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Dialogues with Ethnography

Dialogues with Ethnography

Dr. Jan Blommaert


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This book persuasively argues the case that ethnography must be viewed as a full theoretical system, rather than just as a research method. Blommaert traces the influence of his reading of classic works about ethnography on his thinking, and discusses a range of authors who have influenced the development of a theoretical system of ethnography, or whose work might be productively used to develop it further. Authors examined include Hymes, Scollon, Kress, Bourdieu, Bakhtin and Lefebvre. This book will be required reading for students and scholars involved in ethnographic research, or those interested in the theory of ethnography.

Jan Blommaert is Professor in the Department of Culture Studies and Director of Babylon, Center for the Study of Superdiversity at Tilburg University, the Netherlands. He is the author of The Sociolinguistics of Globalization (Cambridge University Press, 2010) and Ethnography, Superdiversity and Linguistic Landscapes: Chronicles of Complexity (Multilingual Matters, 2013).

Dialogue lies at the heart of Jan Blommaert’s invitation to conceive of ethnography as epistemology. In this elegant collection Blommaert enters into intriguing dialogues with a number of foundational thinkers in ethnography and sociolinguistics. In engaging with the ‘classics’ as he calls them, he lays out his challenging vision of a sociolinguistics that takes inequality and voice as central problematics. This is scholarship at its best.
This volume is packed with ideas, historical and contemporary, all made fresh through Jan Blommaert’s insightful connections and lucid prose. Hymes, Kress, Bakhtin, Bourdieu, and many others are here together in a conversation about ethnography, what it is, and what it can do. A stunning homage to – and meditation on – Blommaert’s intellectual heroes.
Once again, Jan Blommaert advances the field of sociolinguistics in this indispensable collection of insightful and thought-provoking essays on the importance of ethnography in helping us make sense of language, culture, and society in our complex and fascinating world. Written in a clear and accessible style, this book will become essential reading for its intellectual rigor, scope and depth.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
DOI iv
Contents v
Acknowledgments vii
Preface ix
1 Ethnography as Counter-hegemony: Remarks on Epistemology and Method 1
2 Obituary: Dell H. Hymes (1927–2009) 10
3 Ethnography and Democracy: Hymes’ Political Theory of Language 15
4 Ethnopoetics as Functional Reconstruction: Dell Hymes’ Narrative View of the World 26
5 Grassroots Historiography and the Problem of Voice: Tshibumba’s Histoire du Zaïre 42
6 Historical Bodies and Historical Space 62
7 Semiotic and Spatial Scope: Toward a Materialist Semiotics 77
8 Pierre Bourdieu and Language in Society 87
9 Combining Surveys and Ethnographies in the Study of Rapid Social Change 99
10 Data Sharing as Entextualization Practice 112
11 Chronotopes, Scales and Complexity in the Study of Language in Society 130
12 Marxism and Urban Culture 143
13 On Scope and Depth in Linguistic Ethnography: A Commentary 149
References 156
Index 167