Constructing Theory in the Field
Edited by Antony J. Puddephatt, William Shaffir, Steven W. Kleinknecht
Routledge – 2009 – 256 pages
Ethnographies Revisited provides first-hand accounts of how leading qualitative researchers crafted key theoretical concepts found in their major book-length ethnographies. Great ethnographic research lies not in the rigid execution of prescribed methodological procedures, but on the unrelenting cultivation of theoretical ideas. These contributors focus squarely on this neglected topic, providing reflexive accounts of how research decisions were made in light of emerging theoretical questions.
The continuous generation of creative concepts is arguably the most important skill in developing powerful results in field research, since the originality of the ideas produced is how the study is ultimately judged. Yet, this topic is often taken for granted, treated rigidly and artificially, or is entirely absent from existing qualitative research manuals. In contrast, this volume offers candid insights of how leading ethnographers generated their initial questions, chose their research sites, made theoretical and methodological adjustments, and oriented their research to maximize the conceptual payoff, leading to such successful research contributions. This provides a fresh approach to the topic of qualitative research, by linking practical decisions in the field to the dynamic features of theory in the making, told through the first-hand experiences of some of the best ethnographers in our field.
"The chapters on health issues were particularly interesting, and demonstrate the power and potential of ethnographic work to make a difference. Each contributor has produced useful reflexive (and reflective) accounts of their work that students and fellow ethnographers will find interesting and helpful."—Scott Jones, Manchester Metropolitan University, Canadian Journal of Sociology
INTRODUCTION: Exercises in Reflexivity: Situating Theory in Practice, Antony Puddephatt, William Shaffir, and Steven Kleinknecht PART 1: GENERATING GROUNDED THEORY 1. Learning How to Speak of Sadness, David A. Karp 2. Recollecting Good and Bad Days, Kathy Charmaz 3. Colorful Writing: Conducting and Living with a Tattoo Ethnography, Clinton R. Sanders PART 2: WORKING WITH SENSITIZING CONCEPTS 4. Improvising on Sensitizing Concepts, Robert R. Faulkner 5. On Developing and Using Concepts in an Icelandic Field Research Setting, Will C. van den Hoonaard 6. Behind the Conceptual Scene of Student Life and Exams, Daniel and Cheryl Albas 7. Remembering Murray Manor, Jaber F. Gubrium PART 3: EXTENDING THEORETICAL FRAMES 8. Habitus as Topic and Tool: Reflections on Becoming a Prize Fighter, Loïc Wacquant 9. Researching Alcoholics and Alcoholism in American Society, Norman K. Denzin 10. The Development of Leisure Theory in Three Nature Challenge Hobbies, Robert A. Stebbins 11. Telling Tales about How Concepts Develop: Stories from Ethnographic Encounters with the Moog Synthesizer, Trevor Pinch PART 4: CONCEPTUALIZING COMMUNITY AND SOCIAL ORGANIZATION 12. The Ethnography behind Defenders of the Faith, Samuel Heilman 13. On Piecing the Puzzle: Researching Hassidic Jews, William Shaffir 14. Using a Gestalt Perspective to Analyze Children’s Worlds, Patricia and Peter Adler 15. Hookers, Rounders and Desk Clerks: Encountering the Reality of the Hotel Community, Robert Prus PART 5: CHALLENGING ESTABLISHED WISDOM 16. Making Theories from Water; or, Finding Stratification in Competitive Swimming, Daniel F. Chambliss 17. Solving the Mysteries of Shelter Work for the Battered Woman, Donileen R. Loseke 18. The Path Taken: Opportunity, Flexibility, and Reflexivity in the Field, Jennifer Dunn 19. Walking the Talk: Doing Gravity’s Shadow, Harry Collins PART 6: THEORIZING FROM ALTERNATIVE DATA: DOCUMENTARY, HISTORICAL, AND AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL SOURCES 20. Writing Theory in(to) Last Writes, Laurel Richardson 21. Conceptualizing a Profession in Process: The New Pediatrics Revisited, Dorothy Pawluch 22. The History, Myth, and Science of Masada: The Making of an Historical Ethnography, Nachman Ben-Yehuda
Antony J. Puddephatt is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at Lakehead University in Canada. He is interested in sociological theory, science and technology, and ethnographic research. He conducted a field study of amateur chess, and has written on G.H. Mead’s neglected sociology of science.
William Shaffir is Professor of Sociology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada. He received his Ph.D. degree from McGill University. He is the author and co-author of books and journal articles in the areas of Hassidic Jewry, medical student socialization and professionalization, field research methods, ethnic violence, the social psychology of messianic revivalism, and religious affiliation and disaffiliation among newly-observant and formerly haredi (ultra-Orthodox) Jews. A recently completed study examined defeated politicians and how they cope with and rationalize defeat at the polls. Along with a colleague, he has conducted field research on a police service to examine the dynamics of racial profiling. His current research continues to focus on the challenges facing Hassidic Jewry as it confronts modernity.
Steven W. Kleinknecht is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Brescia University College in London, Ontario, Canada. His research interests lie in the study of subcultures, deviance, and online interaction. He has conducted ethnographic research on computer hackers and Old Order Mennonites.