Marcella Meykler

In the chapter 1 reading, there was a section on the research methods that sociologists use. One in particular that was mentioned was ethnography, and the example given was Sidewalk, written by Mitchell Duneier. I read that book for an anthropology class last semester and I really liked the style and enjoyed it very much. Duneier looked at the informal economy amongst the homeless in New York. Through observation, and later participant observation, he described the daily lives of book vendors, magazine vendors, and other creative ways that people who sleep on the street make money. By asking questions and spending time with these men, he was able to describe the many different aspects and perspectives that these men had on their living situations, and their lives in general.
Through his ethnography, I was able to understand the lives of these men, not just from the stereotypes that persist in our society, but from first-hand and second-hand accounts. Throughout the book Duneier described how he interacted with the men and how they interacted with each other. Throughout the book, Duneier connected the circumstances of the men’s lives to the bigger picture and how local laws drove them to do what they did. He also describes how he gets information and clarifies every step of the way. I think ethnographies are very useful, because we get a description of a culture through a mostly objective perspective. A successful ethnography is one that describes and comments on the challenges that the observer had to overcome and the moments when the author may not have been completely objective.
Ethnography can help eliminate stereotypes or stigma associated with a group of people. Description and analysis fro different perspectives can help the world see that we are all human beings and one people, as well as helping the world appreciate the differences in different ways of life.

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