A Twitch or a Blink, an Ethnographer’s Path to Understanding Culture: A Lecture

  • Mark S. FleisherEmail author


Ethnography requires careful planning and honed analytic skills. The ethnographer’s necessary tool, the measurement instrument predicating all others, is the skillful ethnographer. The ethnographer’s subjectivity acts as the device necessary to plumb the depths of social interaction. No device, other than the skilled ethnographer, can accurately describe the intricacies of social life. Interviews, social network models, and the objective metrics for testing hypotheses cannot be fashioned without the ethnographer at the vanguard. Ethnographers’ participant observation uses a wide range of specialized research tools to open a path to, in Geertz’s terminology, thick description. Thick description captures the threshold of subjective cultural understanding. The ethnographer collects the data that recognize the difference between a twitching eye and a meaningful blink. The cultural information transmitted in a blink unveils complexities of an individual’s worldview. Worldview analysis requires analytic competency in ethnolinguistics and sociolinguistics as language cuts closer to the mind than other evidence. Participant observation and supplementary data analysis uncover the semantics and pragmatics that expose individual and cultural worldview. Only then, when ethnographers have exhausted their research toolkit, can anthropologists call their research ethnography.


Anthropological ethnography Worldview Sapir-Whorf hypothesis Thick description 


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social SciencesCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA

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