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Institute of Advanced Study

IAS Staff

Publication details for Dr Sam Hillyard

Hillyard, S. (2010). Ethnography's Capacity to Contribute to the Cumulation of Theory: A Case Study of Strong's Work on Goffman. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 39(4): 421-440.

Author(s) from Durham


This article discusses how ethnography can contribute toward the development of sociological theory. It uses a case study of one theoretical idea refined through ethnographic fieldwork—Phil Strong’s (1979; 1988) work on Erving Goffman’s theory of ceremony.The article argues that Strong effectively applied Goffman’s ideas to different settings and successfully extended Goffman’s ideas on ceremony. In doing so, Strong demonstrated how ethnography can be more productive in developing theoretical ideas, but this productivity relied on his personal enthusiasm for theory and fieldwork. Strong’s theoretical empiricism provides an exemplar of how theory and conceptual refinement can grow as a result of doing ethnography the right way.