The Aesthetics of Qualitative (Re)search: Performing Ethnography at a Heritage Museum

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epistemology, reflexivity, critical inquiry, ethnomethodology, visual methods, embodiment

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The author offers a reflexive recount of an ethnography conducted at a tourist heritage site. Inspired by critical writings on the aesthetics of (social) scientific practices and texts, the author examines ethnographic practices that take place in the conjoined coercive contexts of tourism and national commemoration. A number of affinities between ethnographic, touristic, and commemoration practices are highlighted, and so are the epistemologies on which they rest and types of knowledge(s) that they help produce. These affinities include the role of authenticity and unmediated encounters, collecting and documenting practices, and lastly practices involved in presentation of artifacts (data vs. souvenirs). The narrative account/recount that the author offers involves visual images, and an examination of the technologies that produce and process them. These present the centrality if visuality in both contexts of tourism (photography, gaze, seeing) and contemporary ethnographic practices and the ways that visual images tell and conceal stories concerning the production of knowledge in social science research.

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Qualitative Inquiry, v. 17, issue 10, p. 917-929