Ethnography is a very abstract concept, but often perceived as a very concrete practice, but what is hidden in the slippage between the abstract and concrete, as ethnography moves. While a great deal has been written and debated about the practices, methods and outcomes of applied research, and we appreciate these debates, our own point of departure lies in a curiosity over what happens in the processes of travel, translation and reappropriation – as a methodological stance moves from one sphere of inquiry to another. And it lies in a concern that there is much more methodological information streaming out of the university than into it. What can we learn by turning an interested ear in new directions? This paper takes its point of departure in a series of observations made during a period of fieldwork in the United States in which we studied and spoke with ethnographers working outside the academy. By juxtaposing a number examples from vastly different contexts in which ethnography is applied, the authors strive to illuminate the very different meanings that are attributed to ethnography as well as the diverse ways in which ethnography (both the concept and the series of methods associated with it) is practiced and invoked. As the paper argues, the meanings attributed to ethnography not only affect the practices attributed to it, but ultimately even to the life circumstances of the people working with it
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