"The Craft of Ethnography" Workshop at Columbia University

October 13, 2010

The Craft of Ethnography

A New Workshop on the practice of Ethnography

Inaugural Meeting: December 3rd and 4th 2010, Columbia University

We are writing to invite graduate students doing ethnographic /
participant observation research to apply to participate in a new workshop
entitled the "Craft of Ethnography.” The inaugural meeting will be held on
Friday, December 3
& Saturday, December 4, 2010, at Columbia University.

Confirmed panelists include Philippe Bourgois, Katherine Edin, David
Grazian, Jack Katz, Monica McDermott, Leslie Salzinger, Richard Sennett,
Mario Small, Diane Vaughan, Sudhir Venkatesh, and Alford Young Jr.

The Workshop

Instead of a conference format where participants give presentations, we
will instead discuss texts in order to convey the invisible craft of
ethnography. Our focus for this workshop is on the practice of
ethnography, and not its theory.

Our workshop draws inspiration from the template of master classes that
are used in the performing arts. Master classes transmit the subtle, and
often hidden, skills to achieve high quality performances. In addition,
they help building intergenerational communities of likeminded
individuals in which professional careers are developed. Therefore, we
seek to draw together accomplished ethnographers, young ethnographers, and
graduate students, who will share advice, habits, tricks of the trade and
empirical material, in order to achieve a clearer sense of how solid
ethnographic texts are produced.

Being at once a teaching and reflexive moment, the workshop format we are
trying to develop will benefit not only promising ethnographers, but also
senior researchers, offering empirical material on which build a firmly
grounded discussion on ethnographic knowledge.

Thematic Sessions

For our December meeting we will focus on two themes: Saying and Doing,
and How and Why

Saying and Doing

Ethnographers have been very successful in carving out an empirical domain
they call “lived experience” in which they emphasize interactional events
over speech. Yet, differentiation between various sub-theories, cumulative
knowledge and new research avenues remain difficult endeavors. What is
lived experience? To what extent is it different from “cognitive
frames”? How do we convey embodied interaction in ethnographic accounts?
What are the benefits to conveying saying vs. doing?

How and Why

What kinds of explanations can ethnographic work generate? While some
ethnographers have given up on explanation and instead focus on process,
others have used ethnography to engage in hypothesis-testing.

The Format of Workshop

Playing upon the master class format, we have designed two different types
of panels:

(1) Working Backwards: From Final Products to Drafts

A group of Senior Ethnographers will choose 10 to 15 pages from a recent
book they authored. These selections will reflect the theme of the session
of which these scholars are a part. Instead of presenting their own work,
these scholars will interview each other about their work, drawing out the
various stages they went through, the choices they made and the
alternatives they closed.

We will circulate these selected texts in the upcoming weeks, to allow you
to read them in advance. The exchange of the panelists will be followed by
a broader period of discussion with the audience.

(2) Working Forwards: From Drafts to Final Products

Senior Ethnographers will discuss successively the work of four graduate
students. These students will circulate 20 pages of their work. These
pages will describe an empirical case, an event, or a small-scale

The senior scholars will ask questions, make suggestions and
recommendations to the young ethnographers, who will interactively answer,
add information about their fieldwork, their theoretical ambitions and the
obstacles they face. Senior ethnographers will be asked to isolate,
reformulate, and generalize the issues at hand and indicate solutions and
further research avenues to the junior ethnographer.

Application Process

The intent of the workshop is to foster interactive and creative
discussions around ethnography based on a limited number of texts that all
participants will have read. Sessions will be organized around a few
selected panelists, yet the attendance is expected to have an active and
participatory role.

The total attendance for the workshop is limited to 35 people, this
includes faculty members as well as graduate students.

In each meeting four graduate students will have the opportunity to
circulate about 20 pages of their work and be given feedback at the
workshop. These pages will describe an empirical case, an event, or a
small-scale interaction, and include field notes. Students will add a
one-page preface describing the overall sociological argument which these
ethnographic data are meant to speak to.

Graduate students presentations will take place in the “Working Forwards”

To be eligible, graduate students must be:
• at least ABD (All But Dissertation);
• and have completed at least one year of participant observation /

Interested students should:
• submit a short (two-page single space or 1000 words) memo describing
their fieldwork, the research question, and the degree of advancement of
the research ;
• submit a CV;
• indicate if he/she is applying to present or to attend only.

Deadline: Monday October 25th 2010 at 6pm

Although there are limited resources available, we will work with accepted
students to help defray at least some of the costs of attending.

For more information, and to submit your application, please contact:

Harel Shapira: hs992@nyu.edu
Clement Thery: ct2184@columbia.edu

Kind regards,
Shamus Khan
Assistant Professor
Department of Sociology
Columbia University

Clement Thery
Doctoral Candidate
Department of Sociology
Columbia University

Harel Shapira
Postdoctoral Fellow
Institute for Public Knowledge
New York University

Sudhir Venkatesh
William B. Ransford Professor
of Sociology
Columbia University

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