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Session 7 - Ethnography - Jackie Tuck

Hi all

This is a message for anyone planning to 'come along' to my session after lunch on 14th July which looks at ethnographic approaches (this wording is deliberately broad), their theoretical associations, and their methodological and practical pros and cons.

I'd really like to find out what the nature of your interest is, and particularly how much you already know about ethnography/ ethnographic methods and methodologies, so that I can aim to tailor the session accordingly.

It would also be really helpful if you could mention any questions that you're hoping to have answered (and I will certainly try to accommodate these in the session).

Note that there are other sessions during the week which focus on ethnographic methods (autoethnography and discourse ethnography for example), and this session is intended to be broad and introductory, while drawing on specific examples of research.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

All the best

Jackie (Tuck)

Hi Jackie, I hope to be able to attend your session.  I have a closed door dental appointment but I think I should be back in time.   I guess I want to be absolutely certain what ethnography is.  I don't think what I am doing is ethnography but I'm never quite sure (I love reading about it).  Just for clarity I am doing semi-structured interviews with university students (care experienced.) so I don't think I am but I just want to be sure in case I'm missing something out in my literature.


Thanks for checking in with that query. Ethnography (or Ethnographic approaches, which is what I have called my talk) can be many things to many people, so I think it's a great idea to come along to the session and find out if what you are doing can be helpfully labelled in this way. As I'll discuss in the session, ethnography is sometimes a way of labelling particular data generating methods (e.g. interviews) but at a deeper level is about a particular way of approaching human experiences and activities, and the meaning people give to those experiences and activities. Interviews can be conducted and analysed in an ethnographic way, or not. It may be that this isn't what you're doing, but it might be useful to have thought about why your research is/is not ethnographic and how your data generating and methodological decisions relate to your research questions.

Hope that is a help for now.

Best wishes


Thanks Jackie.  I'll certainly give it a listen.

Hi all

Thanks for attending my session this afternoon. Please feel free to raise any more queries or questions here. By the way, I thought I should add information about the pioneering literacy study by Brian Street which I mentioned.

It is

Street, B. (1984) Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge: CUP

In an obituary celebrating Brian Street's life (he died in 2017) his daughter Alice writes the following which I think captures a lot about why the ethnographic approach had so much to offer the study of literacy, and is a good example of the 'turtle and the fish' story which Brian himself used as an illustration.

This research led to the publication of Literacy in Theory and Practice (LITP) in 1984, a book that challenged the prevailing orthodoxy that a great divide existed between literate and oral societies. The book argued that the communities that international agencies and the media portray as living in a state of illiterate ignorance in fact feature a rich tapestry of reading and writing practices that are deeply embedded in everyday relationships and social structures. External agencies are blinded to these practices by their own ‘ideological models’ of what counts as literacy. The lack of local engagement is also the reason that so many technical skills-based approaches to education and development fail. These ideas reflected Brian's deep commitment to egalitarianism and his unerring belief that everyone, from any educational background, nationality, or class has something to say that is worth listening to.