Doing ethnography or applying a qualitative technique? Reflections from the 'waiting field'

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Abstract
Contemporary social science research is often concerned to engage with and promote particular forms of postmodern and innovative data production, such as photo-elicitation, autoethnography or free association interviews. This fascination with the latest and greatest techniques has been accompanied by an ever more fragmented range of research methods training for students where the week-by-week shift between approaches engenders a disjointed view of becoming the researcher. This individualisation of techniques has set up rival camps and critiques where the common ground of being embedded in traditional ethnography is often forgotten. For researchers, who began their academic careers in the ethnographic tradition, there is an appreciation of the holistic base of enquiry from which a family of methods can be effectively employed. However, more recently qualitative researchers have been distracted by ‘the technique’; a distraction that can blind them to the occupation of ethnography. Concurrently, there have been shifts in the social and economic expectations placed on qualitative inquiry that have acted to close down spaces of ethnographic teaching and practice. In response, this article focuses on the importance of the ‘waiting field’; an opportunity to explore the times where real lives carry on before they make room for the intrusion of the data production of ‘the technique’ and remind us that much qualitative research is, in fact, an ethnographic undertaking: one that encompasses the researcher within and beyond the field.
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MANDEO-19
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Archival date: 2014-06-16
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2014-02-18

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