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by Peter Moskos

April 23, 2008

Brave ethnographic confession from Cop in the Hood

Professor Corey J. Colyer of West Virginia University sent me the following email:


This note is motivated by a remark you make about your methods in the first chapter of Cop in the Hood. It is rare (and therefore refreshing) to see an ethnographer admit that they failed to capture details in their notes. We get tired, overwhelmed, and even bored in our efforts to craft moderately complete ethnographic records. The bulk of the methods literature (in my humble opinion) unrealistically frames the good ethnographer as a tireless scribe, who dutifully returns to the desk after a long day in the field to generate thousands of pages of notes. This leads to what I describe as "ethnographer's guilt" and worries of being a fraud. I've never measured up to this model and it's nice to see someone as talented as yourself admit to this as well. [By that I mean, you seem to more than adequately support your assertions with rich ethnographic detail]. I suppose it makes me feel less like a fraud as I return to my manuscript this morning.

I'll sharing that section of your first chapter with my graduate level methods class next Monday.

With respect,

Corey J. Colyer, PhD
Assistant Professor
Division of Sociology
School of Applied Social Sciences
West Virginia University
PO Box 6326
Morgantown, WV 26506-6326

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