Ethnology… It matters!


Let me just start by admitting that prior to this BCM240 class/lecture/reading I had absolutely no idea what collaborative ethnography was or how it could ever work in my favour. A week later and it’s all I can think and talk about.

So what is ethnography?

The study of human races and cultures

In a way that already suggests to me that every ethnography must be collaborative, how else are we supposed to apprehend an entire race and culture of an individual without his/hers collaboration?

‘Ethnography is, by definition, collaborative. In the communities in which we work, study, or practice, we cannot possibly carry out our unique craft without engaging others in the context of their real, everyday lives. Building on these collaborative relationships between the ethnographer and her or his interlocutors, we create our ethnographic texts. To be sure, we all practice collaboration in one form or another when we do ethnography. But collaborative ethnography moves collaboration from its taken-for-granted background and positions it on center stage.’ The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography.

I feel that perhaps the reason why it is so powerful to me, is because I want to share my culture with others, I want them to understand what it really feels like to be born in my country, to grow up with my values, and then suddenly have to adapt to new values.  Values that I also want to take in and fathom as much of as possible. So in a way life is a collaborative ethnography. How can we not take and give a little of ourselves everyday to those around us? We feel empathy for the old gentleman who can no longer walk, we feel anxious for our team before a game, we feel happy for the girl who did well in class, but mostly, they too, feel something when they see you.

But what about my grandma?  An 85 year old lady who can no longer travel or leave her house, does collaborative ethnography not affect her because she is no longer seen by society? I feel as if it does, every day inside her own home. As I interviewed both my grandmother and my mum (please refer to my last post), she shared memories so fund that we were able to feel and understand her better than we have before, we were also grateful because it added to what we knew about our family culture.

As I thought more deeply into the real meaning of ethnography for me, I began to discover that it is more common than not. The old photos that we keep and take out every odd year, the old Christmas cards and birthday cards buried under a box somewhere, the sticky notes on the fridge, the videos and photos recorded on iPhones and iPads, I now understand why Facebook is so popular and why we are ever so eager to share and like endless photos and pages, simply because…   We keep what we have by giving it away’.

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