The Social Psychology of Access in Ethnographic Research

  • Harrington B
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Abstract

This article uses social psychological theories to unify and expand current conceptions of access in ethnographic research—the process by which researchers gather data via interpersonal relationships with participants. Although this process is acknowledged as central to the practice of ethnography, understanding of access is fragmented. A review of the ethnographic methods literature, along with “tales of the field†from published ethnographies, suggests the appropriateness of reframing these segments in terms of social identity and self-presentation theories. This makes two major contributions to the ethnographic methods literature. First, it integrates present formulations of the access problem, many of which employ social psychological concepts but are not in explicit dialogue with the theories—or with each other. Second, it allows us to take a fresh perspective on current controversies in the field, complicating notions of power and identity while offering more specificity about how these processes operate in practice.

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Authors

  • Brooke Harrington

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