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Ethnography - Essay Example

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Ethnography

Thus, through this method, ethnography was created and later developed to become one of the most important contributions of human society to the science of knowledge in the 20th century.
As ethnography became the predominant form of data collection in this period, one of its proponents, Clifford Geertz, considered this new, emerging form of social science as a "thick description." Ethnography as a social science that possesses "thick description" is reflective of its ability to bring out a multitude of perspectives from a single observation of a society or culture. However, this very character of ethnography as a social science is also 'interpreted' in various ways, and this will be the focus of the discussions that follow from this text. Discussing and analyzing the works of Clifford Geertz, Peter Winch, and Charles Taylor concerning the issue of ethnography as an alternative form of knowledge and perspective in the field of social science, the concept of "thick description" is best illustrated.
This paper posits that Geertz, Winch, and Taylor's interpretations of ethnography as a "thick description" contained variations of how each proponent viewed research in social science must be conducted. Each proponent offered different views on the epistemological roots of ethnography both as a methodological and conceptual discipline or field of study in social science.

II. Clifford Geertz: Balance between quantitative and ethnographic data
Clifford Geertz is one of the leading ethnologists that began the 'ethnographic revolution,' an American social scientist who developed the field of symbolic anthropology, wherein symbols and rituals are interpreted based not on their ecological and economic meanings, but on the meanings of these symbols and rituals within the context of the culture wherein they are found and practiced.
He was also the one who introduced the term "thick description" to describe the science of ethnography. In order to make sense of this concept of 'thick description,' it is best to understand how Geertz utilized his knowledge and ability to interpret cultures using a different, non-Western perspective in his classic work, "Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight."
In this particular ethnographic study, Geertz looked into Balinese society and culture in terms of its most dominant and prevalent ritual: cockfighting. In "Deep Play," the anthropologist interpreted Balinese cockfighting as a ritual that is symbolic in nature, wherein his interpretations included the findings that cockfighting is symbolic of Balinese men's masculinity, and the collective nature of Balinese society in general.
Cockfighting as a ritual that reflected Balinese men's masculinity is specifically represented by the cock itself, wherein the Balinese man "is identifying not just with his ideal self, or even his penis, but also, at the same time, with what he most fears, hates" Moreover, as a collective ritual participated by the many, Balinese cockfights are also symbolic of what Geertz termed as the "migration of the Balinese status hierarchy into the body of the cockfight" (Geertz, 1973). Both in individualistic and ...Show more

Summary

Ethnography as a social science that sprung from the late 20th century developed from two important changes that occurred in this period: the gradual emergence of challenges against positivism as a dominant way of thinking in the fields of academics and research, as well as the introduction of ethnography as an alternative method and perspective of generating data and information about societies and cultures considered by Westerners and Europeans as "other-worldly."
Author : fleannon
Ethnography essay example
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