Ethnography between locality and sociality

by Boris Nieswand

Working Papers WP 09-06
June 2009
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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This working paper deals with the question of how the method of ethnography relates to the theoretical and methodological tension between locality – referring to the socio-spatially boundedness and embeddedness of embodied interaction – and sociality – referring to the transgressive features of human communication and social relationships. Instead of employing more optimistic and hybrid theoretical constructs, like that of global ethnoscape or transnational social space, which claim to overcome this tension, it is argued that ethnography has to endure competing and conflicting claims of studying embodied practices on the one hand and communicatively integrated social units (e.g. groups, social fields or cultural configurations) on the other hand. Ethnographic practice can only practically manage and reflect the tensions between locality and sociality but not solve them. After discussing these problems from an historical and theoretical perspective some preliminary reflections about complexity, selectivity and methodological pluralism will be presented in the conclusion.

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