Douglas R. Holmes & George E. Marcus

In: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods


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  • The concept of para-ethnography was formulated to address the challenges of pursuing anthropological ethnography within new contexts of fieldwork, notably, though not exclusively, in settings dominated by scientific knowledge and/or a technocratic ethos. The concept refers to wide-ranging experiments in ethnographic method currently underway in the early 21st century in the domains of science, engineering, finance, law, medicine, politics, government, design, art, and architecture. These experiments speak to a particular problem: How do we pursue our inquiry when our subjects are themselves engaged in intellectual labors that resemble approximately or are entirely indistinguishable from our own methodological practices? Para-ethnography answers this question by proposing an analytical relationship in which we and our subjects—keenly reflexive subjects—can experiment collaboratively with the conventions of ethnographic inquiry. This methodological ...

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