place-based ethnography that may offer more robust interpretations of place and the people who inhabit it.

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Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Stefan Timmermans and Pamela J. Prickett

We examine what makes urban ethnography unique as a sociological subfield and how to convey this method to aspiring urban ethnographers. As a qualitative research…

Abstract

We examine what makes urban ethnography unique as a sociological subfield and how to convey this method to aspiring urban ethnographers. As a qualitative research approach, methodological sensibilities about observing, sampling, and data analysis cross boundaries and transcend the urban setting. We suggest a short observational exercise of checking out in a grocery store to stimulate the ethnographic imagination. Next, we turn to three ways to cultivate an ethnographic eye toward the urban: walking the city, paying attention to interactions and institutions, and examining communities and networks. We end with an appeal to engaging with a community of inquiry.

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Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Victoria Reyes

The Chicago School of Sociology heralded a new age: that of the rise and establishment of sociology as an academic discipline in the US. It also spurred on an intellectual…

Abstract

The Chicago School of Sociology heralded a new age: that of the rise and establishment of sociology as an academic discipline in the US. It also spurred on an intellectual tradition in ethnography that focuses on a wide array of methodological tools and empirical data with a focus on the specificity of place that continues to live on in contemporary urban sociology. Yet, its traditions have also been extensively criticized. Burawoy (2000) is one preeminent scholar, who has denounced the Chicago School as being parochial, ahistorical, and decontextualized from the national and international processes that shape cities. Instead, he calls for a move toward “global ethnography,” one that focuses on “global processes, connections, and imaginations” (Burawoy et al., 2000). Increasingly, US urban sociologists study research sites that are located outside the US and pay attention to how global actors and/or transnational connections influence US dynamics. Given this trend, what, if any lessons can global and urban sociologists take away from the Chicago School? In this chapter, I highlight three such lessons: (1) the global is central to city life; (2) rooting our work in the specificities of place helps extend and build theory; and (3) the School still provides useful conceptual and methodological tools to study the global. In doing so, I argue that scholars should recognize the plurality of approaches to global ethnography and how each approach can further our understanding of how the global shapes social life.

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Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Rebecca Hanson

In this chapter, I analyze how the intersection of geographic and social locations shapes ethnographic relationships in urban areas. While early urban ethnographers were…

Abstract

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.

Details

Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Waverly Duck and Mitchell Kiefer

Classic urban ethnography has often viewed urbanization and the urban condition as pathological and the city as disorganized, with urban areas producing problems to be…

Abstract

Classic urban ethnography has often viewed urbanization and the urban condition as pathological and the city as disorganized, with urban areas producing problems to be solved through the managerial control of urban space. This chapter presents an alternative view, introducing an Interaction Order approach within urban ethnography. This way of studying culture builds on the work of Emile Durkheim (1893), W. E. B. Du Bois (1903), Harold Garfinkel (1967), Erving Goffman (1983), and Anne Rawls (1987). Interaction Orders are shared rules and expectations that members of a group use to coordinate their daily social relations and sense-making, which take the form of taken-for-granted practices that are specific to a place and its circumstances. The power of this social order, which is constructed by the interactions among participants themselves, renders outsiders’ interventions counterproductive. Understanding local interaction orders enables ethnographers to interpret problems differently and imagine solutions that work with local culture.

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Marcus Anthony Hunter and Terrell J. A. Winder

Drawing on shared research and educational trajectories, the authors illustrate the importance and challenge of tracing Black gay social life in urban ethnography. This…

Abstract

Drawing on shared research and educational trajectories, the authors illustrate the importance and challenge of tracing Black gay social life in urban ethnography. This chapter investigates the ephemeral nature of Black gay geographies using live experience and data collection from Los Angeles. Guided by Joseph Beam’s (1984) key sociological insight, we offer and amplify a new warrant for urban ethnography emergent from the study of Black and LGBTQ life, visibility is survival. In so doing, we aim to underscore the importance of ethnographic inquiry to understand the spatial and communal navigation of cities by Black gay people. In examining the unique Black gay maps of a rapidly changing Los Angeles, we articulate the multitude of ways that ethnographic inquiry serves as a correction to the record and a form of documenting threatened histories and everyday realities of Black LGBTQ life.

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Article
Publication date: 22 March 2017

David Weir

The purpose of this paper is to provide an ethnographic account of a folk music venue from the perspective of a participant observer.

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to provide an ethnographic account of a folk music venue from the perspective of a participant observer.

Design/methodology/approach

The research is based on a classic thick description, describing the central participants in a performance and the operation of spacing and timing processes, thus significantly creating private ownership of a public space.

Findings

There are collective proceses of spacing and timing that are informal but normative framing what superficially appears to constitute random or unstructured activities. The musical knowledge and performance competence drive these processes rather than externally visible considerations of authenticity.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is a single-venue descriptive research.

Originality/value

This paper adds to the relatively few small-scale ethnographies of urban music venues.

Details

Journal of Organizational Ethnography, vol. 6 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 2046-6749

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Transport Science and Technology
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-08-044707-0

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2019

Abstract

Details

Urban Ethnography
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78769-033-2

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