Week 1 Blog Post : Map of a Block/Practicing Ethnography
This assignment has been adapted from Paul Kutsche’s “A Map of a Block” in Field Ethnography: A Manual for Doing Cultural Anthropology.
Doing the assignment:
Find a block or a street that interests you. For example, choose a street that is not in your immediate neighborhood, but rather something that is outside of your usual route. You can determine how large the block or street that you want to look at is, but remember that it needs to be a big enough area for it to be meaningful, but small enough that you can describe it in detail. Do not interview any people, but closely observe the street and take notes on what you observe.
Writing it up:
In a blog post, describe the block. Make sure that you describe both the physical structures that you encounter as well as the “happenings” on the street. Pay close attention to detail, but make sure that you explain why the details that you describe are worth noting.
In addition, draw a map of the street taking care to label the physical landscape. Do not neglect any physical structure, no matter how “insignificant” it may seem. Make sure that you include the location of the block and the time (or times) that you visited. Upload a pdf scan of the map.
Some helpful hints:
- Do your best to describe without using language that judges the block. For example, do not use words such as “pretty” or “ugly,” and especially words such as “nice” or “interesting.” Use evidence to support your conclusions about the block. For example, in describing a block as being a wealthy residential area, describe how observations such as the types or number of cars parked outside led you to your conclusion.
- Watch how people relate to the physical environment. How does what they are wearing, or what they are doing illustrate what happens on the street. For example, if the street is in front of an office building, do the people dress to “fit” what is going on inside.
- If time permits, visit the block more than once. Perhaps once in the morning, and once in the evening. Or at the same time on two different days. Note the changes in activities at the various times.
*Please recognize that this assignment is to help you understand what it means to really observe. It is to give you practice in describing spaces–not to find the most compelling or active block. Do not put yourself in any situations that could cause harm to you or others in order to complete the assignment.*