Ethnographic research finds a home several fields of study. Anthropology, sociology, philosophy, as well as both creative writing and literature analysis found in the academic study of English all have uses for ethnographies. It is important to discern exactly what is meant the term ethnography is used, as it is represented differently depending upon the way it is going to be studied or used. A definition, though general, gives all a basis to build from concerning ethnographies is an in-depth analysis of a particular culture. Each discipline will of course focus the term ethnography to cater more to the core values each discipline holds, directing it to focus on perhaps one aspect of the culture more than the others. Because ethnography finds itself being used by so many different disciplines it’s not any wonder that this some what recent method of research has gained popularity not just in the scholastic world, but outside of the halls of academia and in what could be described as “the real world” as well. The study of other cultures that we are not familiar with, or aspects of our own culture that we had forgotten to be as amazing as they truly are, are both appealing and useful to the everyday populous not just those involved in the pursuit of knowledge.
What possible use could the general public have for ethnographic research? The question seems a bit absurd to begin with, as the answer may not be as evident upon first glance as it after deep consideration. The study of any aspect of culture especially if it be language, social structure, or technology would be very lucrative for people who are business oriented to read, and perhaps even more so those who are involved in both advertising and public relations would find this information to be like striking gold. Ethnographies are an analysis as to how people act, what they do, how they react, what language they use, if something makes the uncomfortable, and in this compilation of information in one place people learn what sells, and what will work. The business world is also not the only other world to benefit from this. Our government has and certainly is still in need of ethnographic research. In light of certain events concerning going to war it is important just as it was during World War II and any other war or conflict that we understand culture that we are war with. It is important to know why they think the way they day. What it is that causing them to act in a way we might perceive as irrational but to them seems the very picture of sanity. Ethnographies get us into their world; it allows us to see through their eyes.
Ethnographic research is useful, and is presented in a manner in which it is easy to understand. One particular compelling thing about ethnographies is that often they take part in a narrative form, and this is informative but also entertaining. My particular ethnography has a large focus of it on stories. The stories of Huey’s Memphis. Most Memphis citizens consider Huey’s to be a local chain of restaurants, but if they truly looked at it in and studied it, they’d see a person who’d never been to Memphis before could learn a great deal about the city in just one visit. Whether it be from the writings on the wall, the type of food served, the way the wait staff acts towards their customers, how the wait staff is dressed, what the layout of the restaurant is, all of these things are insights into Memphis culture. Memphians often overlook it as it just something that they know is there, but a foreigner could learn much merely by reading an ethnography on Huey’s as it is a place that’s idiosyncratic atmosphere gives some light on general theories about Memphians as a whole.
The best way for ethnographies to be truly fleshed out is by participant observation. This method is the most favored as one can truly understand culture if one is actively participating in it. However, there are certain times were participant observation cannot be used. If participating will corrupt the culture or aspect of culture being studied, or perhaps cause harm to the researcher these reasons as well as a few others are more than good enough grounds to not be a participant observer, but the method of participating and observing is still preferred, as it gives the writer/researcher a much better idea of what the culture they are describing is like, as well a personal and tangible feel for the material. It is up to the researcher to make elucidate the culture as they observe it. In that way Geertz claim that anthropology is not so much experimental science as it is an interpretive one stands true. It is less experimental as the purpose is not to cause change in the culture but more to study and document the culture as it is. Changing it would defeat the purpose of studying the culture at hand, and it could cause corruption of data to say the least, therefore it is more of an act of demystifying the unknown than conducting hypothesized tests on something.
Ethnographic Research, a somewhat contemporary practice, has become popular only in the late twentieth century. This popularity suggests that ethnographic research is now starting to appeal to more than just an academic audience, and that people are starting to see the advantages being privy to this wealth of information has. If knowledge is power, than ethnographic fieldwork is indeed means to some very heavy ammunition, on so many different levels whether they be political, religious, militaristic, sociological, or anything of that sort. Ethnographic research which has made itself in the halls of academia is now renting space in “the real world” and they may starting looking to buy instead of rent if the trend keeps up.