What is Ethnography? • Provides a means for examining a cultural site, focusing on meanings and knowledges produced by social agents within the context of that particular culture. • Researcher accesses, and partly constructs, a temporally and spatially bounded ‘field’ where they participate, observe, document and try to make sense of what they see, hear and feel in the process (Burgess, 1984). • Duration of the research needs to be long enough for the researcher to gain familiarity and trust so as to get an accurate picture of ‘every-day’ life within that social space, but not so long that they become ‘over-familiar’ or behave with ‘over-rapport’ and so cannot critically assess what is going on (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995).
Ethnography is not just a set of methods but a methodology: an approach to the generation of knowledge. Ethnographic theorizing has become more tentative and less concerned with the old struggles of establishing authority as a way of research; it is more concerned with the archaeology of construction, the sedimentary grounds of ethnographic authority…the ethnographic real is a contested territory. Deborah Britzman (2000:29-30)
What kinds of methods • does ethnography involve? • Participant observation • Interviews (structured and • semi-structured, oral histories, • group interviews, photo-elicitation • interviews) • Respondents’ diaries • Qualitative questionnaires • Collection and analysis of documents (including images) produced or circulating within the ethnographic site • Respondents’ drawings or photographs or film • Drawings or photographs or film produced by the researcher
Value of photo-methods to ethnographies of schooling • Accessing young people’s voices and perspectives • Enable spatial analysis. • Make visible or materialise aspects of the ‘hidden curriculum’
The school photograph is a ubiquitous marker of schooling … The school photograph positions and frames the body of the schoolchild, sometimes alone and sometimes in relation to others. This is at once a technical, professional and cultural process. There is evident ritual, regularity and recurrence in the process of production and, once made, the photograph takes on a powerful role in representing identity, awarding status and reassuring the viewer of order and customariness. A powerful symbol of modern schooling, the school photograph, once taken, is assembled in school albums held by institutions and families as valuable material histories of school the world over (Burke and Ribeiro de Castro p 214).
The very commonality and seeming universality of the image of ‘the school’ and ‘the teacher’ should raise questions. We recognize the setting, the pose, the expressions all over the world. How did that happen? If a nineteenth century school scene in Bermuda or Japan seems familiar to Americans over one hundred years later, we might wonder why. Why are these scenes so familiar, so seemingly universal? Are the common structures the result of colonialism and the dominance of Western practices? Or are we, as products of those same practices, merely seeing what we have been taught to see? The very universality of these images can raise provocative questions about what we see and how we see it.’ (Kate Rousmaniere 2001:110).
… even if all extant photographs of schools were to be made available as digital on- line images, we would still be confronted by the deficiencies of photography itself. Many things were not photographed. I found, for instance, no views of teacher unions or organizing activities, no photographs of school boards or teacher meetings where the central decisions shaping schooling were made. There were no photo- graphs of conflicts and tensions in schools— between teachers and students, among students, between school boards and communities—no pictures of discipline and punishment, no photographs of boredom. And even if such photos did emerge, they would not solve the central problem of the photograph; photography is powerless to represent some things. Eric Margolis (1999: 24)
Accounting theoretically for our photos (see Chaplin 2005) desire ‘visible and tangible in a way that conventional talk-based methods find more difficult. Desire is materialized here through image, via the use of visual methods … photo-methods enable female desire to literally be ‘seen’ through young women’s own eyes via the camera lens. Louisa Allen 2011:296
What does this photograph really mean?’ ‘The salience of this discussion is more expansive than what meaning can be made from a photograph, and rather how we as researchers conceptualise the nature of the ‘reality’ we purport to capture?’ Allen (2011; 761) • REALIST • INTERPRETEVIST • ‘images are never transparent windows into the world. They interpret the world they display in very particular ways’ (Rose 2007, p. 2). • PERFORMATIVE • MATERIALISING
Charles Suchar (1997) Grounding Visual Sociology Research In Shooting Scripts, Qualitative Sociology 20(1). • Interrogatory Principle Darcy Lange (1977) 1) To investigate teaching as work. 2) To illustrate the skills of the teacher through vocal and gestural communication with the class and also the class’s response to this. 3) To illustrate the process of teaching and learning in the classroom. 4) To illustrate the social breakdown within each class. 5) I am particularly concerned to prevent what I make, whether it be photograph or video, from becoming an end in itself – not dissimilar to the loved art object.
Darcy Lange. Ladywood Comprehensive School, Birmingham 1976. Courtesy of Darcy Lange Estate and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery
Image: Darcy Lange, Study of Three Birmingham Schools (Mr Perks Animal Farm English Class, Ladywood Comprehensive School), 1976,
Darcy Lange, Studies of Teaching in Four Oxfordshire Schools, 1977