In this chapter, we write collaboratively about doing collaborative ethnography. We primarily draw on Eric and Beth's work over many years in establishing and developing the field of collaborative ethnography through their published work (see Lassiter et al, 2004; Lassiter, 2005; Lassiter and Campbell, 2010; Campbell and Lassiter, 2010; Campbell and Lassiter, 2015).
Bringing Eric and Beth to Rotherham from the US, and to the Rotherham team's encounter with them, through the support of Professor Graham Crow, was vital for the writing of this book. Graham Crow is a Professor of Sociology and Methodology at the University of Edinburgh and was the original principle Investigator of the ‘Imagine’ project. We introduce collaborative ethnography as a methodology, but also describe the encounter that led to writing this book. This is a multi-voiced piece of writing, which begins with a discussion about the nature of research itself, and then moves on to describe the research encounter.
What are we doing when we do research?
Research methods are often presented in a ‘how to’ way. In this section, we muse on the way in which they are often taught, but then move on to a more philosophical discussion about the nature of research as a learning process. We begin by asking the question: What are we doing when we do research?
When people start out in doing research, very often they are introduced to ‘research methods’ courses, especially if they are studying at universities. These often explain the ‘best way’ of extracting information from people: through interviews, focus groups, surveys or participant observation. Very often, these courses teach a certain rubric. You start off with how to conduct an interview and develop a few practice questions. You work on defining your research question, before you go into the field. These courses tend to assume that the university researcher knows what they are doing, and that they know what they will find out, and how they will find it out. before you go into the field. These courses tend to assume that the university researcher knows what they are doing, and that they know what they will find out, and how they will find it out. In my work, I (Kate) had previously worked in communities where I often did not know best how things should be.