Ethnographic Interview Objective: The interview is one of the major field method

Ethnographic Interview
Objective: The interview is one of the major field methods anthropologists use to gather information. For this assignment you will be expected to pick someone to interview. This person is called an informant and their role is to provide insight into one aspect of their life or culture. For example, you might interview a police officer to find out why he chose that profession, or a couple who chose to adopt a child after having one of their own. The possibilities are endless, but to successfully complete this assignment you must pick an informant and then a concept that is meaningful to you and your informant. Obviously, you would not interview your grandmother about surfing if she never surfed before!
Assignment: After picking your informant and the concept, you should consider questions you want to ask your informant. The interview is typically done in an open format, in that the informant leads the discussion, but you do need to have some questions to keep your informant focused on your topic or concept.
Once you have completed the actual interview, you will need to write your interview analysis. The analysis is written as an essay and should be about 3-4 pages long. The essay should be divided into four “sections.” The first section or paragraph is where you introduce your concept. This is very important for without a clear concept, the reader (in this case your professor) will have no idea what your essay is about. So, if you are writing about adoption, your first paragraph will introduce the concept of adoption and what you are trying to find out about adoption from your informant. Your next paragraph or section is where you explain who your informant is and how they can provide insight into your concept. In this paragraph you can tell the reader about the informant’s age, sex, education, religion… whatever you think helps the reader to better understand who your informant is. Consider this a personal context of the informant.
The paragraphs or sections to follow are the “meat” of the paper. These paragraphs rely on direct quotes from your informant and your effort at encouraging the reader to make sense
of your concept in a meaningful way. The rule of thumb should be for each paragraph in this section you include one direct quote from your informant. The quotes shouldn’t be sentences long. The quotes are what make this an anthropological assignment. For without them, you are speaking for your informant and rewriting their words from your perspective. After you have presented a quote, you should interpret the quote from your perspective and in terms of your concept. If you are writing about surfing and how surfers are possessive about their beaches, you need to pick quotes that support that possessiveness, followed by your rationale for picking the quote to support your concept. This part of your paper varies in length, but five or six good quotes should create the necessary five or six paragraphs to argue your concept. For many students, it is very difficult to stick to one concept. If you choose only those quotes that support your concept you should succeed in staying with your theme.
The final paragraph or section is the conclusion. Here, you summarize your key points and possibly present one final convincing quote. DO NOT introduce new ideas or new themes in this paragraph. By the time the reader gets to your conclusion, they should clearly see what you were trying to explain.
The interview can be a very fun assignment. Some students find that interviewing their grandparents about their past can be a tremendous opportunity to find out about their grandparents’ lives. Interviewing a neighbor who lived through WWII can provide insight into a time that to many of you is “ancient” history, just as interviewing your boss or friend who has emigrated from another country can provide tremendous insight into their home culture. Because everyone has a story to tell, don’t limit yourself to topics you think are anthropological. The important part is to find someone who has a story to tell.
If you need some ideas, these are just some examples of possible interview topics (Concepts):
Determine how a person chooses a marriage What endogamous/exogamous criteria are important?
2 Select someone older than you. Describe how they have seen marriage and the family change in their lifetime. The following issues might be discussed: child raising, roles, work, perceptions, neighborhoods, and expectations.
3 Select a retired person. How has retirement affected their family status? How did they see
retirement twenty years ago, 10 years ago, now? Are there special considerations that
retired people have in relationship to their families, grandchildren, housing?
4 Choose a divorced person with children. What special considerations are involved with financial, social, work, dating situations?
For each of these topics, include how the informant’s perceptions are similar and/or different than the norms of the culture.
You should also examine your study guides, notes, and the textbook, to help consider interview topics.
Grading: Students will be graded on the content, Anthropological accuracy, originality and interpretation, and language mechanics.

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