Friday, April 01, 2005

Chapter Two of The Ethnographic Interview (Spradley, 1979)

Ethnographers deals with both the language they speak and the language spoken by their informants. Through understanding their language, we Discover, and Describe.

What to be aware of?
When interviewing, listen closely and look for specific terms they use even if they appear to be identical to our window of reference. Semantic differences exist, and by acknowledging it we would discover how the natives categorize experience. When doing ethnography in our own society, we must first seriously study the way people talk and understand their "translation competence". Understanding towards this competence will greatly handicapped when relying on interpreters.

How about the "culture scenes"?
So not every Indonesian businessman opens a flower shop. Within the same cultural groups in complex societies, there are cultural scenes known to some but not to others. When interviewing them within their capacity, they tend to translate things for you (the outsider). They will try to spoon-feed you with the concept not of their own, but the concept they think you'd understand. This needs to be tactically anticipated. But then again, every ethngraphic description is a translation.

Types of descriptions depending on the level of insider vs outsider's meanings:
1. Ethnocentric descriptions: Very much outsider's language, very less insider's language.
2. Social science descriptions: Much outsider's language, less insider's language.
3. Standard ethnographies: in the middle.
4. Monoligual ethnographies: 45% outsider's language, 55% insider's language.
5. Life histories: less than 40% outsider's language, more than 60% insider's language.
6. Ethnographic novels (e.g. Return to Laughter): 25% outsider's language, 75% insider's language.


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