Ethnographic Inquiry and Lived Experience: An Epistemological Critique

1st Edition

Wing-Chung Ho

January 29, 2019 Forthcoming
Reference - 200 Pages
ISBN 9781138478909 - CAT# K348603
Series: Routledge Advances in Sociology

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Ho addresses two fundamental theoretical questions about how best to practice ethnographic inquiries to obtain qualitative, experience-near, and shareable accounts of human living. The first question is the epistemology of ethnography. He posits that writing is epistemologically prior to the researcher’s fieldwork experience in the production of ethnographic knowledge. This stance is developed using the theories of hermeneutics put forward by Paul Ricoeur and Georg Gadamer who both consider that once a text is produced, its meaning is dissociated from the intention of the author. The second question is: what is the putative object that the ethnographer writes about? Ho argues that "lived experience" (Erlebnis) offers such an ethnographic object. Since the lived experience that an ethnographer experiences during fieldwork cannot be studied directly, further theorizations of lived experience are necessary. Ho underscores both the nondiscursivity and transcendence of lived experience in the lifeworld, and the way power is clandestinely imbued in the everyday life in shaping subjectivity and practice. This theorization brings together Alfred Schutz’s lifeworld theory and Michel Foucault’s power/knowledge nexus. The result is a general theory of experience that is pertinent for ethnographic inquiries.

By addressing these two fundamental questions and offering novel angles to answer them, this book offers refreshed epistemological guidelines for conducting ethnographic research for scientific reasoning. More importantly, it also provides a crucial knowledge base for comprehending the current epistemological debates inherent in the production of ethnographic knowledge and furthering discussions.

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