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Resolving Feminist Dilemmas within Ethnography: A Case for Photoethnography
Unformatted Document Text:  Resolving Feminist Dilemmas within Ethnography: A Case for Photoethnography stef shuster Overview Feminist interventions into ‘classic’ ethnography have manifested in two major ways that inform each other: 1. examining the self-versus-other differentiation that calls into question the role of the ethnographer in representing a culture and 2. casting doubt on what counts as ethnography. While the first intervention problematizes where the ethnographer stands in relation to the community under study, the latter pushes the boundaries of the integrity of the ethnographic text as a piece of writing that synthesizes observations, conversations, and lived experiences in a coherent and categorized way that falls under the rubric of “culture.” I will first explore some feminist critiques on the ethnographic process and text with a specific focus on the self-versus-other differentiation and then tackle the question of what counts as ethnography. With this theoretical foundation in place, I will examine the possibility of photoethnography as a methodology that stands in position to resolve some dilemmas raised by feminist ethnographers, especially for research on the transgendered population. I have intentionally chosen this subject because trans-studies is an emerging field that has many unresolved issues of power and domination that fits well within feminist work that confronts the place of a researcher in analyzing marginalized or underrepresented groups of people. While I certainly do not advocate photoethnography as the magic solution to these issues, this line of research may be one way to resolve the tensions that arise from taking a feminist methodological approach to ethnography. 1

Authors: Shuster, Stef.
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Resolving Feminist Dilemmas within Ethnography: A Case for Photoethnography
stef shuster
Feminist interventions into ‘classic’ ethnography have manifested in two major ways that 
inform each other: 1. examining the self-versus-other differentiation that calls into question the 
role of the ethnographer in representing a culture and 2. casting doubt on what counts as 
ethnography. While the first intervention problematizes where the ethnographer stands in relation 
to the community under study, the latter pushes the boundaries of the integrity of the 
ethnographic text as a piece of writing that synthesizes observations, conversations, and lived 
experiences in a coherent and categorized way that falls under the rubric of “culture.”
I will first explore some feminist critiques on the ethnographic process and text with a 
specific focus on the self-versus-other differentiation and then tackle the question of what counts 
as ethnography. With this theoretical foundation in place, I will examine the possibility of 
photoethnography as a methodology that stands in position to resolve some dilemmas raised by 
feminist ethnographers, especially for research on the transgendered population. I have 
intentionally chosen this subject because trans-studies is an emerging field that has many 
unresolved issues of power and domination that fits well within feminist work that confronts the 
place of a researcher in analyzing marginalized or underrepresented groups of people. While I 
certainly do not advocate photoethnography as the magic solution to these issues, this line of 
research may be one way to resolve the tensions that arise from taking a feminist methodological 
approach to ethnography.

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