Contributed Articles

Ethnography and the “Extra Data” Opportunity

GRANT MCCRACKEN Download PDF My profession has a problem. It is awash in hacks and pretenders. I am guessing that 1 in 3 ethnographers is more or less incompetent.It is easy to identify some of the offenders. Some of them actually claim to be “self trained.” Others are focus-group moderators simply renamed. Some actually claim competence on the grounds that they “roomed with an anthropology major in college.” There has to be a way to separate the sheep from the goats, and we have to do it fast. Commercial ethnography could easily go the way of the focus group. Every so often there are murmurs that would take us in the direction of certification. But I don't think this is a great idea. It would be expensive, time consuming, bureaucratic. Worst of all, there are some practitioners who are very good indeed but have no training or disciplinary credential to call their own. (Conversely, there are anthropologists with splendid academic qualifications who can not do an ethnographic interview to save their lives.) I proposed...