An exploration of the dialectic between theory and method in ethnography
The thesis poses three core questions: 1. What is ethnography? 2. What is the role of theory in ethnography? 3. What (and how) can ethnography contribute to the cumulative development of sociologieal theory? The thesis develops a reflexive awareness of the persuasiveness of the theory-method dialectic in ethnography. It explores the processes through which ethnography generates knowledge through social research and hence the basis upon which ethnography rests its claims about the social world. The thesis conducts a specific case study of one ethnographic 'theory' that was developed through a series of classic ethnographic research monographs. The context of the theory in relation to the historical development of ethnography is evaluated and an area for further theoretical development identified. This area was then tested in new, original fieldwork with the aim to contribute to further theoretical cumulation. The thesis offers two conclusions. The first considers what lessons have been learned through the approach to theorising used by the thesis and if it represents a model for future ethnographic research to follow. The final conclusion of the thesis calls for a greater awareness of the capacity of ethnography to contribute to theory cumulation. It suggests the role of theory has become more implicit than explicit. However, the ethnographic research conducted here has, albeit in one small case study, acknowledged the potential of theory for ethnography. This is vital if ethnography is to offer a sophisticated approach to social research and to contribute to sociological knowledge.