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date: 19 October 2018

Ethnography Across Borders

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. Please check back later for the full article.

Ethnography’s project has been about cultural representation. This implies a gaze and set of questions, even assumptions, about who is being represented, by whom, and what for. In this sense, ethnography always happens across borders, even while the ethnographer is expected to permeate these through embedded practice. What is meant, then by “ethnography across borders”? Is not the enterprise of conducting ethnographies always marked by border crossing? How does border crossing differ when producing meta-ethnographies? Here, the work changes from crossing a border to conduct primary data collection, to crossing a border to engage in a comparative process. Such a shift heightens the importance of interrogating cultural representation, the positionality of the ethnographers, the multiple contexts in which they are and are not situated, and how perspectives on cultural representation are marked by border relations. Borders are necessarily evoked—geo-political, social, cultural, and personal ones. Ethnography across borders emerges, in this instance, as a methodology and stance to deconstruct the ways in which ethnographers and ethnographies are radically situated in their own histories, and how radical contextualization of those histories is required to uncover the limits of cultural representation, and hence ethnography, as a tool to understand the lives of people, their histories, and their communities.