CAN YOU DO ETHNOGRAPHY WITHOUT PUTTING YOUR BODY ON THE LINE? 

If ethnography is about anything it is about putting your body on the line.  It is about being in a particular space for a particular period of time.  You can’t always change your address and live in the space…but you must embrace the power of habitual and accustomed visitation in rituals of return and in co-performance.  You can’t do ethnography without embodied attention to the symbols and practices of a lived space.  In-depth interviewing is a component of ethnography, but it is not ethnography, it is qualitative research.  Something happens differently when your body must move and adjust to the rythms, structures, rules, dangers, joys and secrets of a unique location.  Ethnography is as much, or more, about bodily attention–performing in and against a circumscribed space–as it is about what is told to you in an interview.

Ethnography elicits everyday ceremonies of engagement.  Interviews often result in performed narratives as the proverbial knower and known move between impressions of knowledge and come together in dialogic co-performance.  It is during the scripting process that these performed narratives must now be positioned for the stage.

Madison, Soyini (2006)  “Staging Fieldwork/Performing Human Rights”, in Madison, S. and J. Hamera (eds) THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF PERFORMANCE STUDIES.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.  p 401