Criminological Ethnography: Living and Knowing

  • Jeff FerrellEmail author


Reflecting on 30 years of conducting criminological ethnography, I argue in this chapter that phenomenological attentiveness to the world on its own terms lays the foundation for useful ethnographic research. Such research also requires that the ethnographer learn how to know the world: by paying attention to subtlety and nuance, by humbly embracing elegant knowledge, by theorizing within ethnographic findings, and by seeking the emotional accuracy and situated vulnerability of verstehen. Criminological ethnographers face in addition issues of legality and illegality in field research, with such research inevitably shaped by decisions about breaking the law or obeying it. This necessary entanglement of the ethnographer in the research process is reflected in the more recent development of autoethnography, which also suggests new forms of narrative engagement. In summary and conclusion I argue that criminological ethnography is less a technical procedure than an unfolding process of informed improvisation—less a “method” in the traditional sense than a way of knowing and living in the world.


Autoethnography Drift Elegant knowledge Epistemology Ethnography Ethnomethodology Grounded theory Illegality Phenomenology Verstehen 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyTexas Christian UniversityFort WorthUSA

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