Writing Ideas

How to write an Ethnographic Essay. Useful Tips

In this article, you will learn and find out how to write an ethnographic essay. We will give you useful tips and recommendations on how to do that.

What is an ethnographic essay

What is an ethnographic essay – a small volume of prose work that has an arbitrary composition and expresses individual thoughts and impressions on a particular occasion or issue. It does not claim to be a comprehensive and defining interpretation of the topic. It is a genre that lies at the intersection of artistic and journalistic (sometimes scientific and promotional) creativity.

As this variety has become very popular, we have prepared useful tips for you on how to make such a work successful.

An Essay Genre

Remember! By choosing an essay genre, you can allow yourself to be subjective; focus on the parts rather than the main; express controversial arguments with a minimum of evidence, but on the other hand, this can be dangerous – imaginary ease – write to yourself as you want. But it is not a fact that your work will be original and interesting.

Before choosing an essay genre, in this case, ethnography ideas, think and make sure you have something to say.

It will be recalled that ethnography is one of the branches of historical science that studies the origin of peoples (ethnic groups); the process of their development, the peculiarities of traditional life, material and spiritual culture.

The object of study of ethnographic science is the peoples of the world. But for each national ethnography, the study of one’s people should be the main and primary one. For only based on knowledge of one’s people can one understand and properly comprehend the essence of other peoples, see in comparison what distinguishes and kinship them.

An Essay Genre


Topic and Ideas of Ethnographic Essay

The topic and idea of the ethnographic essay may be different. Here are some ethnographic essay ideas for example:

  • traditions and customs;
  • material culture (traditional folk building, clothing, vehicles, national food);
  • Public life;
  • Features of family and home life;
  • National holidays, traditions of their celebration;
  • Customs and rituals in everyday life;
  • Folk beliefs, mythology, and demonology;
  • Historical and ethnographic zoning;
  • Folk crafts, handicrafts, their centers;

The style of the essay differs:

  • aphorism;
  • imagery;
  • paradoxically.

To choose and describe a certain style, it should be noted that ethnography is a qualitative method of research characterized by spending long periods with people. We immerse ourselves in their world to be able to observe and understand what they are saying, what they are doing, and how.

Ethnographic essays are characterized by the use of numerous means of artistic expression:

  • symbols;
  • metaphors;
  • comparison;
  • allegorical and parable images

What is Ethnography?

Ethnography is the history of the people, which includes the history of their housing, clothing, food, family life, forms of life in the broadest sense of the word. This is the history of his worldview, folk knowledge, beliefs and superstitions, rites, and customs. Recently, most scholars attribute ethnography not to historical but to social science. Therefore, in this part of the essay, we can make comparisons, describe the symbols of ethnography, and show the images that may be in the culture.

To convey the personal perception of the author of the essay you need:

  • use all sorts of associations;
  • draw parallels;
  • choose analogies.

For example, you can write about the most important ethnographic issues, namely:

  • study of the ethnic composition of individual countries and the world;
  • ethnogenesis and ethnic history of peoples;
  • reconstruction of ancient forms of social life and culture from the remnants of these forms, which have survived in modern backward peoples in socio-economic development;
  • study of modern states of ethnic traditions, assessment of their positive or negative role in people’s lives;
  • study of various aspects of modern restructuring of life and culture;
  • study of modern ethnic processes, ie changes in the course of the historical development of individual ethnic characteristics and peoples in general.

Remember that the essay will be interesting if it is attended by:

  • unpredictable (paradoxical) conclusions;
  • unexpected turns;
  • interesting clutches;

Alternatively, the limb may be as follows:

Direct observation and description of customs, life, the worldview of the people – this is the main method of ethnography. Also, it makes extensive use of written sources, artifacts, data from archeology, anthropology, geography, folklore, linguistics.

The linguistic structure of an essay is a dynamic alternation of polemical expressions, questions, problems, the use of colloquial intonation, and vocabulary.

Chronology of essays

The sequence of events (but do not focus on time ~ essays can be boring). Just remember the time. Do not try to describe in detail everything that happened in a certain period.

  • A story is an action or story that lasts until the very end of the essay, emphasizing the qualities, abilities, or knowledge related to the topic of your essay.
  • Description – a characteristic feature of such an essay is the vivid imagery of the work, which is confirmed by the rich language. And with interesting details that leave the reader impressed for a long time.
  • Comparison – this technique is mainly used about the issue on which you want to describe, for example, experience or failure.
  • Final components – the last paragraphs (paragraph) should complete your opinion and leave a bright mark in the reader’s memory.

Nine rules for writing a creative ethnographic essay

How are you advised to write an essay? Right! Creatively, What is behind this word? Most likely, the flight of thought, originality, and so on. It’s simple: the main thing is to learn nine rules.

1. Only positive language (it is better to describe what is, rather than what is not).

2. Connection words (they help to move smoothly from one part to another).

3. Different sentence structure. (Reading sentences of the correct structure is tedious. Add a few inversions. Write sentences of different lengths.)

4. Clear words. (Understand the meaning of the words you use in the essay. You write to impress with meaning, not vocabulary. Sophistication is good, but in moderation.)

5. Different words (synonymy.)

6. Conciseness.

7. Each word is important (no repetitions; each sentence must have a unique meaning).

8. Active life position.

9. Essay books are great.

The following methods are used in field ethnographic research:

  • Observation – a method in which the researcher is used in the study environment, distinguishes simple – observation from the outside or internal, when the researcher participates in the life of the studied society.
  • Survey – a method of collecting primary information. The ethnographer first compiles a questionnaire and then talks to residents about it.
  • Questionnaire – a method in which the researcher does not personally talk to the informant. But through a questionnaire (by mail, by handing out leaflets, or the press).
  • Interview – a personal conversation using a questionnaire.

It should also be noted:

The method of remnants – the study of certain phenomena that remain among the peoples, but have lost their former significance.

Comparative-functional (or cross-cultural) method that allows, by comparison, to identify common in the development of peoples, as well as their causes

You can include all these details in your essay and we are more than sure that you will get an incredible, meaningful, rich history and soul.

For example, here is what ethnographic essay you can write. We will consider the topic “Family traditions and customs.”

Also please check this article How Long Should a Personal Essay Be?

Family Rites and Customs

Family Rites and Customs

The birth rates that accompanied the birth of a child were carefully conditioned by magical acts and talismans because the sacrament of birth belonged to particularly delicate areas. When giving birth, the midwife tried to instill in the child the necessary character traits.

For the child to grow up healthy, consecrated herbs and flowers (sacred potion) were used during bathing; girls added honey and sometimes milk to the baptismal font (“so that it would be beautiful”), and the boys were given the root of a miracle (“so that they would be strong”) or an ax (“so that they could do crafts”). Everyone who came to the house during the ritual had to throw a coin “fortunately” into the baptismal font.

The wedding among Ukrainians was a real dramatic event, accompanied by music, singing, dancing, games, acquiring the character of a national holiday. It all started with matchmaking when the representatives of the bride and groom agreed on a wedding. There were cases when the girl did not consent to the marriage. Then she returned the bread they had brought to the elders, and “gave” the young man a pumpkin.

Shortly afterward, the engagement was arranged, which began with the ceremony of the position – in the expression of mutual consent of the young people to the marriage and its consecration by two families. The symbols of unity were a towel and bread. The young people were taken out to the office, the senior elder covered the bread lying on the table with a towel, but the girl’s hand on it, the boy’s hand on top and tied them with a towel. After that, the bride tied the elders with towels and gave everyone present scarves, linen, or shirts.

Between the engagement and the wedding, there was a preparation for the celebration, furnished with several rites. The main ones here were bachelorette parties (or periwinkle ceremonies), cow dung, and invitations. The hen party was arranged on the eve of the wedding as a symbol of farewell to a lonely life and was done separately in the homes of the bride and groom.

While the bride and groom gathered their wives, the cowherds – married and decent women – prepared loaves and wedding cookies (towers, cones, rolls, lovers). The main wedding bread in the Ukrainian wedding was a loaf.

The most dramatic moment of the wedding was the rite of veneration, which symbolized the transition of the bride to the community of women and the power of men – after which the general fun began. Archaic covering rite in Hutsul region. There, at the end of the dinner, the bride was called to the barn, while the musicians played a sad melody. As soon as the bridegroom heard the sounds of the violin, he ran to the barn and ate with his teeth the rope that held the metal ornaments in the braids of the bride; then all the magnificent headdress of the Hutsul princess fell apart. From now on she had to braid two braids, twist them into a circle on her head, put on a bonnet, and knit a scarf or handkerchief on top.

An important component of the wedding ceremony is still the wedding – the church consecration of marriage.

Funeral and memorial rituals were aimed both at ensuring the irreversible transition of the soul of the deceased to the world of ancestors and to protect the living from the harmful effects of the spirit of the deceased. These rites consisted of funerals and memorial services.

When a person died, all relatives and fellow villagers were notified. For this purpose, white handkerchiefs or scraps were hung on the windows of the house where the deceased lay. It was customary among the nobles to build a large hearth in front of the house of the deceased and blow trumpets.

The soul of the deceased was treated especially delicately: it was forbidden to drink water in the house of the deceased because the soul could drink it; when someone wanted to sit on a bench, he had to blow on it so as not to crush the soul of the deceased.

The removal of the coffin with the deceased was especially magical, as it was associated with the protection of the family and the household from its harmful effects. Trying to prevent the deceased from finding his way home, he was carried with his feet forward, mostly through the back door, knocking three times on the doorstep of the coffin, so that the deceased said goodbye to his ancestors and never returned.

As soon as the coffin was taken out of the house, a new pot (a symbol of the renewal of life) was smashed on the place where it stood, and the way the coffin was taken out was sprinkled with rye and barley so that no one else in the house would die.

Ukrainians strictly adhered to the semi-church custom of printing a grave, which is not known to other peoples. The priest marked the cross over the grave with a shovel during church singing and then threw the earth crosswise on the coffin.

At the end of the funeral, a meal was arranged for all those present, the obligatory dish of which was kolyvo – boiled wheat with honey. Immediately after the meal, it was customary to put a glass of vodka and a piece of bread on the window, intended for the spirit of the deceased: it is believed that he returned home for nine days. The next day they brought breakfast to the grave (“woke up the deceased”). This ended the funeral and thus began the memorial service.

The celebration of certain funeral days is associated with popular worldviews about life and death. So, it was believed that on the third day the body leaves the soul, on the ninth – the spirit, on the fortieth day the body ceases to exist.

We wish you Good Luck and we hope that the article was really interesting for you!

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