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Applied Ethnography


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About the Author

Pertti J. (Bert) Pelto is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of Connecticut, USA where he founded the program in medical anthropology. During his career he also served on the faculty of Cornell University, the University of Minnesota, and Washington University. His foundational Anthropological Research: The Structure of Inquiry (1970), in which he argued for a comprehensive mix of qualitative and quantitative approaches, was the first methodology textbook in socio-cultural anthropology and among the first in qualitative research more generally. He is author or editor of many other major books and textbooks, some of which are The Snowmobile Revolution (1973), Technology and Social Change (ed., with H. R. Bernard, 1983), Research Methods in Nutritional Anthropology (with G. Pelto and E. Messer 1989), and Sexuality in the Time of AIDS (ed., with R. Verma, S. Schensul, and A. Joshi, 2004). Dr. Pelto has spent much of the past two decades time in India training and advising research groups and working with HIV/AIDS projects and other applied programmes.


"Pelto has produced an important and unique text which fills a niche: it teaches research methods to non-researchers in a manner that is accessible but not insulting. [T]he text would also work very effectively in a first course on ethnographic methods at the undergraduate level. Indeed, I will most likely use it in this manner because, not only is it a highly competent methods text, it anchors ethnography in the real world issues of poverty and suffering and shows how research can contribute to solutions. In a word, Pelto shows us how and why ethnographic enquiry continues to be relevant to everyone."

--James B. Waldram, British Journal of Psychology

"Techniques, approaches, and rationales for conducting ethnographic research have evolved greatly from the 20th-century paradigm of long-term, embedded participant observation. Today's ethnography increasingly employs a qualitative/quantitative mix and collaboration across disciplines ranging from health to environmental studies. Short-term, focused research is becoming the norm as contracted ethnographers meet deadlines for NGOs and agencies looking to make informed program changes. In-depth interviews, still an important tool, are transcribed, coded, and analyzed. Multidisciplinary teams commonly train local community members to assist with quick data collection. Pelto (emer., Univ. of Connecticut) does an outstanding job of covering a wide range of applied techniques, and providing contextualized examples from many countries. Clearly described methodologies like RAP (rapid assessment procedures), FES (focused ethnographic studies), social mapping, sampling, sketch mapping, free lists, pile sorting, and diaries are useful at all levels. Likewise, Pelto provides understandable guidelines for basic skills like gaining entry, training research teams, recording and organizing data, data coding and analysis, and writing the final report. Other authors have tended to focus on a particular specialized method (e.g., autoethnography), a particular context (e.g., education), or a particular skill (e.g., writing field notes). Unlike Han Blommaert and Dong Jie's Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Beginner's Guide (CH, Jan'l1, 48-2441), which only gives examples of linguistic fieldwork only, this volume is a guide to conducting applied ethnographic research in a multitude of contexts and employing one or more methodologies from the large repertoire outlined. Helpful illustrations, text boxes highlighting key concepts, and extensive references add value. Equally excellent as a course text or in the field for tackling a thorny research challenge. Summing Up: Essential. Lower-division undergraduates and above."


"The title of this book could have been: 'Ethnography through the times;' and who better to tell the story than an experienced ethnographer, the 'Maestro' who practiced and lived it through most of his adult life?... For its depth in field experiences and rich real life examples in innovation in research methods, I wish to strongly concur with Professor Pelto in recommending this book for applied research people in the south and north.... To prospective users, all training institutions should have a few copies in their library shelves to support research skill training; ethnographic and other qualitative researchers should have one as their fieldwork companion, while for action and implementation science researchers, development agencies, a copy or two for their staffers would go a long way."

--The Qualitative Report

"This book will make a significant addition to any qualitative researcher's library."

--Paul G. Ward, Anthropology and Aging

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