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Ethnographic Writing and Relationships with Research Subjects Essay

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Anthropologists conduct research in order to answer specific questions about a particular group of people and their culture. Most anthropologists use fieldwork to collect their data, which is then interpreted within their ethnographic writing. When collecting their data, anthropologists use many different approaches such as developing relationships with their informants, but do not illustrate these relationships in their actual writing. Anthropologists Claire E. Sterk and Philippe Bourgois are two of the anthropologists that emphasize their relationships and the importance of gaining trust of their informants in their perspective articles studied. In Bourgois’ article “Crack in Spanish Harlem” and Sterk’s article “Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitutes in the Era of AIDS”, both anthropologists write about their engagement with their informants, but do so in different ways. Sterk focuses much of her ethnography on the relationships formed, and the information and trust gained as a result; Bourgois, however, spends only a small fraction of his ethnography on his relationships. Both illustrate information about their perspective-studied cultures, the difficulties faced in gathering their fieldwork, but they differ in the amount of information they chose to include in their actual ethnographies.
Over a ten-year span Sterk, immerses herself in the lifestyle of prostitution in the New York City and Atlanta area: she walked the streets with the prostitutes and observed their interactions with the various customers, and ‘pimps’ in order to gather the majority of her data. In order to gain their trust, Sterk had to go through a number of tests, and it was essential for her to have the right connections to experience the full und...


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...nformation they sought and conduct their fieldwork effectively. Because they made the effort to associate with the people in the community, they were able to gain their trust, and a result acquired a better understanding and first-hand experience that strengthened their anthropological writing.













Works Cited

1. Bletzer, Keith V. “Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS review.” American Anthropologist 103, no. 1. New Series (March 1, 2001): 261-262.

2. Bourgois, Philippe. “Crack in Spanish Harlem: Culture and Economy in the Inner City.” Anthropology Today 5, no. 4 (1989): 6-11.

3. Murchison, Julian. Ethnography Essentials: Designing, Conducting, and Presenting Your Research. John Wiley and Sons, 2010.

4. Sterk, Claire E. Tricking and Tripping: Prostitution in the Era of AIDS. Putnam Valley, NY: Social Change Press, 2000


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