Month: March 2017

Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part II

Wesley Allen-Arave University of New Mexico March 7, 2017 Research in anthropology requires a balance of flexibility and focus. A challenge in anthropology graduate training is imparting students with flexibility to adapt their research plans as complications and insights arise without tempering the students’ focus on recording compelling data for their research question(s). Unlike scientists in disciplines characterized by tightly controlled lab experiments, anthropologists generally observe people in their natural environments and lack control over the research setting. This creates unforeseen challenges for even the most carefully considered research plans, but also sets up exciting opportunities for new insights. Although the structure of publications and grant proposals obscure the often accidental nature of discoveries by embedding unforeseen results in theory after a researcher arrives at a logical explanation for them, serendipity surely leads researchers across academic disciplines to discoveries. Indeed, many discoveries are unlikely to be made through reason alone and may even require some serendipity. By living alongside the people under study, fieldworkers inevitably have observations, conversations, and shared experiences that relate to broad aspects of the everyday lives of the people in the study community. This exposure to aspects of people’s lives beyond just the narrow aspects that a researcher reasoned to be relevant to a research question at the outset of a study can lead to new insights and/or spur exciting new research avenues. I have...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part IV

Stephen Lyon Durham University March 7, 2017 My University is considered one of the research intensive universities of Britain. We are one of the largest in terms of faculty numbers as well as student intake. We teach methods at every year of our undergraduate programmes and all single honours students are required to do a double dissertation module in their final year in which they must produce or analyse primary data as part of a supervised independent project. We struggle with weaning them off the excessive teaching that has come to characterise the sorts of schools from which our...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part III

Stephen Chrisomalis Wayne State University March 7, 2017 I teach linguistic anthropology at a large public research university as a program requirement for both undergraduate and graduate students in anthropology and linguistics; for most of them, this is their only exposure to the subfield, its methods, and theories. This presents a challenge – to get students out of their typical ways of thinking about evidence and drawing their attention to the relation between discourse and cognition – but also an opportunity. I have never found it to be particularly challenging to interest anthropology students in formal methods and approaches as a complement to other ethnographic approaches. Archaeology students may already have some background in reading and using quantitative data, and the same is true of sociolinguists. Students interested in applied and practicing careers may be able to see how these approaches would be well-received in institutional settings.   Because they are unfettered by any particular pre-existing models of what constitutes ‘valid’ evidence in linguistic anthropology, this frees me up pedagogically to introduce students to a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, cognitive anthropology, ethnosemantics, corpus linguistics, and other subfields. But a real challenge is getting students to be aware of what sorts of questions they might ask, and how they might go about generating methods that would answer those questions without limiting the possibility of novel...

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Pedagogies of Evidence, Accident, and Discovery: Teaching and Learning Ethnographic Methodology, Theory, and Serendipity, Part I

Douglas William Hume Northern Kentucky University March 7, 2017   In the fall 2016 semester I was scheduled to teach an upper-division undergraduate course titled “Ethnographic Methods and Research” in which I use McCurdy, Spradley, and Shandy’s The Cultural Experience: Ethnography in Complex Society (2004) to introduce students to qualitative ethnosemantic research methods. It so happened that one of the sociologists in my department left the university last spring who was scheduled to teach a course titled “Qualitative Research Methods”, which had similar student learning objectives as my course. After negotiating with the sociology program coordinator, I was allowed...

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