In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Ethnography

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Distributors
  • Bibliographies
  • Methods
  • Critiques
  • Role of Objectivity
  • On Reflexivity
  • Autoethnography and Ethnographic Fiction
  • Virtual Ethnography
  • Native Ethnography
  • Globalization
  • The Future

Related Articles Expand or collapse the "related articles" sectionabout

Forthcoming Articles Expand or collapse the "forthcoming articles" section


Anthropology Ethnography
John L. Jackson
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 January 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0001


Ethnography is a term that often is employed to describe both a recognizable literary genre within the social sciences (writings that attempt to holistically capture people’s cultural beliefs/practices) and a brand of qualitative fieldwork that produces such social scientific accounts (the collecting of sociocultural data based on long-term, face-to-face interactions). Anthropology’s disciplinary emphasis on ethnography is still considered one of its most distinctive features. Even in an age when human genomics and statistical analyses of massive data sets are popularly considered, in some circles, as more compellingly “scientific” and “objective” techniques for analyzing social life, ethnographic research and writing have continued to occupy a central place in anthropology’s methodological toolkit, a means of constructing nuanced and detailed descriptions of people’s cultural worlds. Ethnography has a long and robust history in the discipline, but it is not a concept without controversy or conflicting characterizations. Moreover, anthropology is far from the only discipline with a stake in the definition and future of ethnography, and the term morphs (in big and small ways) as it travels across traditionally disciplinary dividing lines—and even well beyond the academy.


Ethnographic research is published in a number of peer-reviewed/refereed journals. Some of these journals are linked to specific intradisciplinary concerns/conversations, while others are more decidedly interdisciplinary. American Anthropologist includes research from every subfield in the discipline, and it highlights quite a bit of ethnographic work. American Ethnologist and Anthropological Quarterly publish ethnographic research on a variety of topics, but they do not consistently feature work from all of anthropology’s conventional subfields, mostly highlighting scholarship conducted by cultural anthropologists. As its title indicates, Cultural Anthropology also publishes ethnographic research produced by (and for) cultural anthropologists, though the journal emphasizes theory building and courts an interdisciplinary readership. The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute has been publishing a wide variety of anthropological research for more than 150 years, and Transforming Anthropology is a relatively new journal that features ethnographic research on race, Diaspora, and globalization. The European Association of Social Anthropologists seeks to encourage anthropology in Europe in publishing the bilingual journal Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale, and Current Anthropology promotes anthropology by showcasing a broad range of topics within the discipline and including a recurrent feature that allows scholars to publicly respond to articles published in the same issue, creating a critical and substantive dialogue around certain themes.

  • American Anthropologist.

    This is the flagship journal of the American Anthropological Association. It is peer reviewed, publishes in all four disciplinary subfields, and includes a consistent commitment to ethnographic research.

  • American Ethnologist.

    This peer-reviewed journal is published by the American Anthropological Association and organized by the American Ethnological Association. It aims to demonstrate ethnography’s continued social and political relevance.

  • Anthropological Quarterly.

    This peer-reviewed journal is published by the George Washington University Institute for Ethnographic Research and highlights work that uses ethnographic data to drive anthropological theorizing.

  • Cultural Anthropology.

    This is a peer-reviewed journal of the Society for Cultural Anthropology that focuses on the link between ethnographic writing, critical social theory, and emergent cultural processes.

  • Current Anthropology.

    This is a peer-reviewed journal published by the University of Chicago Press and organized by the Wenner Gren Foundation. It actively accepts articles linked to ethnographic research and also includes offerings from other anthropological subfields.

  • Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute.

    This is the flagship journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, one of the oldest anthropological organizations in the world. It offers a broad definition of anthropological research and places a premium on accessible scholarship.

  • Social Anthropology/Anthropologie Sociale.

    This peer-reviewed journal is published in English and French by the European Association of Social Anthropologists and emphasizes the links between social theory and anthropological methodology/practice.

  • Transforming Anthropology.

    This is a peer-reviewed journal published by the American Anthropological Association and organized by the Association of Black Anthropologists. It focuses on issues of race, inequality, transnationalism, and Diaspora.

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