Collaborative ethnography by its definition is already an extensive method of ‘working together’ on a wide variety of disciplines, ideas, and theories for the sake of more accurate and in-depth knowledge about one’s culture and all of its researchable aspects.
In the research field, whatever is being observed, it is absolutely essential to have the right approach and most importantly, get accurate data.
Whether quantitative or qualitative, data may be more difficult to obtain and even more difficult to accurately analyze and explain if the focus of the research cannot be properly assessed through observation only. Should we observe one’s culture strictly from an outsider’s perspective through auto-ethnographical approach, there is bound to be myriad of mistakes and inaccurate notes on the matter as there is no way to confirm scientific doubts without somehow interfering with the observed culture.
This is where collaborative ethnography comes in. As described by Eric Lassiter, collaborative ethnography literally means to work together in an intellectual effort.
He further claims that it isn’t possible to carry out ethnographic research without engaging with those people whose daily life and cultural habits we wish to observe and that the data that comes out from collaborative ethnographic research is based on the relationship of the researchers and their interlocutors.
” We might sum up collaborative ethnography as an approach to ethnography that deliberately and explicitly emphasizes collaboration at every point in the ethnographic process, without veiling it—from project conceptualization to fieldwork, and, especially, through the writing process. Collaborative ethnography invites commentary from our consultants and seeks to make that commentary overtly part of the ethnographic text as it develops. ” (Lassiter 2005)
Judging from Lassiter’s statements, collaborative ethnography as a method seems to be the foolproof way of approaching anthropological research and getting accurate findings. However, there may be certain disadvantages involving this approach that may have the exact opposite result than what both researchers and interlocutors have hoped for. Having to research a broad anthropological concept may require a considerable number of individuals involved, which may cause greater confusion rather than moments of epiphany; especially if the people involved aren’t familiar with the methods of research participation.
For example, if we wish to conduct a research on Marriage traditions of indigenous Siberian communities and we involve a large number of people, many of whom might not be well acquainted with proper research methods, there may be a significant dissonance among the findings and it might take quite some time for experts in the field to filter out what may and may not be of value. Even then, it will be impossible for researchers to distinguish good information from the bad one without having to involve the members of the indigenous Siberian community yet again.
Another very common disadvantage of this approach is the possible ethical problem it may cause during the time of research. A vast number of cultures, even in this day and age, might still have certain aspects they simply do not wish to share with the outsiders for whatever reason – be it fear of judgment or ridicule. If and when this happens, ethnographers must have a proper ethical conduct with the culture they’re researching or their research might be incomplete and/or inaccurate or simply cut short as a result od created distrust.
Still, it remains important to note that as scientists, whether in social or natural disciplines, there is a set of ethical rules they need to abide by regardless of their personal preference and opinion. I am sure that despite these disadvantages, as further progress and efforts are made by the ethnographers in the collaborative researches, the number of such incidents will decrease significantly.
1. Lassiter. L.E. (2005). Defining a Collaborative Ethnography. The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography. Retrieved from http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html