Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education
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Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education

Edited by Sara Delamont

The Handbook of Qualitative Research in Education offers both basic and advanced discussions of data collection, analysis and representation of all the best qualitative methods used in educational research.
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Chapter 24: ‘Traditional’ Ethnography: Peopled Ethnography for Luminous Description

Sara Delamont


Sara Delamont INTRODUCTION The term ‘traditional’ ethnography as used here is broadly similar to Adler and Adler’s (2008) ‘classical and mainstream’; what Fine (2003) termed ‘peopled’ and what Katz (2001, 2002) sees as producing ‘luminous description’. The chapter sets out what is meant by ethnography, contrasts sociological and anthropological ethnography of education and describes how ethnography is done and written up, drawing on a current project (Delamont, 2009), on capoeira, the Brazilian martial art. ETHNOGRAPHY, FIELDWORK AND PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION DEFINED There are three closely related terms: ethnography, fieldwork, participant observation: all of which are part of the wider category, qualitative research. The majority of qualitative studies conducted in disciplines other than anthropology draw on interviews rather than ethnography. This chapter is about participant observation done during fieldwork, where any interview in data collected are supplementary to the observation (see Hammersley and Atkinson, 2007). Participant observation, ethnography and fieldwork are used interchangeably in the literature; spending long periods watching people, coupled with talking to them about what they are doing, thinking and saying, designed to see how they understand their world. Ethnography as the most inclusive term, with participant observation and fieldwork being useful descriptions of the data collection technique and the location. Fieldwork is the data collection phase of a research process: an investigator doing participant observation and ethnographic interviewing, in a factory, a hospital, a village in Portugal or a school. The term can cover collecting quantitative data (for example, a census) if these data are collected ‘in the...

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