Ethnography and phenomenology are methodologies used to understand human behavior. Ethnography is the study of culture through its artifacts, while phenomenology is the study of subjective experience. This blog post will explore the differences between these two concepts in more detail!
What is Ethnography?
Ethnography came from the Greek word ‘ethnos,’ which means ‘folk’ or ‘people,’ and ‘graphein,’ which is ‘writing [Source].
Ethnography is a scientific way of describing people’s cultures and habits. It looks at cultural phenomena from the perspective of the study’s topic. Ethnography qualifies as social research in which an examination of the behavior of certain participants is carried out. The study will also look at how the participants interpret their behavior.
Ethnographic skills include interviewing and observing. Also, it considers the participation of the subjects under study, and their input is vital in explaining certain things they do. As a form of study, ethnography emphasizes conducting research from the inside rather than outside. It also involves observing people in their ‘cultural context’ [Source].
Ethnography is divided into two categories, namely descriptive and critical ethnography. Descriptive Ethnography focuses on describing cultures or groups, uncovering patterns and types or categories, and is generally not explicitly ‘ideological. Critical Ethnography has an explicit ideological intent [Source].
What is Phenomenology?
Phenomenology is a method that focuses on consciousness and observable things. It’s a type of study that examines our past experiences. Edmund Husserl founded the philosophical movement in the early 20th century. His followers, who met at universities in Germany, later expanded upon his ideas.” [Source].
It can also be defined as studying subjective experiences based on the first-person perspective. This means that a person has a way of looking at things that helps them understand what is happening in their life.
Phenomenology is sometimes known as the philosophy of experience. It implies that human beings lived experiences are the ultimate Source of all meaning and value.
Phenomenology is the study of “phenomena.” This includes the appearances of things and the ways we experience them. Phenomenology also looks at the meanings things have in our experience.
Similarities between Ethnography and Phenomenology
The Similarity between ethnography and phenomenology is that both concepts are qualitative research studies, and they can be used in social sciences [Source]. As qualitative approaches, they deal with unquantifiable social issues such as cultures, norms, and any other social values. Both ethnography and phenomenology are mostly used in understanding human behavior and people’s perception of their behavior at any given point. This also means that ethnography and phenomenology can be described as humanistic concepts since they are inclined to human behaviors and perceptions.
Difference between Ethnography and Phenomenology
The difference between ethnography and phenomenology is that Ethnography is the “systematic study of people and cultures.” In contrast, phenomenology is the “study of subjective, lived experiences and perspectives of participants.” Also, ethnography’s main focus is on collective experiences within a certain culture. For instance, a society with the same religion or cultural beliefs. Phenomenology, on the other hand, is inclined to individual experiences. This means that individualism is an aspect of phenomenology while ethnography looks into universal elements such as shared values or common traditional and cultural ties which connect people.
Ethnography can be applied on a broader spectrum, like studying a huge community, compared to phenomenology, which focuses on individuals’ perceptions. According to ethnography, humans can have shared experiences, but phenomenology believes in individualistic experience as the most important. In terms of carrying out research, ethnography takes a lot of time compared to phenomenology [Source].