Ethnography – the study of social interactions and behaviours that occur within communities or organisations – is a popular approach that enables researchers to immerse themselves in a setting in order to gain a rich understanding of interactions and individuals. Here, we bring together a selection of reviews on books in sociology, politics, and anthropology that employ an ethnographic approach.

Interested in the sociology of India?

The Remembered Village, Second Edition, by M.N. Srinivas
First published in 1976, The Remembered Village is the first detailed ethnographic village study that narrates in minute detail the day-to-day social relations between members of diverse castes living in a small village community in India, and has been acknowledged as a classic by many ethnographers and anthropologists. For those new to the sociology of India this fascinating book offers an important reminder that everyday caste relations are fluid and dynamic, just as they are carefully regulated and circumscribed, writes Jamie Cross. Read more…

Interested in life in urban Hong Kong?

Ghetto at the Center of the World: Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong by Gordon Mathews
There is nowhere else in the world quite like Chungking Mansions, a dilapidated seventeen-storey commercial and residential structure in the heart of Hong Kong, home to Pakistani phone stall operators, Chinese guesthouse workers, backpacking tourists, Nepalese heroin addicts, Indonesian sex workers – possibly the most globalized spot on the planet. Gordon Mathews shows us that Chungking Mansions is emblematic of the way globalization actually works for most of the world’s people. Hyun Bang Shin finds Ghetto at the Center of the World to be a fascinating peek into the future of life on our shrinking planet. Read more…

Interested in how an Amazon tribe survived in the face of devastation?

Space and Society in Central Brazil: A Panará Ethnography by Elizabeth Ewart
Hailed once as ‘giants of the Amazon’, Panará people emerged onto a world stage in the early 1970s. What followed is a story of socio-demographic collapse, loss of territory, and subsequent recovery. Reduced to just 79 survivors in 1976, Panará people have gone on to recover and reclaim a part of their original lands in an extraordinary process of cultural and social revival. Space and Society in Central Brazil is an ethnographic account in which analytical approaches to social organisation are brought into dialogue with Panará social categories and values as told in their own terms. Andreza de Souza Santos finds that this book will appeal to students, scholars and anyone interested in the complex lives and histories of indigenous Amazonian societies. Read more…

Interested in what goes on in white nationalist group meetings?

White Bound: Nationalists, Antiracists, and the Shared Meanings of Race by Matthew W. Hughey
Matthew Hughey spent over a year attending the meetings of a white nationalist group and a white antiracist group. Though he found immediate political differences, he observed surprising similarities. Both groups make meaning of whiteness through a reliance on similar racist and reactionary stories and worldviews. Terese Jonsson finds White Boundto be both fascinating and horrifying, and ultimately a useful contribution to the sociology of race. Read more…

Interested in life along a London high street?

City, Street and Citizen: the Measure of the Ordinary by Suzanne Hall
Though authorised surveys, media representations and the current political dogma around multiculturalism have tended to produce a portrayal that purports cultural containment and social division, the speed of change in the contemporary city has never been more accelerated, nor has its populations been more variegated. Based on two years of ethnographic research in London, Suzanne Hall offers a nuanced account of urban life, alongside the underlying economic and political structure of society. Ben Campkin admires the book’s ethnographic-architectural approach. Read more…

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