15 Microethnography: The Study of Practices

Authored by: Jürgen Streeck , Siri Mehus

Handbook Of Language And Social Interaction

Print publication date:  November  2004
Online publication date:  December  2004

Print ISBN: 9780805842401
eBook ISBN: 9781410611574
Adobe ISBN: 9781135634155


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The term microethnography, which has come to denote the microscopic analysis of naturally occurring human activities and interactions, has a curious history. It was originally suggested by F. Strodtbeck to L. M. Smith and W Geoffrey, two educational researchers who adopted the term to characterize their ethnographic strategy for analyzing the “complexities of an urban classroom” (Smith & Geoffrey, 1968, p. 3). Adopting E. T. Hall’s concept of the “silent language” (Hall, 1959), they intended to “describe the silent language of a culture, a classroom in a slum school, so that those who have not lived it will appreciate its subtleties and complexities” (Smith & Geoffrey, p. 2).

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