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Ethnographic Interview and Cultural Analysis of Kinship, Ethnicity and Gender from an Emic and Etic Perspective Description: This exercise is designed to get you thinking about culture by doing a l

Ethnographic Interview and Cultural Analysis of Kinship, Ethnicity and Gender from an Emic and Etic Perspective   Description:  This exercise is designed to get you thinking about culture by doing a l

Ethnographic Interview and Cultural Analysis of Kinship, Ethnicity and Gender from an Emic and Etic Perspective


This exercise is designed to get you thinking about culture by doing a little anthropological research of your own.  You will conduct an ethnographic interview and present your data in an essay incorporating the themes and concepts you have learned in this class (ie. kinship, marriage, social relationships, ethnic identity and behavior and gender roles).  It is important that you follow the guidelines carefully and cover all the information in the instructions.

Ethnographic Interview:                                                                                  

Choose an older relative to interview (parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, but not an older sibling). Refer to this person either by their name or as “my subject,” NOT as my parent, grandparent, etc.

Ask your subject about the following:

  1. Who are their relatives by blood, marriage and any others who they consider kin or kin-like (fictive kin, friends that act like family, etc). Ask your subject to think back as many generations as possible and then use this information to create a kinship chart where you identify their name and kinship relationship to your subject (ego).
  1. Find out how they feel about different relatives and who they socialize with and on what occasions. What constitutes their support network (who would they call on for help)?
  1. Which ethnic group does your subject identify with? What material objects express their ethnic identity (home décor: pictures, artwork, statues, or personal items)? Are most of your subject’s friends from the same ethnic group? Has your subject ever experienced ethnic prejudice of any kind and how did they deal with it?
  1. What does gender mean to your subject? Which gender does your subject identify with? Does your subject conform to mainstream gender expectations? Which aspects of their gender role are most satisfying and which do they wish they could have changed (for example, their domestic role, occupation ,or job)? Has your subject experienced gender or sexual harassment or inequality? If so, how was it handled?

Take careful notes and include direct quotes in your analysis:


  1. What kind of relationships does/did your subject have with other family members? For example: How often do they see one another? How often do they communicate?  Were they close at one time, but not any longer? Where do they live?  What factors affect the closeness or distance in their relationships?
  1. What kinds of things do kin share or exchange with one another? Do they help each other out in any way – getting jobs, finding places to live, loaning money, babysitting, giving and getting advice? With whom do they socialize, share holidays, and special occasions?
  1. What are the most memorable aspects of their ethnic affiliation and experience (church, temple or mosque gatherings, holidays, special foods, education and teachings, clubs or other ethnic associations)? Has your subject had any negative experiences related to their ethnicity.
  1. Is your subject satisfied with his or her designated gender role?

Draw a kinship chart:

Be sure to include each person’s name and relationship (including the relationship term – ie. mother, half-sister, uncle, partner, lover, etc.) to the subject. Remember to include yourself in the chart, but the person you interviewed will be the “EGO” of the chart.  Your chart should include 3-4 generations.  HINT: You can make the chart in Miscrosoft Word by inserting triangles and circles and text boxes (these can be found on the “Insert” tab at the top)…or you can draw it by hand and scan or photograph it.

Include your notes when you submit your paper:

Type up your interview notes (2-3 pages minimum) and attach them with your paper.

Write your essay based on what you learned from your interview and from constructing the kinship chart:


In the introduction of your paper, introduce your subject, their relationship to you, life events (age, occupation, where your subject was born, where your subject lived) and identify the subject’s social, cultural, and ethnic identity.

In the body of the paper, summarize your subject’s kinship and family organization based on the answers from your ethnographic interview. This is your subject’s emic perspective.

  1. Describe the marriage traditions and kinship ties (including size, closeness, and cultural attitudes towards family, versus non-family relationships). Specify the occasions or contexts when family members interact, what they do, and how they feel about one another. How does this compare to their interactions with non-family members?
  2. How do they define their ethnicity and how do they feel about it?
  3. How do they describe their gender role? Are they satisfied or do they wish there was something they could have changed or done differently? Have they experienced gender bias or harassment and what impact has it had on their life?

Write a one-page conclusion using the etic perspective (your point of view as a researcher and anthropologist, not as a family member).  

  1. Does your subject know relatives on both the maternal and paternal sides of the family equally?  Why or why not?
  2. Who are the most important kin in terms of influence and decision-making?  Why do you, as the researcher, think this is?  What kinds of things do kin do for one another?
  3. Is your subject ethnically aware of his or her family and culture history? How does their ethnicity affect their daily life and social identity?
  4. Does your subject’s emic view on ethnicity and gender coincide with your etic observation? Why or why not?
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