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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellow's Seminar - The Future (and) Value of Ethnography for Education Research: thinking forward and looking back?

6th November 2017, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Professor Dennis Beach (University of Gothenburg)


Recently, when writing in the new international handbook of ethnography and education, Mats Trondman, Paul Willis and Anna Lund recalled a 1907 debate in Paris on the possibilities of ethnography for social theorising. René Worms was one of the first speakers. He described ethnography as a method for describing ‘primitive societies’. Emile Durkheim followed Worms. He said that ethnography need not only be descriptive, but can provide a sound basis for analysing cultures, cultural processes and their past development. Furthermore he added, as all human societies have their version of civilization, ethnography is applicable to any of them, not only so-called primitive ones. Two points of view on ethnography are immediately obvious.

That of a systematic documentation and scientific analysis of a culture or cultural phenomena and that of an objectifying method for describing a more primitive folk. They have been extensively aired by supporters of the approach and its critics alike and were discussed in Nordic empirical classroom research in the 1970s and 1980s, as recounted by Karen Borgnakke in her various writings on field research and educational process analysis there. In this seminar Professor Beach will present the development of ethnography of education from the debate between Worms and Durkheim onwards, in Europe, the Uk, the Nordic traditions, the USA and more globally.

The presentation will consider the so-called golden age period of ethnography of education, the policy turn, and the new era of the proliferation of methodologies, and aims to set a foundation for a discussion of the possibilities and value of ethnography in education research for the future, when thinking forward and looking back.

Places are limited at these lunchtime seminars and so any academic colleagues interested in attending, should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

Contact for more information about this event.