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US-based ethnographies


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The first that comes to mind is On the Make by David Grazian, but it might not be as ethnographic as you like and was written by a sociologist. There's also Liquidated: An Ethnography of Wall Street by Karen Ho. You could also look into the work by Steve Herbert, a geographer that's conducted ethnographic research with a local police department, and Venkatesh, a sociologist that studied a gang ethnographically. I can't think of the specific names right now but there are books and articles out there that you can find.

This page from IUB's library might help too. You could also check Journal of Contemporary Ethnography.

Edited by msafiri
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I can speak for sociological ethnographies. Two of the hottest ethnographers in sociology right now are Alice Goffman (check out her article called "On the Run"; the book isn't out yet) and Matt Desmond (On the Fireline has become something that every young ethnographer is supposed to have read). Shamus Khan's Privilege just won the C. Wright Mills award (which is a big deal in sociology) and is awesome. Mario Small's Villa Victoria (2004 and not pure ethnography) is also talked about a lot, as is Blue Chip Black (2007), with some people finding Villa Victoria "a little thin". Nikki Jones's Between Good and Ghetto (2010) and Courtney Bender's the New Metaphysicals (2010) are both talked a lot about, as well, and I've heard good things about both of them. You'll notice, though, if you read any of them, ethnographies by sociologists are written differently from ethnographies by anthropologists. Especially for book-length urban ethnographies or ethnographies dealing with class explicitly, there's been a growing trend to try to make them less technical as part of a clear effort to try to open them up to a wider audience (a "policy audience", if you would--"public sociology" is considered very hot right now), while anthropological ethnographies have tended to engage deeper with critical theorists and a vocabulary of neoliberalism. There's a lot of overlap, of course, but if you want a specifically anthropological ethnography, these books might not be what you want. I thought On the Make had only one good chapter. If you read Venkatesh, go for Off the Books, not Gang Leader for a Day. Oh, Body and Soul by Loic Wacquant is methodologically and analytically weird, but it's widely read, and the kind of sociology an anthropologist might be more into (very reflexive--Loic Wacquant is Bourdieu's American ambassador).

As for anthropology, I'll second Msafiri and say I heard a lot of good things about Karen Ho's book. I haven't read Graeber's Direct Action: An Ethnography, but I've enjoyed his other works, so that might be another one that's specifically anthropological. You might also want to check out this post from the anthro blog Savage Minds.

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Thanks so much to you both for your considered responses - really helpful. I am about to attack the library catalogue with requests...

I'm a European wanting to base research in the Midwest, so trying to get a sense of things having graduated almost five years ago now. I'll let you know how I get on with them!

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  • 4 weeks later...

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