March 23, 2010
In Gang Leader for a Day, the author Sudhir Venkatesh has introduced himself to the culture of the Robert Taylor Homes of Chicago. In this experience Venkatesh meets his primary informant J.T. who shows Sudhir how the community operates. Sudhir is an ethnographer who is conducting qualitative research on the community that makes up the Robert Taylor Homes. J.T. is one of the many primary leaders for the Black Kings who has taken in Sudhir knowing his purpose for hanging around a treacherous community as an outsider. Venkatesh has spent several years in conducting research of the community and interviews of the residents. The process in which the ethnographer collects their information can be done in numerous ways. Some concerns do arise when looking at the how the researcher does interact with the subjects of the study. A particular concern that does come to mind is; how close is to close for the ethnographer? At what extent has the researcher gone beyond the legal limits of obtaining information? For example with Venkatesh in Gang Leader for a Day is it to far when Sudhir rides along while his key informant is conducting gang activity? Currently in Ethnography it is hard to define the way an ethnographer is supposed to interact with their subjects in their fieldwork process. Many ethnographers are expanding on the way they interact with individuals in who can provide information on the subject at hand. Currently ethnography’s primary means of collecting information is still done through participant observation and conducting key informant interviews. Which still gives a generous deal of information to the researcher but another way to become informed of a culture is becoming immersed into their world. For an ethnographer to do this they may need to feel like they fit in, start doing activities that the ones being researched take part in. Also the researcher may change the way they look to be accepted into a foreign lifestyle to gain access to key information.
The sources included provide multiple outlooks on the way ethnography is conducted. Some ethnographers like Katherine Irwin and Karen Lumsden took the approach of trying to get in deep with their sources to uncover the information they are looking for. While other professionals in the field of ethnography take a more stand back approach to see what takes place in there setting to reveal an understanding for the society they are observing.
Blackman, Shane J. "'Hidden Ethnography': Crossing Emotional Borders in Qualitative Accounts of Young People's Lives." Sociology 41.4 (2007): 699-716. Shane Blackman was a scholarship student at the Institute of Education, University of London where he received his PhD in 1990. Shane has conducted research into sociological and ethnographic aspects of young people’s culture. Blackman has written several books, his latest titled Chilling Out: the cultural politics of substance consumption, youth and drug policy. A major part of ethnography is hidden ethnography, which is empirical data that is not released because it may be considered to controversial. This article explores the aspect of how an ethnographer explores the environment of his subjects to reveal the truth of their lifestyles to gain a better understanding. In Blackman’s fieldwork he explores low-income areas to understand what lead people to live in the conditions they currently do. He also studied a group of young woman named the new wave girls, who are aged between 16 to 17. Blackman’s social skills allowed him to connect with his participants on an intimate level, which proved to be beneficial in his work. Professor Blackman used his own subjectivity, through cultural identity to create bonds with people, which allowed his participants to open up and expose themselves to his research. From this approach Blackman is able to ask questions for what he is looking for in his fieldwork....
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