Ethnographic writing: The Studs Terkel model or what?
So, let’s say you’re in the middle of writing up your dissertation. You’re going through your interviews, making notes, seeing some patterns, and piecing together some of the stories you are going to tell about your fieldwork. Then you start actually outlining chapters and blocking things out. You follow with selecting certain segments of interviews you are going to use to illustrate the points you want to highlight.
So here’s the question: How do you actually decide to put all the voices into your text?
I am currently in the writing stage, and in the process of figuring out how I am going to answer this question. There are a range of ways to do this. At one end of the spectrum, there’s the sort of raw interview transcript or narrative that Studs Terkel used for books like Working. I have always found this style of presentation appealing. The other end of the spectrum is the sort of voice over technique in which the author’s voice is most dominant, maybe sprinkled here and there with fragments and quotes from interviews. In between these two poles there are many options–and of course there’s no reason why it’s not possible to employ a mixed strategy (Righteous Dopefiend by Bourgois and Schonberg comes to mind).
What’s YOUR preference–and more importantly–why?
As I already said above, I am really drawn to a style that reminds me of Terkel. I’m not sure why I am so drawn to this. Maybe it’s because when I was in my 20s I read a bunch of Jack Kerouac and all he wanted to do was transcribe raw conversations and put them in books. This style of presentations has it’s shortcomings, of course, since it can lead to a presentation that’s a bit more fragmented (in which readers have to do some of the work, in a sense, when they encounter the book). But I tend to like this sort of fragmentation, and I don’t mind it when everything isn’t all tied up nice and neat by the author.
Let me know what you all think.