Ethnography in Today's World: Color Full before Color Blind

Ethnography in Today's World: Color Full before Color Blind

Ethnography in Today's World: Color Full before Color Blind

Ethnography in Today's World: Color Full before Color Blind


In Ethnography in Today's World, Roger Sanjek examines the genre and practice of ethnography from a historical perspective, from its nineteenth-century beginnings and early twentieth-century consolidation, through political reorientations during the 1960s and the impact of feminism and postmodernism in later decades, to its current outlook in an increasingly urban world. Drawing on a career of ethnographic research across Brazil, Ghana, New York City, and with the Gray Panthers, Sanjek probes politics and rituals in multiethnic New York, the dynamics of activist meetings, human migration through the ages, and shifting conceptions of race in the United States. He interrogates well-known works from Boas, Whyte, Fabian, Geertz, Marcus, and Clifford, as well as less celebrated researchers, addressing methodological concerns from ethnographers' reliance on assistants in the formative days of the discipline to contemporary comparative issues and fieldwork and writing strategies.

Ethnography in Today's World contributes to our understanding of culture and society in an age of globalization. These provocative examinations of the value of ethnographic research challenge conventional views as to how ethnographic fieldwork is and can be conceived, conducted, contextualized, and communicated to academic audiences and the twenty-first-century public.


This book might have been titled For Ethnography! or, alternatively, Ethnography for What? Throughout, it aims to affirm the value of ethnography in engaging contemporary issues of race, migration, political activism, and an urbanizing globe. It includes as well essays examining this distinctive anthropological fieldwork method—ethnography, or participant observation—which its practitioners use to understand particular groups and places. and last, it asserts that ethnography is inescapably lodged in the social worlds of those who use it: first, as they decide what to study; then, how to do it; and finally, how to engage various publics with their findings.

The essays, now revised, were originally composed during the last decade of the twentieth century and the first decade of the twenty-first. They build upon and extend ideas and arguments contained in my books Fieldnotes: the Makings of Anthropology (1990), The Future of Us All: Race and Neighborhood Politics in New York City (1998), and Gray Panthers (2009). They also reflect the journey of an anthropologist who entered the field when it was undergoing tumultuous change in the 1960s, who moved from fieldwork abroad in Brazil and Ghana to long-term engagements in his own society, and who, after weathering theoretical storms in ensuing decades, now values ethnography even more than when he began.

Engaging Ethnography

The book’s first part, Engaging Ethnography, contains three chapters about fieldwork in New York City’s Elmhurst-Corona district. Chapter 1, “Color Full before Color Blind: the Emergence of Multiracial Neighborhood Politics in Queens, New York City,” summarizes the major findings and arguments about this fieldwork arena in my book The Future of Us All. It was . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.