Madden, R. (2010). Being Ethnographic: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Ethnography. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Reviewed by: Bielenka, O. & Pirbhai-Illich, F. (2010) University of Regina, Faculty of Education, Saskatchewan, Canada
Being Ethnographic represents a critical overview of the theoretical and practical components of ethnographic research. Madden (2010) portrays ethnography as a system of interrelated elements developing and transforming in time, which functions in the context of socio-cultural and political environments. This is a unique exemplar of a textbook, in which instructions for „doing‟ ethnography and reflections on ethnographic theory are combined with illustrations from the author‟s personal experiences in ethnographic research. Unlike other texts in the field (Atkinson, 2001; Fetterman, 2009; Wolcott, 1999), one major focus of the text is the process of writing, which is portrayed as a tool of thinking and meaning-making at all stages of the ethnographic research. Madden‟s major contribution to the field includes his discussion of
the new opportunities and challenges which ethnographers experience in the age of globalization, rapidly developing technology, and changing forms of sociality.
Being Ethnographic consists of nine chapters arranged in four sections: a) “Key concepts
and theoretical frames” provides an overview of the theoretical concepts which are utilized in the discipline and draws the philosophical frame for the following discussion; b) “Doing
ethnography” focuses on communication, participation, and observation in the process of
ethnography, as a means of accessing and internalizing information; c) “Inscription” discusses the necessary theoretical and practical considerations of externalizing information, processing it and creating an ethnographic account; and d) “Expanding ethnography” addresses the
implications of how new forms of sociality will influence the future of ethnography. Every chapter closes with a brief summary of the discussion, questions for reflection, and suggested readings. The content has been organized in such a fashion that it facilitates text comprehension whilst also providing readers with opportunities for engaging in critical thinking.
Chapters 1 and 2 transport readers to the field of ethnography. The concepts of theory and practice, social and natural sciences, insider - „emic‟ and outsider - „etic‟ points of view,
induction and deduction, systematic procedures and creativity, and other fundamental ethnographic concepts are placed in opposition to each other. Through comparison and reflection on opposites, the author reveals the meaning of each concept and places them in the broader context of the ethnographic discipline.
The history of ethnography revealed in this section allows readers to see how technological concepts and philosophy have emerged and progressed through time. Although this overview explains not only „what‟ ethnographers should do, but also „why‟ they should do it we
feel that several concepts and terms are not as clear as they could be.
Chapters 3, 4 and 5 look at the processes through which the ethnographer interacts with the field. The author discusses the impact which external and internal factors might have on the ethnographer‟s instrumental communication, participation, and interaction. Madden (2010) offers useful tips for applying three ethnographic methods and provides explicit illustrations from his own experience with `being` ethnographic. The place of audio, video and photo materials in the ethnographic research, as well as their relationship to body-made observations and textual information, are discussed. Suggestions are made about ways of gaining practical wisdom in the area.
Chapters 6, 7, and 8 explore the process of inscription. The concepts and strategies of note-taking, analysis, interpretation, and creation of „storied reality‟ are discussed. The author
attempts to „demystify‟ the writing process, and demonstrates that a systematic approach and
discipline at all stages of the process make writing much easier and pleasant for the ethnographer than one might think. While Madden (2010) offers multiple tips for applying the suggested tools, the reader is encouraged to experiment in order to find the best fit to their own personality, the particular environment, and group of participants.
Chapter 9 consolidates the previous material and explores the future of ethnography. The author discusses the methodological implications of how cyber- and non-human ethnography might bring to the discipline, while showing the broadness and multiplicity of research opportunities in these new areas of ethnography.
Being Ethnographic, which combines realist and confessional styles of writing (Van Maanen, 1988), make it an accessible and engaging text for several audiences including graduate students, researchers, and professors. However, we found that Madden (2010) could have included a glossary. The references to supplementary resources explaining in depth the „how‟ of creating the ethnographic field, as well as additional examples of this process would additionally be advantageous for young ethnographers. Finally, it would have been advantageous to discuss the ethical considerations in ethnographic practice before the overview of strategies of face-to-face interaction. Such organization would allow readers to see the whole process of „doing ethnography‟ through an ethical lens.
Atkinson, P. (2001). Handbook of ethnography. Thousand Oaks: SAGE
rdFetterman, D. M. (2009). Ethnography: Step by step (3 ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE. Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the field: On writing ethnography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Wolcott, H. F. (1999). Ethnography: A way of seeing. Lanham, MD: Rowman Altamira.