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Critical Ethnography

Critical Ethnography
Method, Ethics, and Performance

Second Edition

July 2011 | 304 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
The revised Second Edition of Critical Ethnography guides readers through theories, methods, and ethics of ethnographic research creating a confidence to complete fieldwork while demonstrating analytical and theoretical depth. This text highlights the productive links between theory and method and how both become more valuable as they interact through fieldwork. Theoretical concepts range from queer theory, feminist theory, and critical race theory to Marxism and phenomenology. The methodological techniques range from designing and asking in-depth interview questions and developing rapport to coding and interpreting data. The various theories and methods culminate in three fictional ethnographic case studies that guide readers on how to incorporate theoretical concepts with their interpretations and data analysis.

1. Introduction to Critical Ethnography: Theory and Method
Defining Terms: What Is the Critical in Critical Ethnography  
Dialogue and Others  
The Method and Theory Nexus  
2. Methods: “Do I Really Need a Method?” A Method . . . or Deep Hanging Out?
"Who Am I?" Starting Where You Are  
"Who Else Has Written About My Topic?" Being Part of an Interpretive Community  
The Power of Purpose: Bracketing Your Subject  
Preparing for the Field: The Research Design and Lay Summary  
Interviewing and Field Techniques  
Formulating Questions  
Two Classic Models  
Extra Tips for Formulating Questions  
Memory and the Oral History Interview  
Attributes of the Interviewer and Building Rapport  
Coding and Logging Data  
3. Three Stories: Case Studies in Critical Ethnography
Case 1: Local Activism in West Africa  
Case 2: Secrets, Sexuality, and Oral History  
Case 3: Community Theatre: Conflicts and Organization  
4. Ethics
Ethics Is . .  
Religion and Ethics  
The Question of Freedom  
Critical Ethnography and the Ethics of Reason, the Greater Good, and Others  
Maria Lugones: Contemporary Ethics, Ethnography, and Loving Perception  
5. Methods and Ethics
Codes of Ethics for Fieldwork  
Extending the Codes  
6. Methods and Application: Three Case Studies in Ethical Dilemmas
Case 1: Local Activism in West Africa  
Case 2: Secrets of Sexuality, and Oral History  
Case 3: Community Theatre: Conflicts and Organization  
7. Performance Ethnography
Foundational Concepts in Performance and Social Theory  
The Performance Interventions of Dwight Conquergood  
Staging Ethnography and the Performance of Possibilities  
AutoEthnography and/or Reflexive Ethnography  
Three Examples of Critical Reflexivity in Autoethnography  
8. It’s Time to Write: Writing as Performance
Getting Started: In Search of the Muse  
The Anxiety of Writing: Wild Mind and Monkey Mind  
Writing as Performance and Performance as Writing  
9. The Case Studies
Case 1: Staging Cultural Performance  
Case 2: Oral History and Performance  
Case 3: The Fieldwork of Social Drama and Communitas  

"Critical Ethnography is a passionate, wise, and wonderful book – even more commanding and evocative in its second edition, which adds new research examples, emerging moments in critical autoethnographies, and perfomative writing. In Madison’s vision, doing fieldwork seeps into and stretches out the lived world that we inhabit with others, a world where our studies make a difference to do more – or less -- good for participants. She tells rich and layered stories as case studies of the bodies and dialogues and situations that anchor theoretical options, ethical choices, and consequential actions. This accessible and eminently teachable text presents pragmatic advice at the same time it probes complex dilemmas in doing critical ethnography. It does not offer simple solutions and easy exits but neither does it overwhelm and paralyze. Especially, it inspires possibilities for researching, writing, and performing ethnographic knowledge that can make a better world for all. Read it if you’re new to ethnography; read it if you’re seasoned. It can make a difference."


Kristen Langellier
University of Maine

The issues of leadership are mostly researched through life stories approach, which makes this text invaluable in helping students to analyse their data using an ethnographic perspective.

Mrs Liana Beattie
Faculty of Education, Edge Hill University
March 15, 2017

I use this book as a supplemental source for my Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods course.

Dr Sermin Tag Kalafatoglu
Department of Cinema and Television, Ordu Universitesi
October 21, 2016

A solid introduction to Critical Ethnography, which provides a concise primer in the theoretical, methodological, ethical, and performative dimensions of field research.

Mr John Morrison
School of Computing, Edinburgh Napier University
April 25, 2016

Good book, the critical perspective is highly relevant. The structure of the book does not quite fit the structure of our course, therefore it is only supplemental reading.

Dr Hanne Kirstine Adriansen
Department of Educational Anthropology, Aarhus University
November 5, 2015

This text offers a theoretical basis for understanding ethnography as a methodology. It is written in such a way as to encourage the reader to become absorbed in the theoretical underpinnings of ethnography at the same time as learning "how to do" ethnography

Mrs Lyz Howard
Department of Health, Health and Social Care Teaching Team
September 12, 2015

A key feature of this book is its accessibility for all levels of study.

Ms Alaina Lally
School of Childhood and Education, University College Birmingham
August 15, 2014

Very comprehensive

Mr R Patel
Division of Youth & Community, De Montfort University
February 22, 2014

Excellent book for all health professions and for all levels of research students. Contains a good variety of topics .

Ms Sheila Stott
Sch of Health,Community & Educ Studies, Northumbria University
November 27, 2013

Too specific for the course.

Dr Stephanie Wahab
Social Work Dept, Portland State University
October 22, 2013
Key features

New To This Edition

  • Memory and the Oral History Interview: Examines the specific elements of oral history, oral history analysis and the unique contributions the oral history interview makes to qualitative, and ethnographic research.
  • Coding and logging data is illustrated in three modes: Exemplified through the three case studies, the "nuts and bolts" reflecting a conventional approach, and a non-traditional alternative is presented that mirrors nature's cycles.
  • New Key Concepts in postcolonial and Marxist theory: These additional concepts include tradition and multiple/alternative modernities, orientalism, neoliberalism/neoconservatism, development, and political economy.
  • New Key Concepts in sexuality: Key Concepts are extended to include biopolitics, affect, homonormativity, and queer temporalities.
  • Ethics and Ethnography: Revised to include a section on religion and ethics as articulated by Desmond TuTu, ethics of postcolonial ethnography, and ethics as a jazz aesthetic.
  • Performative Writing: Revised to rearticulate four of the central components and offers four extended illustrations that constitute distinct dimensions and qualities of performative writing.
  • What is the Critical in Critical Ethnography? Provides students with an extended description of critical ethnography with an examination of Michel Foucault's conceptualization of domesticity, power, and subjugation.

Key Features
  • Comprehensive: Incorporating additional extended discussions on theories and methods, thereby providing the reader with a broad range of considerations and choices.
  • Cutting-edge approach and perspective: It is the first book to explore and focus on the intersections between theory, fieldwork methods, performance, and praxis.
  • Global examples and material: Theories, methods, and examples are drawn from scholarship that extends beyond the West to include developing world and post-colonial thinkers and practitioners.
  • Effective pedagogy: Provides the reader multiple opportunities to absorb the ideas in each chapter, put them into action through lively exercises and offers extended examples with explanations which provide alternative views to key concepts presenting a rich learning experience.

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