Ethnography at TMSE – Week 2 by Mary Gibler

For our second week at TMSE, we focused on ethnography. After a recap of the previous week’s focus on culture and the four subfields of anthropology, we explained that ethnography is a tool that anthropologists use to describe cultures. We showed pictures from Indonesian celebrations of the New Year, a marriage, a birthday party, and school uniforms to discuss the differences between cultures and further their understanding of ethnography as a descriptive research method. The students were enthusiastic about culture and caught on quickly to ethnography. One student even noted that while we might see aspects of certain cultures as weird, they might see our own cultural experiences the same way and that we shouldn’t judge differences. After the PowerPoint describing ethnographic methods, we focused back on the cultures we had created the previous week and asked the students to choose an ethnographer from their clan. Given a worksheet with questions, the ethnographers were sent to the different clans to interview them about their cultures. The student ethnographers then presented their research to the class.

Our Ethnographers describing the cultures of other clans

The students were excited to build their own understanding of culture and how easily it can be created and described. After the first activity, we played a game where one student was taken out of the classroom to change a small aspect of their appearance- an untying of a shoe, a rolling of a sleeve, a tucking of a shirt- and then sent back to the front of the classroom where the other students had to guess what had changed.

She looks…almost the same…OH I KNOW!

The student that guessed correctly was then taken outside and their appearance was changed. We cycled through changes until every student had a chance to go. The students loved this activity and easily grasped the concept of observation as an important ethnographic method.

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