Project 3 - Literacy Ethnography

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Course: English 1101 Instructor: Anthony Borrero Email: Aborrero@uncc.edu

Project #3: Literacy Ethnography I. Introduction: Throughout this semester, you have explored your personal history with literacy from multiple angles, and in doing so, have seen that the concept literacy is far from simple or one-dimensional. But while your own literacy history has proven to be a complex web of different experiences, values, and practices, consider how the literacy history of other people, or more specifically, other cultures creates an even wider scope for how you can view and understand the acts of reading, writing, and communication. In the same manner that you have developed your own ideas, beliefs, and practices for literacy, cultures from all around the world have also established their own understanding of what literacy is. While the ideas and practices that other cultures use to define literacy may be different from your own views, it is important to consider what author John F. Szwed refers to as, the social meaning of literacy, or to put it another way, how each culture defines literacy, what it is that the culture reads and writes about, and how they go about engaging the acts of reading and writing in that particular society (Szwed). In order to explore how other cultures define and engage with the act of literacy, your final project will consist of you selecting a sub-culture, engaging with and studying that culture through first-hand participation, and composing an ethnographic research piece in which you describe how that particular culture conceives and practices the concept of literacy. Before we look at your final project in more detail though, lets learn a little more about ethnographic research. What is Ethnography?: In chapter two of Thinking Through Theory, author James Zebroski introduces the concept of ethnography by stating that Ethnographic writing is writing about a people and their way of life, their lived experience (Zebroski 32). Although the goal of ethnographic writing may have multiple objectives, in Participant Observation, author James Spradley asserts that the general goal of all ethnographies is to understand another way of life from a native point of view (Spradley 3). Having said that, for this ethnographic study, your goal will not only be for you to understand another way of life, but more specifically, how that way of life and the context of that culture create unique views, ideas, and practices for literacy. II. Assignment Description: For this project, you will attempt to construct the social meaning of literacy for a specific sub-culture of your choosing. To do this, you will select a sub-culture; conduct preliminary research on that culture; observe, record, and analyze that culture through first-hand participation and interviews; and finally, you will compose a research piece about your sub-cultures literacy in a genre that is appropriate for that culture. In short, the goal of this assignment is to respond to three main points: 1. Explain the culture that you are studying. 2. Explain what is it that people read and write. 3. Explain why, how, and under what circumstances reading and writing are done. In the course of responding to these points, you will engage with multiple sources in order to explain the context that literacy is occurring within, your own opinion(s) on how literacy impacts this culture, and will use all of the resources at your disposal in order to assess what the social meaning of literacy is for this culture.

Course: English 1101 Instructor: Anthony Borrero Email: Aborrero@uncc.edu

While each section of this project will be explained in detail once it is assign, in short, you will complete your ethnography in four main parts: Part 1: Establish Context To begin this project, you will select a sub-culture and conduct preliminary research in order to gain insight within that cultures history, and to get a sense of what various authors have already said about that subculture. Once you have gathered and analyzed your sources, you will explain what the conversation between authors entails, what you learned about that culture that you did not know before, and what you hope to add to the conversation through exploring your sub-cultures literacy practices and beliefs. Part 2: Make Contact Once you have established context for your study by familiarizing yourself with what has already been said about your culture, for the second part of your study, you will actually engage with your culture through firsthand participant observation. Within your observations, you will go to one specific site (and I do stress ONE site) and will record data about the people, location, events, actions, and artifacts within that sub-culture. In short, you will learn about your sub-culture and how they define and engage with literacy through actually seeing your culture, interviewing insiders, and if possible, participating in practices. Part 3: Conduct Analysis Following observations, the third part of your study will entail analysis of the data you have gathered, as well as additional research. In short, for this part of the project, you will analyze the observation notes you have taken, the textual artifacts you have gathered from your site, and the sources you have found in order to draw conclusions about how your culture defines literacy, what it is that they read, what it is that they write, and the social context that reading and writing occur within. Part 4: Synthesize Your Findings For the final phase of your project, you will synthesize your research data, sources, and opinions through composing an ethnographic research piece that attempts to communicate the social meaning of literacy for your sub-culture. While most research pieces take the form of a standard essay, for this project, you may compose your ethnography in any genre you choose. The only stipulations for the genre are that it must be appropriate for your sub-culture, and the genre must allow for an extensive discourse to take place (this means that the genre should be based on a text that insiders of your culture would read or write through, and must be flexible enough to allow for detailed engagement with your topics). Also, while there is no required page count, your project will be assessed on your ability to utilize multiple sources, your ability to contextualize your culture, and most importantly, the depth of your engagement with issues of literacy. III. Sources: In order to complete this project, you will have to conduct research using a variety of primary sources (i.e. field notes, interviews, etc.) as well as secondary texts which can support your claims. Among the secondary texts you can use, some include, but are not limited to, books, articles, journals, magazines, web pages, and other academic sources. While I cannot determine how many sources you will need to complete your essay, I will say that your projects must engage with a variety of sources, and that these sources must be used within the paper, must be documented using in-text citations, and must be cited within your works cited page. Remember: This is a research paper. Failure to use secondary research materials within your paper will have a drastic effect on your grade and may result in failure for the project. IV. Purpose of Assignment: Although the primary purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to the process for writing an academic research paper and various research methods, this assignment will also emphasize various methods for conducting an interview, MLA citation methods, note taking skills, and of course, the cultural knowledge gained from conducting your ethnography.

Course: English 1101 Instructor: Anthony Borrero Email: Aborrero@uncc.edu

Works Cited Dean, Deborah. Genre Theory: Teaching, Writing, and Being. Urbana, IL: NCTE, 2008. Print. Spradley, James. Participant Observation. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1980. Print. Szwed, John F. The Ethnography of Literacy. Perspectives on Literacy. Ed. Eugene R. Kintgen, Barry M. Kroll, Mike Rose. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988. 303-312. Print. Zebroski, James. Thinking through Theory: Vygotskian Perspectives on the Teaching of Writing. Portsmouth, NH: Boynton/Cook, 1994. Print. Zemliansky, Pavel. Chapter 10: Ethnographic Research.Methods of Discovery: A Guide to Research Writing.30 April 2008. Web. 24 Sept. 2010.

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