Ethnography Special Issue

I am so pleased with the special issue of Ethnography that I co-edited together with Mats Trondman. Although it won’t be published together for a while, the articles are appearing in Sage’s OnlineFirst. Each article is great and the entire issue is so timely given ethnography’s current position as the scapegoat for sloppy work. Anyway, I digress. I’ll be posting each article as they become available. Here are the first four:

Meanings, motives and action

Voyer, Andrea
Ethnography, Jun 2015; vol. 0: 1466138115592414

Reed’s Interpretation and Social Knowledge is a valuable resource for ethnographers whose work is characterized by explicit engagement with the sense-making environments that produce social reality. In this essay, I highlight interpretivism’s strengths as a theory of method’, and then discuss its limitations. Namely, I take issue with the central roles that the social actor and motivated action play in Interpretation and Social Knowledge. I draw on my ethnographic work to demonstrate an approach to explanation that, although interpretivist, does not adhere to Reed’s assertion that uncovering subjective motivations is always necessary in interpretive work. When the ongoing everyday-ness of social life is the focus of research, action may be better understood not as doing but instead as being in context. Therefore, Ethnography’s working epistemics must allow for the decentering of the subjective and, by extension, the individual, motivated subject.

Ethnography, theory, and sociology as a human science: An interlocution

Reed, Isaac Ariail
Ethnography, Jun 2015; vol. 0: 1466138115592417

Ethnography has compelled sociology to recognize and articulate the implications of the fact that it is a human science. This response to readers of Interpretation and Social Knowledge is presented as an exercise in working epistemics’: a reflection on knowledge production that connects the philosophy of social science to extant problems in specific subfields and methodological approaches in sociology, themselves connected to the work of making empirically driven truth claims in sociology. In so doing, it addresses the investigator’s reflexivity about his or her knowledge production, causality and contrastive explanation, social power and the theory of fields, and finally the relationship between hermeneutic sociology and the sociological lexicon bequeathed by a theory of action’.

Language and social knowledge

Savcı, Evren
Ethnography, Jun 2015; vol. 0: 1466138115592416

In this piece, I argue that a heightened attention to language in Reed’s (2011) interpretive epistemic mode will help further theorizing of the relationship between meaning and the social, and hence strengthen the case for interpretation. Reed’s (2011) framework of landscapes of meaning’ would benefit from weaving in the significance of language to meaning-making: both because it would make room for variations in landscapes across (linguistic) space, but also because it would incorporate an understanding of language, and therefore interpretation, as a practical and historically changing activity. Finally, I suggest that paying attention to the uneven travel of language issues a productive challenge to the analytical distinction Reed maintains between the normative and the interpretive epistemic modes, given that not every epistemic mode is seen as equally legitimate in relation to dominant forms of making sense of the world, and given that subjects do not have equal access to interpretive landscapes.

Learning to see otherwise

Decoteau, Claire Laurier
Ethnography, Jun 2015; vol. 0: 1466138115592413

This article reports on data from two research projects with people whose own illness narratives and etiologies challenge the western biomedical ontology of the body. This paper argues that Reed’s landscapes of meaning’ allow researchers to make sense of the invisible, causal mechanisms operating in these particular epistemic communities. If ontology is an issue of perspective, then part of the ethnographer’s task is to learn to see otherwise’ by situating themselves in people’s systems of signification and thereby grasping and analyzing the causal forces at work. And yet exploring data from these cases also allows for intervention into Reed’s account of causality which lends causal primacy to symbolic systems over structural and agential ones.

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