Corona Virus and the Ethnographer

Ethnography is a research methodology, but not every one can be a successful ethnographer. People who are social and like engaging with others tend to be more comfortable and successful. I could start a conversation with just about anyone, anywhere, so let's say it's a good fit. Social distancing, however, isn't. I'm writing this in …

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Academic Tourism

This week I've had a number of interesting conversations with Achill Tourism Director Chris McCarthy. He has been our primary contact on the island and chief curator, introducing us to people who know the island and it's stories well, people engaged with folklore collection and preservation, and local heritage. One of the most refreshing aspects …

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Folk Dance, Gaeilge, and walking Achill Island

December 30 we spent the day at the Valley House, as our folk education came to us. We started the day with Emma Fallon, a native Irish (Gaeilge) speaker who came to give us a bit of history of Gaeilge and the status of language in Ireland. We capped the discussion with a basic lesson …

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The Latest & Greatest in Ethnography: Evicted by Matthew Desmond

From today's Book World in The Washington Post:  Thank you, Matthew Desmond. Thank you for writing about destitution in America with astonishing specificity yet without voyeurism or judgment. Thank you for showing it is possible to compose spare, beautiful prose about a complicated policy problem. Thank you for giving flesh and life to our squabbles …

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Arlington Community Gardens

Last weekend I began fieldwork for the Summer 2016 Field School. I'm back along the Columbia Pike, this time studying community gardens along Four Mile Run and Douglas Park. The project stretches me in new and exciting ways. I'm an avid "urban farmer"--I cleared the azaleas alongside my house to create three 8X10 garden beds. …

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The Field School 2016

Today I begin the first field visit to prepare for the 2016 Field School for Cultural Documentation. I'll be working with Community Gardens in Arlington County. I grew up on a farm, so the idea of a kitchen garden makes sense to me. I tore out landscaping around my house to exploit the only sunny …

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About the Field School: How Folklife Archives Work

The Folklore Studies Program at George Mason University is one of the few programs in the U.S. the offers comprehensive instruction in ethnographic methods and data collection.  Thirty-seven years ago, my colleague, Professor Emerita Margaret Yocom founded the Northern Virginia Folklife Archive. Students have been submitting original work to the archive since. In 2011, working …

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