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Ethnographic Essay Example

An ethnographic essay is an in-depth study of a certain group or culture. The ethnographer studies the people and their culture, and then writes about what was noticed, such as differences between two cultures. This type of writing can be used to describe different races, religions, genders, etc., which makes it very popular for teachers who teach social sciences. In this article we will explore how ethnographic essays are written and offer some examples to help you get started on your own ethnography!

Essay 1

I chose to observe from inside the apartment where I live by the pool area for my ethnography because I wanted to stay where I felt most at home and that was outside of the apartment. On September 28, 2018, at 6-9pm, I conducted this study in Apex West Midtown Apartments, where I was an observer who recorded my environment and the individuals around me.

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The pool area is set up very nicely, as I approach it. A black gate separates the pool area from the rest of the mansion. There were many different-sized blue and red lounge chairs and sofas lined up in a row. A red umbrella was draped over several lounge chairs, with a little table beside it. The pool was rather big in size, and it appeared to be shaped like the letter “G” with a bar in the center. Apartments are towering over it on both sides behind the gate.

I was at a party and I had my phone out waiting for the bartender to show up. She signaled me that it was time to leave, so I went outside with her and we waited on the curb under an umbrella. It started pouring as soon as we got there, and my friend and I ran back towards our car before continuing home in search of some shade. Just as we were about to hop inside, the lady who is looking over a balcony from one of the apartments called out to us telling us she had forgotten something in her apartment (she must have been truly bored). The young girl continued doing back flips and occasionally stopping to float on her back while her mother kept checking up on her every now and then.

On the other hand, there’s a guy on one of the pool lounge chairs with what appears to be his girlfriend. The lady is drinking a martini while texting with one hand and showing something to the man sitting next on the phone with her by pointing at the bar. I looked over at the bar to see if she was attempting to demonstrate him anything but couldn’t figure out what she was doing.

By 7:30 p.m., the little girl has come out of the pool, surveyed her surroundings, taken a towel, and started to dry herself off. She took another look around before walking toward the pool’s edge and standing there for a while. Then she abruptly covered her nose with one hand and dived in. At 7:40 p.m., he and she did the same thing, and by the time the sun had set, as well as when the pool light was switched on, they were already up.

At 8:03 p.m., a gaggle of people ran up to the pool and dived in one by one. After that, a guy went behind the bar to charge his phone while “Nice for What” by Drake played on repeat. There were just two guys and two ladies in the pool, tossing a ball around. They stayed in the pool for another 20 minutes, frolicking about before leaving at 8:20 p.m. I told him I was too exhausted to swim and was simply resting, so he kindly declined my offer. He informed me that they had asked if I wanted to join them but that I had politely declined their invitation.

The music stopped at 8:55 p.m., and they all got out, dried off, put their clothes back on, and departed the premises. I noticed how quiet it was after this. The breeze was barely blowing. This became obvious to me by the little waves that formed in the pool as a result of the mild wind.

From what I’ve seen, the basement pool area is quite lively on weekends in the late evenings rather than during the week, when I would usually pass by and discover it to be very quiet, with hardly anyone there. As a result of my assumptions, I presume it to be very active on weekends since it’s a time to unwind and relieve all of your tension from the week while also allowing your mind some rest.

Essay 2

Hugh Brody’s Maps and Dreams is an ethnography of the research that was conducted on a Beaver Indian reservation in British Columbia. The author combines the sections with first-person narrative and verified scientific data, using an innovative method for describing his observations and the findings of the experiment.

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In order to explore the life of a Beaver community from various angles, Brody integrates a dialogic approach in which he employs a triadic framework and a concept of the bio-cultural trinity to cover different aspects of their existence. In his ethnographic study of a Beaver Indian reservation, Hugh Brody combined scientific and humanistic techniques to address naturalist concerns. The ethnographer has spent more than a year in northwestern British Columbia, funded by the federal government, to assess the potential impact of the planned natural gas pipe on the lives of Indigenous people.

The federal purpose is overlooked in Brody’s book under consideration, which includes not only verified data on the history and economy of the Beaver reservation, but also his personal opinions on their way of life and culture. The author obviously struggles with the issues of describing a strange culture in its own language while incorporating first-person narrative sections with scientific data.

The contrast between the scientific techniques utilized to study different components of the population and the partially subjective technique of presentation of the findings stresses the reserve’s complexity. The ethnographer is affected by a culture shock, which can be seen in his responses to events and problems with adapting to a new setting.

The first interaction with the Indian community transforms him into a member of this tribe and prepares him to treat members as equals in the future. However, after spending some time in the reserve, the researcher becomes influenced by this community, empathizes with Indians, and understands certain cultural and linguistic phenomena that he previously regarded as strange and unbelievable.

The ethnographer’s presence and research, on the other hand, had an impact on Indian behavior. Even to a certain extent, the process of study was complicated by the ethnographer’s presence and research. As a result, Brody combined scientific and humanistic methods in order to investigate the Indian reservation by integrating personal impressions and interpretations of Beaver traditions and customs into his broad observations.

Based on the study’s initial goal, it may be stated that economic data is one of the key elements of the overall inquiry. Brody demonstrates how essential hunting and fishing are to their economic activities, even as Europeans entered their territories and familiar living conditions disrupted them.

The ethnographer does not attempt to separate the economic activities from the rest of the anthropological framework, as it is alleged that “the new frontier allowed hundreds, even thousands of Whites to hunt or fish deep inside the heartlands of many Indian hunting territories and traplines… This access poses the most direct threat to the Indian interest in northeast British Columbia” (Brody 219). In other words, examining how European intervention has impacted indigenous communities, this researcher does not isolate economic endeavors from the rest of anthropological theory.

In spite of the fact that hunting was a major portion of their diet, Beaver people kept hunting on moose, deer, and caribou as the environment changed and Europeans encroached. Brody identified the role of economies in ethnography and the interconnected nature of these fields by linking economic activities, customs, and beliefs.

The ethnographer used the idea of a bio-cultural triad to illustrate how indigenous people’s cultural beliefs are linked to their connection with nature, as well as anthropological issues. The concept of bio-cultural triad was utilized by the ethnographer to describe the strong ties between Beaver community’s human biology and their cultural choices, such as diet and style of food gathering.

Beaver diet and eating customs are examined as a viable approach of community biological adaptation to their natural environment by Brody, who explores the triad’s flanks. Brody provides important statistical data on population size, structure, ratios, and disease incidence in order to demonstrate that these cultural rituals were successful at utilizing available environmental possibilities and compensating for inherent limitations of the natural world.

Given the influence of environmental factors such as climate, flora, fauna, and other natural resources on the sociocultural environment and cultural choices of the Beaver community, the ethnographer emphasizes the community’s commitment to multiple dimensions of society. Beaver people succeeded in establishing a favorable socio-natural environment for their community, which was only partially limited by European incursions, by incorporating the principles of reasonable usage of resources, hunting on big and little animals, and watching creature behavior and natural habitat into their religious beliefs and ethical standards.

Brody employs the example of White people’s and Indians’ different maps of the same regions to illustrate the gaps between their perception of these places and strategies for utilizing the same resources, demonstrating their colliding interests. For depicting high levels of adaptation by Indigenous people to their natural environment, as well as European interference on their lifestyle, the notion of bio-cultural triad is employed by the ethnographer. The ethnographer uses a reflexive perspective to describe his observations of Beaver customs, lifestyle, economy, and other anthropological parameters in an attempt for readers to participate in a discussion.

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The author affects his readers’ cultural beliefs and their perception of life in general by looking at the anthropological problems through his own eyes and combining scientific and humanistic methods. The Beaver system of values conditioned by particularities of their physical environment had an impact on my personal views of wealth, power, obligation, glory, and democracy due to Brody’s analysis.

Taking the bio-cultural triad into account, most ethical issues may be viewed from a new perspective, reducing discussions about beliefs and activities within society that represent them as two mutually dependent sides of community processes. This endless circle of interdependent events emphasizes the intricacy of anthropological theory, which may be used to study any community’s procedures. The applied model to Brody’s study of the Beaver reserve is useful for testing its components, as they were implemented in the analysis of Indians’ original lifestyle and customs, which are distinct owing to their isolation from the rest of the continent’s population.

Complementing the statistic, historical, and economic facts with his own feelings, the researcher offers personal insights as an active participant in the study to illustrate the gap between European and Native American value systems. As a result of these factors, my perception of cultural beliefs and anthropological phenomena was influenced by the chosen viewpoint and methods as well as how you present your data.

Brody mixes both a scientific and humane approach to sharing the findings of ethnographic research and personal observations in order to pique readers’ interest. In light of the reflexive sections in the book under review, it may be stated that the author partially applies dialogic techniques (Omohundro 392).

One of the most fascinating dialogic issues is the contrast between the ethnographer’s view of Beaver culture and that of the Indigenous people. The techniques used by Brody to collect material and conduct his research are part of a dialogue technique, since they require effective communication with reserve inhabitants.

By comparing and contrasting the cultural beliefs of representatives from several communities, the author explores the issue of their origin in an attempt to get to its core. The investigator encourages participants to continue discussion and debate by expressing his own concerns and leaving unanswered questions.

The researcher presents scientific data as well as his own opinions, allowing readers to offer their counterarguments and personal viewpoints. In that sense, the author’s approach as well as the facts, observations, and opinion he presented in a dialogic manner may be regarded as dialogical.

The methods, ideas, and style of presentation of the subject materials chosen by Brody to illustrate the many cultural phenomena and beliefs of the Beaver community had a significant impact on my comprehension of the components of an anthropological framework and processes as a whole.

Essay 3

The study of cultures, subcultures is called ethnography. Through close observation and analysis, ethnography research investigates cultures and subcultures. The occurrence is viewed firsthand by the scientist during ethnographic research as he or she learns ways and techniques to participate in people’s lives in order to be closer to the cultural environment. In this light, ethnographic research has a collaborative aspect since the job could not be completed without the targeted individuals of the culture by the researcher. Obtaining such permission is crucial.

Announcing and explaining the study’s goals and objectives to all individuals who will be involved in it, including interviews, studies, or research may help you get access to members of the researched culture. The word ethnography refers to a variety of research study activities and viewpoints. The ethnographic researcher may use a variety of methods to investigate a social group or cultural tradition; the goal is for the study to be done in its natural setting.

The flexibility of research procedure and the non-formal approach to doing it are two of the most frequent requirements for ethnographic study. The use of a variety of methods of research, including informal ones (such as informal interviews), is unavoidable. A. Gottlieb (2005) described three key underlying assumptions in her description of ethnographic method:

  • People are the only source of data, not just grapes or a vine.
  • Scholars who generate data are complicated creatures, whose perception and communication are constantly influenced by the context in which they find themselves, as well as their degree of comfort or discomfort.
  • The quality and content of the data that a researcher gathers are just as much influenced by the research participants as they are by the researcher. From the perspective of those who experience it, ethnographic study provides all of the possibilities to comprehend social-cultural habits thoroughly and from their viewpoint.

Case studies are defined as the study of human behaviors, cultures, and experiences. Case study research is considered one type of ethnography. The differences between case research and ethnography are important enough to learn about at length during this class. To highlight these distinctions, I will draw on our lecture:

  • Ethnography is more concerned with the study of culture, while case study concentrates on any socio-economic occurrence.
  • The distinction between a traditional researcher and an ethnographer is that the latter is very interested in understanding cultural elements thoroughly.
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Case studies do not need a long time, and it is feasible to conduct them in a short amount of time. In the case of ethnographic research, the researcher must be involved, understand, and engage with the cultural context; this is simply impossible to do in a brief period of time. Case study data gathering is often more rigorous, with key informant interviews, structured observations of events and interactions, and document analysis.


The ethnographic study allows us to grasp the cultural significance that is hidden behind modern civilizations’ social and organizational characteristics. The ethnographic method is critical for investigating unique circumstances. It may be a useful tool for studying groups, organizations, and subcultures, providing access to parts of life that cannot be examined using quantitative methods.

The most important features of ethnographic research are: the researcher is actively engaged in and a part of the pilot process and life of studied people or groups, as well as informal methods such as unstructured interviews and casual discussions (chat). It is also a wonderful approach to get to know more about migrants, their practices, or any other migration-related problem if enough time allows.

Essay 4

The Mayan elders were in charge of preserving the culture and ensuring that all cultural activities were carried out. Childbirth, for example, was followed by a ritual burial of the umbilical cord near a water spring to signify the child’s adoption into the Mayan way of life. It was up to the Elders to conduct marriages and other rites of passage. Another duty of the Mayan elders was security. They were assigned the duty of declaring war on Mayan foes and did so by raising a red or yellow flag on top of a mountain (151).

Among other things, the Mayan culture may have been so thoroughly blended into the clothing worn by those people. The nature of the clothes worn by the Mayan people is a cultural element that conveys many aspects, including cultural innovation, political resistance, and historical struggle. Some scholars have discovered a strong link between Maya religion and communal identification with regard to weaving technique while studying Mayan textile tying and weaving technology.

The Mayan art of weaving also played an important role inMayan technological and linguistic advancement (Hendrickson, 149). The Maya clothing is a crucial method for separating the Maya from other Guatemalans. The Mayan dress code included hand-embroidered or knitted garments that were characterized by their manufacturing process, motif, design, and style. These clothes may differ significantly from one area to the next, as well as from weaver to weaver in terms of taste and creativity.

The Mayans had a wide range of clothing for both men and women. The majority of the Mayan textile production was carried out by women, as well as skilled specialists. It is more beneficial to utilize male Maya garments made on foot looms for economic reasons. Non-Mayans are also quite familiar with Mayan dress in recent times (Richard 72).

Woven textiles, like other creative work such as poetry and painting, rely on language. The Mayan language has a woven multilinguality that may generate at least two levels; the iconographic, which is represented in pictures and words, and the iconological (Edward 146). Their religion and identity were severely impacted during the Spanish occupation of the Maya people; their weaving technique as well as making clothes were changed.

Many Spanish businesses were founded in the Maya region during this time period. The Spanish mission of conversion was active throughout Mayan territory, altering Mayan garment-making methods. Despite all of Spain’s efforts to convert them using persuasion and force, the Mayan people were able to preserve and express their culture.

The Poqomams and Kaqchikels have maintained their religious convictions through cultural traditions and textiles. The modifications and continuities in Mayan textile production motifs were used to demonstrate cultural innovation and continuing political resistance among the Mayans.

A gradual shift in the ancient textiles’ construction and content provides evidence of a Maya people’s move from innovation and variation to the current state of Maya clothing. As a consequence, the study of pre-Colombian textile fragments has aided in the comprehension of Maya art’s continuity, thus establishing a social-cultural link between the past and modern Maya society.

The material scarcity and geopolitical concerns have also influenced the physical appearance of the Mayan people. Because of scarcity, the use of jaguar skins in dressmaking is no longer practical. Even with the presence of such animals, geopolitical legislation restricts their usage for clothing production (Edward 153).

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