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Anthropology Resources: Sources for Ethnographies

Ethnographic Films

Hofstra University Library has an excellent film collection, many of are streaming video. This collection can be searched via the online catalog.

American Indian Film Gallery
Contains 450 films about, or by, Native Americans. It is maintained by the University of Arizona. The original films are preserved by the Library of Congress.

Online Resources for Ethnographies

HAU HAU Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Network, and HAU Books. Excellent source of modern ethnographic works and the books are both modern works and classics which the site claims are not found elsewhere in all cases. HAU Journal can also be followed on Facebook.

EVIA Digital Archive: Ethnographic Video for Instruction and Analysis Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and supported by the Indiana University and the University of Michigan. Makes freely available ethnographic field videos, the bulk of which are on music. A personal account must be created using Hofstra University email and from a Hofstra University computer in order to initially authenticate our IP address. Afterward the website should be accessible from other locations.

CSAC Ethnographies Gallery Published by the Centre for Social Anthropology and Computing, University of Kent at Canterbury. This contains a small number of ethnographic studies.

HathiTrust Conntains open-access book-length items. There is much overlap with Google Books but not an entire overlap. A catalogue search, limited to Full View Only, brings up not only full-text materials, but a set of conditions by which you can limit your search (e.g. subject heading, date range, author, language).

See Smithsonian Materials for ethnographic work  on native peoples of the Americas and for for other resources.

Searching for Ethnographies

Searching for ethnographies in anthropology in the online catalogue is not a simple process.  In the catalog at Hofstra University library the subject term “ethnology” is used for the subject term “ethnography”.   It is also the replacement subject for the term “Cultural Anthropology”. (This does not apply to key word searching.)  However, using the search terms “ethnology” or “ethnography” will not produce the vast majority of ethnographies held in the catalogue. The vast majority of ethnographies do not contain those terms either in the title, in the subject terms applied, or in chapter headings in the book . Also, searching under those terms may return items which are not ethnographies.  Such searches may return histories of the field of anthropology which contain very little true ethnographic material or  return methodology books on how to conduct ethnographic research but not true ethnographies. Another problem is that books with the word “ethnography” somewhere in the title, chapter titles may be written by sociologists or by scholars in other disciplines. Such works may not be accepted by a professor in an anthropology course who may want her students to only use anthropological ethnographies.

Here are some possible ways of finding ethnographies.  None are perfect.

First the library tends to hold copies of classical ethnographies. Ask you professor for the titles. Some are Bronislaw Malinowski, Argonauts of the Western Pacific [Subject headings for this in the catalogue are Ethnology – New Guinea, Folklore – New Guinea, Trobriand Islands (Papua New Guinea)];  Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa [Subject headings for this are Samoan Islands – Social Life and Customs]; E.E. Evans-Pritchard, Kinship and Marriage Among the Nuer [Subject headings for this are Nuer (African people) – Marriage Customs and Rites, Nuer (African people) – Kinship]; E.E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer, a Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of  a Nilotic People [Subject headings for this are Nuer (African people), Indigenous peoples – South Africa].  Besides knowing the titles, and authors, for classical works in the field, searching under subjects for terms like the name of the “people” (e.g. Nuer, Cherokee) may return ethnographies.  Searching under the other terms listed here Ethnology (it sometimes works), Marriage Customs and Rites, Indigenous peoples, Kinship, Social Life and Customs, may produce ethnographies, especially if combined with the names of the “peoples”. 

Modern ethnographies can be about any group. There are urban ethnographies, ethnographies of specific modern ethnic, religious or occupational groups.  The library has purchased a large number of items in the a series entitled Anthropology of Contemporary Issues. This can be searched as a title in the catalog and should produce all holdings in that series.  Other methods are less certain to produce appropriate results. One can search for both the names of ethnic or other types of  groups  (e.g. African Americans) combined with terms like Ethnography, Social Life and Customs, Folklore and, especially, Case Studies.  Such searches produce items such as Carol B. Stack, All Our Kin [Subject headings for this are African-American families – Case Studies and Poor – United States – Case Studies.]  Another item returned is Michael Joseph Bell, The World from Brown’s Lounge: An Ethnography of Black Middle-Class Play [Subject headings for this are African Americans – Social Life and Customs, African Americans – Folklore.]  However, searches such as these produce much that is not anthropological. So it is necessary in all such find the university webpage or some other source which will tell you if the author is an anthropologist.  For instance, if the author is working in a department of anthropology she or he is probably an anthropologist although you may have to ask the professor in your anthropology course to verify this and to indicate if the work selected is appropriate for the course.


Subject Guide

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