Reflexivity in Ethnographic Research and Writing

Satisfactory Essays
Reflexivity in Ethnographic Research and Writing

The role of reflexivity in ethnographic research and writing has certain advantages and limits, as it gives the discipline of anthropology another form of interpreting ethnographies. Reflexivity, in terms of work of anthropology, is to insist that anthropologists systematically and rigorously reveal their methodology and themselves as the instrument of data generation. It is the self-consciousness or the work's ability to see itself as a work. There are various styles of reflexivity in ethnographic writing and Dorinne Kondo, Renato Rosaldo, and George Marcus are three anthropologists that influenced the role of reflexivity through their ethnographies.

George Marcus describes reflexivity as the “self-critique, the personal quest, playing on the subjective, the experiential, and the idea of empathy” (Marcus 193). In Ethnography through thick and thin, Marcus writes that the emergence of the different styles of reflexivity in ethnographic writing has come to stand for the influence of postmodernism. In brief, according to the Encyclopedia of Cultural Anthropology (1996), post-modernism is defined as an eclectic movement, originating in aesthetics- architecture and philosophy. Postmodernism espouses a systematic skepticism of grounded theoretical perspective. It concentrates on the tensions of difference and similarity erupting from the globalization processes: circulation via people, cross-cultural interaction, interaction of local and global knowledge. Postmodernism manifests historical perspective of modernism and modernity.

Reflexivity emphasizes the point of theoretical and practical questioning, changing the ethnographers view of themselves and their work. There is an increased awareness of the collection of data and the limitation of methodological systems. This idea becomes inherent in the postmodernists study of the culture of the anthropologist/ethnographer. In much of his essay, Marcus shows that reflexivity is an immense area of comment and interest by questioning: Is reflexivity a license or a method? Furthermore, he writes that reflexivity opens up “the possibility for the so-called polyphonic text or the completely collaborative project, but more often than not, it merely reinforces the perspective and voice of the lone, introspective fieldworker without challenging the paradigm of ethnographic research at all (Marcus 193).

Marcus categorizes reflexivity into three parts: feminist, sociological, and anthropological. Although all are important in understanding Marcus’ work, I will discuss the anthropological reflexivity. Marcus believes that the most interesting form of self-critical reflexivity in anthropology is one that “emphasizes the intertextual or diverse fields of representation that any contemporary project of ethnography enters and crosses in order to establish its own subject and to define its own voice” (Marcus 196).
Get Access