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Ethnography of the Familiar…or the Unfamiliar
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This assignment requires students to conduct a “mini-ethnography” over a period of a day or several days. Like all ethnographies, you should follow ethical guidelines (e.g., “do no harm” and “obtain informed consent”) employ participant observation, interviews, and a variety of other ethnographic methods while writing up extensive field notes and exploring thick description as a mode of observation and cultural translation. Given our unusual circumstances and recognizing that you may be at home, living with family, etc. this assignment is flexible. You may choose between a micro-ethnography of the familiar or a micro-ethnography of the unfamiliar. You will conduct your ethnography, complete with fieldnotes, and write up your observations and findings in a short visual essay. You should include photos or other graphic representations of the culture you study and be sure to address the following in your paper:
– What methods did you use?
– What were the ethical considerations in your ethnography and how did you navigate them?
– In stepping back and looking at culture through an anthropological lens, what were you able to see?
Ethnography of the Familiar: As we learn about making “the strange familiar and the familiar strange” you will find that our own culture is just as enlightening as others, “out there” elsewhere in the world. If you choose to conduct an ethnography of the familiar, you should think carefully about who you are, what attributes make up your culture, how others might represent you. You can focus on one aspect of your culture (e.g., something that you hold dear such as a genre of music, gaming, a community such as a religious one or activist one, etc.) or multiple aspects of your culture (first generation university student, southern California youth, etc.) Take a step away from yourself and study your culture, as an outsider, to dig deep and observe what makes your culture(s) significant (or mundane, or exceptional, or fascinating).
Ethnography of the Unfamiliar: Much of what you learn about in this course may seem or feel unfamiliar. For example, the waria in Indonesia may be a distinct community that you have never heard of, let alone seen. What else are you unfamiliar with in your own backyard? Gaming and eSports are a large cultural phenomenon here in southern California. Have you ever watched a gamer on Twitch? Are you unfamiliar with other communities (virtual or otherwise) in your community? Perhaps you are not a religious person but know there are virtual religious services taking place that are open to the public. If you choose to conduct an ethnography of the unfamiliar, you should “visit” (virtually is okay, of course) a field site and conduct an ethnography, perhaps chatting with people in the community, to gain a sense of what makes this community and culture tick. What do they value? Why are they “into” their cultural community?
Due date: July 26 (uploaded to Canvas by midnight)
Requirements: 4-5 pages double-spaced 12-point standard font (e.g. Times New Roman), visual component encouraged but does not contribute to the page count (may include photos, graphics, etc.)
Grading Considerations: The student should include a description of their “field site” and the methods used to understand either the familiar or the different. Were there any ethical concerns in this field site? Who did the student meet and were they able to accurately reflect their experience with familiarity or difference? What other anthropological concepts come up (race, gender, age, ability, environment, globalization, etc.)? Does the student suggest what was learned and how we can learn more? Does the student engage with contemporary anthropological debates or related course concepts and materials? Does the student use proper syntax, grammar, etc.?

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