What’s the first thing that you think of in relation to a new Research Question or Puzzle?
I think of the people involved. What are their perspectives? What pre-suppositions do they bring to new situations, dilemmas and contradictions facing them as they see it? How do they define relevant issues? What are their social representations of the people who make labels, categories, images and often futures about and for them? Then I have to figure out how to get answers to these questions which means, some way or another, gaining access to their lived cultures and daily meaning-making: understanding a bit about `how they go on` in answer to `why do they go on`.
It is a base line of my thinking that lived cultures are at least in part about problem solving for the experienced pressures and problems of the world. This `solving` is often collective rather than individualistic and through the use of symbols and rituals and attribution of meanings to artifacts and expressive forms rather than a matter of cognitive or abstract thought or instrumental expression. Amongst other things this means that the objects, artifacts and ritual practices of a lived cultural realm also need examination and analysis as well as context and action. The `solving` is local and without a `helicopter` view of the issues and is also both limited and enabled in particular ways by local resources and materials of meaning-making.
Importantly too, cultural actions and understandings which flow from the ways in which varieties of lived culture grapple with their conditions of existence, stress, conflict and contradiction can have unintended consequences or produce effects unimagined in their makings. Often problematic issues are not resolved or remain in tension so that the status quo ante is ironically reproduced or remains unchanged so ensuring the necessity for continued rounds of cultural exploration and challenge.
Learning to Labor: How Working Class Kids Get Working Class Jobs (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977)
Profane Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1978)
The Ethnographic Imagination (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000)