Hipatia

Biblioteca de acceso libre con materiales sobre antropología, complejidad y caos.

Archivos para complexity

Michael Agar – We Have Met the Other and We’re All Nonlinear: Ethnography as a Nonlinear Dynamic System

“Ethnography” and “Social Science” have always had an awkward relationship. As
far as research practice goes, ethnographers often feel that they have more in
common with investigative reporters,
historians, and intelligence analysts
than they do with colleagues in sociology
and economics. The usual social research
chant of “theory/hypothesis/measurement/
sampling design/significance
level” does not describe much of what
ethnographers do.
For an ethnographer, what’s interesting is the discovery of connections. A holistic
perspective is foundational for anthropology, sort of a proto-systems theory, which
helps explain why two anthropologists, Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, participated
in the post-World War II conference that founded cybernetics.
It’s not that ordinary social science isn’t allowed to look for connections. It’s that
ordinary social science begins with variables already given by some theory, and then
tries to figure out how to locate, decontextualize, and measure those variables. A
card-carrying holist notices a “variable” in a situation, maybe one that he/she had
never thought about before, but then he/she wonders what other things it might be
connected with, in that situation and outside of it. The goal is to build patterns of
many interacting things that include what was noticed, not to isolate what one was
supposed to notice and measure it.
“Ethnography” and “Social Science” have always had an awkward relationship. As far as research practice goes, ethnographers often feel that they have more in common with investigative reporters, historians, and intelligence analysts than they do with colleagues in sociology and economics. The usual social research chant of “theory/hypothesis/measurement/sampling design/significance level” does not describe much of what ethnographers do. For an ethnographer, what’s interesting is the discovery of connections. A holistic perspective is foundational for anthropology, sort of a proto-systems theory, which helps explain why two anthropologists, Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead, participated in the post-World War II conference that founded cybernetics. It’s not that ordinary social science isn’t allowed to look for connections. It’s that ordinary social science begins with variables already given by some theory, and then tries to figure out how to locate, decontextualize, and measure those variables. A card-carrying holist notices a “variable” in a situation, maybe one that he/she had never thought about before, but then he/she wonders what other things it might be connected with, in that situation and outside of it. The goal is to build patterns of many interacting things that include what was noticed, not to isolate what one was supposed to notice and measure it.
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Michael Agar – Bio
Michael Agar received his undergraduate degree from Stanford and his Ph.D. in linguistic anthropology from the Language-Behavior Research Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. An honorary Woodrow Wilson Fellow, NIH Career Award recipient, and currently Fulbright Senior Specialist, he is professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, College Park, with adjunct appointments in Speech Communication and Comparative Literature, as well as an associate at Antropokaos at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina. He was recently appointed Distinguished Scholar at the International Institute of Qualitative Methods at the University of Alberta. Visit: www.ethknoworks.com