A Taste of Ethnography

  • Peter K. ManningEmail author


Ethnography as a field should bring one face to face with one’s self or selves. When speaking to graduate students about my work, I have been oblique and offered many versions or portraits of my work. That is, if there is real portrait of a person’s work that is consequential for more than a brief time, it is rare, and this portrait is the only possible portrait. It’s perhaps more than the blink of an eye, but substantially less. All of one’s work, its reputation, the view of the audience. Who knows what might be said of one’s work: it is merely a result of who casts an eye on it, when, and where. It is not quite true, as they say in Hollywood, that every knock is a boost. Careers often are shooting stars: that which counts early, little statistical essays based on secondary data, empty and atheoretical, do not stand the test of time. Fame leaks out of books. The issues chosen for fieldwork are often not really chosen, while others are stumbled upon or not chosen to one’s dismay. Somehow, evidence of careers is cast “rationally,” in spite of the obvious facts that no one can predict the future, let alone tomorrow. Will it rain? Will I be happy? Que sera, sera. The cloud of the future is one reason why evening prayers are still regarded as efficacious. Autobiographies drip with the details of mistakes, missteps, falls, tumbles, disgrace, and even failures. In other words, a career has many facets, most of which are unknown and unrevealed; thus every memoir or reflection is only partial. “Pick yourself up…” is a useful song. Memoirs and other reflections are reflexive, after all—what is written is what one wants the imagined other, the audience, to read. Modern order is not that of the preliterate. Graham Greene, one of my literary heroes, kept two diaries, one for his biographer and one for himself. I suspect there was a third, one revealed in a book he wrote late in life about his dreams. Reflections are designed chronologically as if life was lived that way. Life of course is lived forward and understood backward as if it has been written.


Authority Dramaturgy Ethnography Fieldwork Ireland The Police mandate Policing in Ireland Semiotics 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Northeastern UniversityBostonUSA

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