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School Ethnography in Chile  

Paulina Contreras, Eduardo Santa Cruz G., Jenny Assaél, and Andrea Valdivia

In Chile, ethnographic studies of schools started 30 years ago. At the time, most of the educational research in Latin America was done through quantitative methodologies, which didn’t show school processes in their proper contexts. In this scenario, a group of Latin-American educational researchers came together to develop a critical qualitative research network, in which Chile adopted the form of the first school ethnography research team in the country. From that, a new means of research was developed, aimed towards understanding everyday life in schools, which was what the “black box” quantitative research was unable to see. This innovation allowed these ethnographers to understand schools as a singular and complex reality. They took up a Latin American critical-historical epistemological approach, understanding that schools require a thick description, historically contextualized, that also considers the structures that determine a school’s singularity. Chilean school ethnographies in the last 30 years have focused on the ways in which concrete social relationships take place in situated historical contexts, from the dictatorship of the 1980s to current neoliberal educational policy. They have allowed the visualization of the effects that more general political, economic, and social transformations have had in the schools’ daily organization and practices. In this trajectory, there have been different approaches to educational policy; some take on a critical perspective and others aim to inform and influence policy. School ethnography has addressed a variety of topics, from school failure in its beginnings, to youth culture, civic engagement, ethnicity, learning and development, and gender and educational policy. This diversity, however, has a common interest: the subordinated or excluded cultural forms and subjectivities, which are the consequence of power relationships and normative structures that are reproduced in schools.

Article

Qualitative Research in Indigenous Education in Mexico  

Gabriela Czarny and Ruth Paradise

In Mexico, qualitative research in the field of indigenous education finds its roots in a strong national tradition of social anthropological research. This background provides a fundamental context for understanding current emphases in qualitative educational research being carried out in indigenous communities, and for recognizing the underlying nature of indigenist policies and schooling projects (known as “indigenism”) imposed by the state during the 20th century. Indigenous organizations and communities have both challenged and appropriated this research tradition and indigenist educational projects, bringing into play a discussion of the continuous state of inequality and injustice in postcolonial states. Among the central aspects that have contributed to the shift in native research processes are the professionalization of the field of study at the level of higher education and within different programs and institutions, although the majority of these programs are still oriented toward indigenous peoples by nonindigenous professionals. Within the qualitative research agenda proposed by native researchers at the end of the 20th century, indigenous peoples began to assume a central position in the suggested themes, needs, and methods of inquiry. In Mexico, this development was closely related to the ethnographic study of education through perspectives of research action, collaborative research, narratives, and testimonials, providing fertile ground for envisioning other ways to name, produce knowledge, describe problems, and propose solutions with respect to the lives of these communities and peoples.

Article

Sonic Ethnography in Theory and Practice  

Walter S. Gershon

As its name suggests, sonic ethnography sits at the intersection of studies of sound and ethnographic methodologies. This methodological category can be applied to interpretive studies of sound, ethnographic studies that foreground sound theoretically and metaphorically, and studies that utilize sound practices similar to those found in forms of audio recording and sound art, for example. Just as using ocular metaphors or video practices does not make an ethnographic study any more truthful, the use of sonic metaphors or audio recording practices still requires the painstaking, ethical, reflexivity, time, thought, analysis, and care that are hallmarks for strong ethnographies across academic fields and disciplines. Similarly, the purpose of sonic ethnography is not to suggest that sound is any more real or important than other sensuous understandings but is instead to underscore the power and potential of the sonic for qualitative researchers within and outside of education. A move to the sonic is theoretically, methodologically, and practically significant for a variety of reasons, not least of which are (a) its ability to interrupt ocular pathways for conceptualizing and conducting qualitative research; (b) for providing a mode for more actively listening to local educational ecologies and the wide variety of things, processes, and understandings of which they are comprised; (c) ethical and more transparent means for expressing findings; and (d) a complex and deep tool for gathering, analyzing, and expressing ethnographic information. In sum, sonic ethnography opens a world of sound possibilities for educational researchers that at once deepen and provide alternate pathways for understanding everyday educational interactions and the sociocultural contexts that help render those ways of being, doing, and knowing sensible.