Chapter 12: Ethnographic Journeys in Higher Education
Lisa Lucas ETHNOGRAPHIC STUDIES IN HIGHER EDUCATION: MAPPING THE FIELD This chapter explores the landscape of ethnographic research within higher education, a relatively barren field compared to other areas of social life and certainly when compared to the compulsory education sector where ethnographic work is more evident (Ball, 1981; Burgess, 1983). Though there is indeed a substantial literature on students within professional disciplines and within vocational education and training and their enculturation within respective communities (see Pugsley and Salisbury chapters in this volume). However, as a relative novice who has engaged in much qualitative research into higher education but not extensive ethnographic work and who has enjoyed exploring the rich and varied literature in this area, I would argue that this is an expanding and potentially highly fruitful approach for exploring the multi-faceted and complex world of higher education. My own experiences of participant observation in academic committee meetings was illuminating and the dilemmas I faced are echoed in much of the research I discuss in this chapter (Lucas, 2006). The main aim of this chapter is to represent the exciting and rich variety of ethnographic work in higher education, including key areas of learning and teaching, the social and learning life of students, organizational cultures, management processes and policy development and implementation within (and outside) university institutions. However, much of this cannot be addressed without at the same time engaging in the key methodological debates within ethnographic approaches on, for example, multi-sited ethnography, representation, dialogue and voice. The perceived...
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