Wednesday, September 18, 2013


Ethnography provides a real world way of looking at a problem or opportunity, applying social and cultural understanding to the topic. What this means is that ethnography provides a wide range of answers that, if analyzed properly, go well beyond the tactical, the sensational, and the superficial. True ethnography includes a rigorous process of data collection and analysis using a scientific method, which ensures that findings are based on a careful examination of the data and not a focus on the most dramatic video clips or quotes.

The first step into a sub culture you want to study should be finding someone within that sub group. This insider is your ticket into the sub culture and discovering everything there is to know from an anthropologist perspective. This can be easily done by either contacting a friend who is part of a sub culture or through a friend of a friend. It also doesn’t hurt to contact someone in the sub culture even if you do not know them. Additionally, it is important that this client or friend is well versed in his culture that he or she is a part of and is willing to share detailed information about their sub culture.

Once you've found your way into a sub culture, you need to set up a time to interview them and experience their culture. First, ethnography provides an opportunity to find out what people actually say and do. By creating a taxonomy, you will be able to catalog the different terms or attributes that your client gives you. However, the questions that you give might lead answers that contain personal opinion and their cultural opinion put together. It isn't that people lie, it's that culturally defined ideals may not correspond to the realities of daily life. In addition, people often weed out information that they believe is extraneous to the topic at hand. Use observational and interviewing techniques to collect data that will provide a full understanding of the context surrounding the topic at hand. This background information of data is often overlooked or weeded out by participants. Because of this, it is better that you pay attention to human behavior from many angles, uncovering opportunities that might otherwise be overlooked.

Finally, it is recommended that you set up another interview with your contact or friend using your taxonomy you have created. It is at this stage that you discuss the meaning of all the cultural categories you have obtained. Through thorough questioning about the categories, you can gain a better understanding of each category. This allows you with full and complete perspective on the sub culture you have been studying.


By following these steps you should have no problem creating a ethnography on the sub culture you are studying. It is important to note that two members of a group might not reflect the entire sub cultures view on the way they live. The more effort you put into learning the sub culture, the better you will be able to understand a completely different culture then your own.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Coping with Stress: An Ethnography of Firefighters

Ryan Licht



Coping with Stress

An Ethnography of Firefighters

When I was younger, I always wanted to be a firefighter like my father. As a child, I am videos and images of firefighters doing amazing things and that nothing in the world could affect them. However, there is a dark side to firefighters that many don’t know or understand. A large portion of firefighters suffer from a side effect that comes from doing all those daring rescues.

While my father was a firefighter, I got the chance to visit the fire station many times. I will never forget the comfort and relaxed atmosphere I received from there. Quite specifically, I will never forget their comfy run down couch they had at the station.  Life at the station is described by Alex Rubenstein as laid back and a place for camaraderie. This correlates with my personal experiences with the station. The station exists as a safe haven from the chaotic world that they face every day. It serves as a home, a counselor, and a place to unwind. With the firefighters pulling 24 hour shifts, they are able to gain relationships and a strong sense of solidarity. Any relationship begins at the station is strengthened through the challenges they face outside the station.  Although the station gives off a calm and relaxed atmosphere, it can change in a moment’s notice.

Once the call is made, the station becomes a place that would seem to contradict its previous description. The entire station is blasted into action with everyone moving with a sense of urgency. Each fire station has a team whose members need to work closely together when responding to calls. Trust and the ability to work together are of the utmost importance. Additionally, working together helps create a support group to help coupe the life threatening situations. More so, the firefighters tend to gain resilience to the stress.  “You get used to it. I mean, there have been a number of times where I was eatin’ dinner, and right in the middle of dinner get a call and go over and somebody has died. I mean you just get so used to it, you see it so much of it that it doesn’t even bother you anymore” (John  169). The routine the firefighters go through numbs the shock of stress from freighting events. However, the firefighters do have ways to deal with any stress they do gain from their experiences.

Firefighters deal with stress in a number of way is to talk to the CISD team, fellow firefighters, police officers, and doctors. The other way to handle stress is through pranking one another. Pranks are essential in keeping the laid back atmosphere the station gives off. It is an important coping mechanism for firefighters. Pranks and joking work especially well because most firefighters are men, and men often use pranks and joking as a way to structure interpersonal relations and manage a hierarchy.

In conclusion, a large portion of firefighters suffer from a side effect that comes from life threatening situations. However, there many methods that the firefighters use to cope with stress. This can come from the atmosphere of the station or pranking the firefighters use on each other. Finally, we shouldn’t act as if firefighters are invincible. They are just as human as we are and deserve respect for the danger they face every day.