Finding Ethnographies

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About ethnographies

Ethnographies are first-hand accounts of the daily life of a community or society. They may cover a particular people, geographical area, or social group. Ethnographies are published in books, essays in edited collections, journal articles and thesis or dissertations. Some anthropologists use other media such as pictures or films to create ethnographies.

Criteria for ethnographies in anthropology

Most ethnographies are written by anthropologists. Some may be written by teachers, missionaries, explorers, travelers, geologists, or others who live temporarily with that culture, but these may not always satisfy anthropological criteria for ethnographic studies. Check with your professor or teaching assistant to be sure.

  • Typical criteria for ethnographies:
    • focused on a specific culture, community, or society
    • the author lives in the field with the cultural group
    • presents an account based mainly on first-hand experience
    • offers extensive cultural description based on rigorous research methods and data collection techniques
    • addresses contemporary as well as traditional cultures

Finding ethnographies through Library search

Consider these ethnographic book series:

Finding ethnographies through databases

  • Anthropology databases
    • Anthro Plus: Comprehensive international coverage in most branches of anthropology and archaeology, folklore, material culture and interdisciplinary studies.
    • AnthroSource: Full text access publications of the American Anthropological Association.

For both databases, use the Descriptor term 'ethnography' then add the other subject terms describing your topic.

  • Other databases covering anthropology
    • Sociological Abstracts:  Search for "anthropol*" in PUB index and add your other subject terms
    • JSTOR:  Use "advanced search" and limit the search to "anthropology" subset of journals
    • Academic OneFile: Search for "anthropol*" in Publication title index and add your other subject terms
  • Database for older ethnographies
    • eHRAF World Cultures: (electronic Human Relations Area Files) World Cultures database contains the texts of ethnographies from all cultures of the world on a comprehensive range of topics.

To find an ethnography on a specific topic, on the main screen, click Browse, then the Subjects tab. To search by major category, select the Major Subjects tab. If you know the subject by its proper name, you may select from the A-Z Index. 

Finding ethnographies through biographies of anthropologists

Ethnographic films

  • Some anthropologists use film to conduct ethnographic research. The following books provide some background on this area of cultural anthropology. They will also provide names of visual anthropologists including some of the films they have produced.
    • Ethnographic film [electronic resource] / by Karl G. Heider.
    • Troubled vision: Interrogating the visual protocols of 20 th century ethnographic literary and cinematic travelogues [electronic resource] Kirk, Faith 2015
    • Visualizing anthropology [electronic resource] Grimshaw, Anna ; Grimshaw, Anna ; Ravetz, Amanda 2005
  • Search for ethnographic films in these databases:
Content last updated: July 24, 2020