Ethnography: make the familiar strange

Ethnography is an investigative technique of a qualitative nature; this means the analysis that is done, focuses on the qualities of speech. The speech is the content of what is said in the conversation, -included body language-, the words that are used, how they are used and in which order. Has it ever happened to you that in a conversation, the person who you are talking to, says one thing but you know that actually they want to say something else? That happens very often to qualitative researchers and this happens because there are several levels of analysis. To understand it, imagine a giant glacier from the North Pole; you could see the superficial level in an obvious way, but not the deep part. Therein lies the qualitative research, in seeing beyond the obvious, sight beyond sight.

The article from the magazine Qualitative Research which we will discuss it’ll be: NOMBRE DEL ARTÍCULO, which is based on ethnography, this is focused on the direct study of a group of people during a certain amount of time, in order to understand and interpret the reality of it and it’s cultural codes. It is supported by other techniques as the interview and participant observation.  An ethnographic study comprises both internal vision of the subjects and external vision -the researcher’s vision- that in their combination can indicate signs to a construction of identity of the group.

Nowadays is very important for ethnographers make the familiar seem strange, thanks to this, ethnographers are able to obtain better analysis in their investigations.  Through it, it can remain detached from the impediments that may be encountered, as it would be falling into guided abstractions for interiorized assumptions, that is familiarity. The author therefore urges us to become the familiar to strange through the use of literature of historical investigation as a device of awareness and autobiography. “In spite of the suspicious scorn with which some ethnographers have considered autobiography (due to it’s natural approach instead of a broader socio-cultural approach, and it’s literary base more that scientific social) good ethnography and autobiography can achieve similar purposes” (Allan 218).

This last quotation where we see the dichotomy ethnography-autobiography and science-literature, can be understood through a comparison with the existing struggle in rap between the Lirical Rap and the Mumble Rap. The first one alludes to the lyric in an aesthetic way; the letter and the background are everything, usually it speaks of themes evoked to the awareness. While in the second the most important thing is the form, which not only follows the musical tendencies but ideological, as they promote the possession of jewels, weapons, women and the use of drugs. Although they are different, both achieve similar purposes, so why not enjoy and learn from the two visions? Well, I’m sure that only from one perspective you could not fully understand rap, the knowledge.



Allan, A. (2018). Using the once familiar to make the familiar strange once again: engaging with historical inquiry and autobiography in contemporary ethnographic research. Qualitative Research, 18(5), 538–553.

Por: Victor Garduño