An ethnographic essay is an essay about culture. You only have to pick up a copy of National Geographic or Discover or Men’s Health or Cosmo or Seventeen to find essays that are ethnographic. If you take an anthropology course, you will largely be writing ethnographic pieces throughout. Your research paper for this class may be ethnographic in approach. Below are a few features of ethnography that will aid you in writing your ethnographic essay for this class:
a. Focus is on people or groups of people who self-identity as group members
b. OBSERVATION of the group over time is needed (research into what others have observed is often appropriate here, though direct observation is preferred.)
c. The bulk of the research takes place within the area or setting where the group or culture is located.
1. Interested in spelling bee participants as a group? where would one find these people?
2. Interested in truck drivers as a subculture of travelers? where would one find truck drivers?
3. Interested in Eagle Scouts? where would you go to find out about these boys?
d. Ethnography is openly subjective (this is NOT an opinion piece!!!) “facts and facts” and a critical decision about the group and its features based upon these facts and observations.
e. Ethnography looks closely at the few to get hints about the larger group as a whole.
Suggested topics for your ethnographic essay:
The Geek Culture ( not Greek)
The Culture of “Insider Language”
(the ways communication varies from group to group and is unique within a group or groups) The Culture of Volunteerism The Culture of College Athletics The Culture of the NRA (National Rifle Association) The Culture of Second Generation Immigrants to the US ( be specific as to which group) Write the paper as a critical discussion on the group you chose, focusing on the group as it has evolved historically to the way it is today. Be sure to include pertinent cultural facts and refrain from making this a propaganda piece.