Handbook of Political Anthropology
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Handbook of Political Anthropology

Edited by Harald Wydra and Bjørn Thomassen

This Handbook engages the reader in the major debates, approaches, methodologies, and explanatory frames within political anthropology. Examining the shifting borders of a moving field of enquiry, it illustrates disciplinary paradigm shifts, the role of humans in political structures, ethnographies of the political, and global processes. Reflecting the variety of directions that surround political anthropology today, this volume will be essential reading to understanding the interactions of humans within political frames in a globalising world.
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Chapter 16: Ethnographies of power

Jan Kubik


Establishing a dialogue between political science and anthropology, this chapter considers the tangled traditions of ethnographic inquiry in order to appreciate ethnography’s potential value for the study of politics. The term “ethnography” refers to at least three overlapping yet sufficiently distinct types of intellectual activity and research practice. The essence of ethnography as a specific method of data collecting is, of course, participant observation. Second, ethnographic models are built around specific theoretical assumptions about “reality”—or its fragment—to be observed (for example, holism of the social system in early, functionalist ethnographies). Finally, ethnography is a genre of writing (or, to be more precise, a set of genres) used to narrate the reality in a manner that is different from presentations of formal or statistical models. Focusing mainly on ethnography as a method of research, this chapter explores five types of ethnography: traditional/positivistic, interpretive, postmodern, global (multisited), and paraethnography. It also discusses case study as a method and its relation to ethnography.

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