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Sociology in AmericaA History$
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Craig Calhoun

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780226090948

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: February 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226090962.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 21 October 2019

Knowledge from the Field

Knowledge from the Field

Chapter:
(p.155) [Five] Knowledge from the Field
Source:
Sociology in America
Author(s):

Marjorie L. DeVault

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226090962.003.0005

This chapter provides a story about fieldwork traditions in sociology and the growth of qualitative methods and methodology in the second half of the twentieth century. It weaves its narrative around three methodological essays from the second half of the century: Howard Becker's discussion of inference and proof in participant observation; Jack Katz's essay on a social system of analytic fieldwork, based on a study that included both participant observation and “loosely structured interviews”; and Ruth Behar's commentary on methods in a life history study. It brings forward three ideas. (1) Labels, languages, and emphases may have changed over the course of the century, but one can find a sturdy tradition whose shared strategies and commitments have been passed along, explicitly and implicitly, through generations of practitioners. (2) From its early days in social reform activities, the fieldwork tradition of “close-up” investigation has provided openings for “voices from outside”; yet in every period, researchers have struggled over the relation between science and social action, and the topics and consequences of field studies have been shaped by their social and institutional contexts. (3) Women as well as men have contributed to this tradition, but women have too often been “edged out” of the discipline or simply overlooked.

Keywords:   fieldwork traditions, sociology, qualitative methods, Howard Becker, Jack Katz, Ruth Behar, participant observation, life history study

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