Critical ethnography is a way to study communities and cultures that seeks to dismantle unfair power hierarchies, promote emancipation, and reduce the oppression of underprivileged people worldwide. Ethnographers who use this form of research claim that it is not enough to report “objective” findings on peoples’ cultures but feel instead that it is the responsibility of an ethnographer to engage in various forms of political action on behalf of and together with the group they study.

Critical ethnography is not a theory per se, but rather a research strategy and methodology that rely heavily on the theoretical foundations of critical theory. Relatedly, critical ethnography is a tool for the construction of theory and for the translation of critical theory into practice. In essence critical ethnography is a way to do critical theory, or as many scholars have stated, the practice of critical theory. Critical ethnography, then, is a methodological and practical undertaking through which critical ethnographers question the boundaries between theory and method.

The entire process of critical ethnographic research is based on critical principles: From the various ways to collect data to how data are interpreted and represented to various audiences to the ethical involvement of researchers and collaborators to the application and generation of theory and knowledge, the end goal of critical ethnography is to create transformational change. This entry will examine the theoretical foundations, methodological processes, and ethical commitment of critical ethnographers. As a resource for examples it will look at the critical ethnographic work of Dwight Conquergood, who in his life conducted critical ethnographies among the urban poor of Chicago, within a Southeast Asian refugee camp, and at vigils held at prisons for death row inmates on the eve of their executions.

Littlejohn, Stephen W and Karen A.Floss. (2009). Encyclopedia of Communication Theory.USA:SAGE.654

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Gayes Mahestu
Edwina Ayu Kustiawan