Disciplinary (Per)Mutations of Ethnography

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There has been a veritable explosion across various disciplines ‘discovering' ethnography over the past three decades. This article argues that the proliferation of ‘ethnography' outside anthropological circles has led to some pervasive interrelated misconceptions about ethnography, misconceptions reinforced by some of the reflective debates within anthropology. Consequently, this article argues that the broadening interdisciplinary discussions of ‘ethnographic methods' obscure the actuality of ethnography. Practitioners in these disciplines often discuss how they employ ‘ethnographic methods,' as if these ‘methods' are the equivalent of engaging in ethnography. As a result, some rather significant differences in the way disciplines conceive and practice ethnography emerge because of how ethnography itself is conceptualized rather than how it is practiced. Ethnography is not simply an amalgamation of constituent parts; it is a sum greater than its constituent parts. There is more to ethnography than either its methods or its texts. While ethnography is also about the kinds of stories, narratives, and diverse ways in which knowledge is produced and its findings are presented, ethnography is so much more than a literary endeavour. All of the research methods found in ethnography are used in other forms of research, yet said methods, in and of themselves, do not make ethnography unique nor make an ethnography. Ethnography is much larger, profound, and illuminating.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-399
JournalCultural Studies - Critical Methodologies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 11 Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Thomas F. Carter, Disciplinary (Per)Mutations of Ethnography, Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies. Copyright © 2017 SAGE Publications. Reprinted by permission of SAGE Publications.


  • anthropology
  • ethnography
  • fieldwork
  • knowledge
  • methodology
  • ethnographic sensibilities
  • ethnographic permutations


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