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date: 21 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Embracing the trope of ethnography as narrative, this chapter uses the mythic story of Bronislaw Malinowski’s early career and fieldwork as a vehicle through which to explore key aspects of ethnography’s history and development into a distinct form of qualitative research. The reputed “founding father” of the ethnographic approach, Malinowski was a brilliant social scientist, dynamic writer, conceited colonialist, and, above all else, pathetically human. Through a series of intervallic steps—in and out of Malinowski’s path from Poland to the “Cambridge School” and eventually to the western Pacific—I trace the legacy of ethnography to its current position as a critical, historically informed, and unfailingly evolving research endeavor. As a research methodology that has continually reflected on and revised its practices and modes of presentation, ethnography is boundless. Yet minus its political, ethical, and historical moorings, I argue, the complexities of twenty-first-century society render its future uncertain.

Keywords: anthropology, colonialism, epistemology, the field, intersubjectivity, Malinowski, methodology, writing culture

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