Sunday, April 14, 2013

Ethnographic interview essay

The goal of ethnographic interviewing is to understand and appreciate experiences and worldviews of people who are different from us. We do this by asking the client to be a cultural guide. The practitioner is no longer the expert, but a learner. The social worker assumes a position of informed not-knowing, in which the clients educate the practitioner about their lives.

This information should come from the client own words, since they can offer the most accurate description of their experience (Walker, 1997). Please follow the writing guidelines for this paper. There is a minimum of 3-5 resources required for this paper. This paper will be turned in two parts on the date indicated on the course schedule. 
Chose a person to interview who is culturally different from you in one or more ways. Use the following categories as guidelines: 
Sexual Orientation


  • Include who you are interviewing and why you wanted to interview them.

  • The name of the interviewee has been changed to protect his confidentiality. He shall be called "Robert." He was chosen because of his mention that he had a boyfriend. We very recently became acquainted and had not spoken on a personal level prior to the interview. He appeared open and comfortable with his sexuality, and appeared to exhibit a high amount of insight about people and himself when speaking.

  • Why was interviewing this person important to you?

  • The interviewee was approachable and seemed interesting and friendly. He likely would make a good friend.

  • What did you want to know about them? 

  • Prior to the interview, I was interested in the journey he had been on which led him to being apparently comfortable with his sexuality enough to share the fact that he had a boyfriend with relative strangers. To the extent that not being straight is less than acceptable as a societal norm, Robert's openness and sociability did not match that of many homosexual males I had met before.
  • I was interested in his family's reaction to his coming out, how relationships were similar and different from my own socialized understanding on norms, and the cultural resistance he may have struggled with.
  • His relationship history was of interest to me, particularly the development of his interest in men, how early he knew, and how he interpreted those feelings when they occurred and how he interprets them now.
  • The reactions of family and friends were of interest to me, and particularly how these reactions created motivation within him.
  • Any particular struggles what were specific to his experience as a gay man in American culture were of interest.

  • What were your assumptions about them going into the interview?

  • It was assumed that Robert was strictly homosexual, prior to the interview. This turned out to be an incorrect assertion. He reminded me of the film "Kinsey," which followed Alfred Kinsey's research on sexuality in the 1940s and 1950s. Kinsey's research yielded a view of sexual preference on a continuum, a paradigm shift in thought at the time. Additionally, Kinsey was depicted in the film as responsible for beginning a trend in American thought that homosexuality and sexuality in general are not sinful activities, but instead perfectly natural (Condon, 2004).
  • I was under the impression that Robert would not be as open about his sexual history as he ended up being. He was very candid and descriptive. My observation during the interview was that he had thought through and processed much of what he talked about with me prior to the interview. He was quite prepared to talk for a long time on the subject, and did not appear the least bit apprehensive. While I expected that he would be articulate and descriptive, the level of detail and nuance in his story was a surprise.
  • Due to my bias, I assumed Robert's sexuality would be set. I didn't expect that his sexuality would be the organic, ever changing process that he described. This was a theme of the interview - that a person's sexuality can change. He told the story of his sexuality from the age of six, right up to the day of the interview.

  • What did you assume you would learn?

  • It is hard to say what exactly I thought I would learn from the interview, as I didn't know until after I learned it. I felt sure that I would acquire a new experience, and gain practice in attuning to what it is like to be someone else. Meeting with Robert to discuss his history was certainly an opportunity for growth and learning. I feel that the experience has heightened my awareness of sexuality issues and expanded my understanding of what it is to be a human being.

  • State clearly your interview question or statement which encompasses what you want to know. For example; What is the experience of a Latina woman who is the first in her family to go to college? (1 pages)

  • Interview question: Please tell the story of your sexuality from as far back as you can remember. 
Interview Summary:

  • Where did the interview take place? Do you think this affected the outcome of the interview in any way?

  • The interview took place in Robert's apartment. I believe this was an ideal location, as he was in familiar territory and in a safe place for him. As the interviewer, I was on his turf, so hopefully the flow of communication was not adulterated by the environment.

  • Include a BRIEF synopsis of topics covered in the interview.  Interview should be no longer than one hour in length. All interviews to be audio-taped. (1 page)

  • Robert talked, almost uninterrupted, for about 35 minutes.
  • sexual experience with male on soccer team when 6 yrs old. wanted to see what it was like to kiss girls, and explored themselves in the bath. another experience happened about 2 years later. catholic parents were upset, thought taken advantage of. Robert interpreted it as normal and healthy. after that felt scared to explore relationships with males, worried at some level that the experience would happen again.
  • Pursued females after that, thinking little about males in a romantic way. Talked with girls all the time. Then got the internet, and used to watch porn on the internet, entirely male-female and female-female, which he liked. Then got interested in transexual or transgender pornography when came across it. Often feminine looking transgender pornography. "That just really resonated with me." What he found sexually attractive: women, many kinds of women, often stronger or masculine women. Also more feminine men, not genitalia, more the personality and makeup of the person. "I couldn't date a bear." Attracted to lesbian-type women, like the strong version of femininity. Could date women, masculine women, and feminine men. A blend of feminitiy and masculinity.
  • in high school dated females throughout. had several relationships, romantic encounters with females.
  • started working at a mental health job, as a liason to the Sacramento Gay and Lesbian Center. That was before he ever told anyone he was anything but heterosexual. Was part of groups of high school students getting kicked out of home, made fun of at school, because they were gay. He began to see that he was perhaps not entirely heterosexual, and not perfectly bisexual, and not entirely homosexual. After seeing the movie Kinsey, he realized that
  • Now refers to himself as "not straight." He felt like that fit him, because he's not gay, bi or straight.
  • Is currently in a relationship with a man, who is certainly a guy, but more feminine.  "That was the first person of the same sex who I really fell head over heels for."
  • Remembers first make-out session with his now-boyfriend, which occurred at a party
  • Had a lot of struggles afterwards. Brother was already doing pro-LGBT writings and films, and was very accepting.
  • Stepmom came from strict Chinese culture, had a hard time at first. After a short time she became more accepting. Extended family members were comfortable with him after he came out.
  • One cousin used Robert coming out as a chance to gossip, but the family rejected
  • Biological mom cried, wasn't sure what to do when he told her. Later in the conversation she

  • first said that she still loved him, but couldn't accept that. then she accepted it because she saw that he made him happy, secure, and

  • Had issues in the beginning in the relationship

  • couldn't tell if just didn't like sex with a man as much, or if he was less experienced. Now that problem is not a

  • other issues: sometimes not sure if will be content just having sex with not
  • ami i afriad of being with one person for the rest of my life, or just one sex. hard to reconcile at this point. at this point. still working on that, thinking about that. very content w
Literature Review:

  • You have collected several articles, chapters, etc. Integrate the information you have found throughout the literature review. Using this method you will need to be able to clearly understand the concepts in the different material to make smooth transitions. The information should flow and not be choppy. This literature review should include clear connections and/or transitions between the literature and the interview (see Course Writing Expectations) (3 pages)
Themes and Discussion:

  • After you have completed the interview, you will need to listen to the interview and choose a theme or themes which emerged during the interview. This means you may have to listen to the tape more than once. A theme is defined by the client and interpreted by you. This mutual exploration is an important part of the ethnographic process.

  • Another theme of the interview is that a person's sexuality is individual to them. Robert described situations where he was exposed to many other people's sexual preferences and practices. These mostly were not in the form of sexual encounters, but when working as an LGBT teen advocate and coming in contact with various people over the years. Robert was extremely open to various expression of sexuality, including women with women, women with men, men with men, and transgender people with other transgender people, men and women.
  • Robert's perspective does not fit the traditional American sexual identity, which is unfortunate in my opinion. American culture has an ideal of sexuality which comes from Christianity, that sexuality is a sin which can only be redeemed if it is for the sake of reproduction. this carries with it the idea homosexuality is wrong, as well as bisexuality, or sexuality with transgender people. Sexuality is viewed as if there is way it ought to be. Short snippets in the bible have been used to justify this stance (Hubbard, 2007). Over time, this ideal has morphed into an implied social norm that is pervasive in our cultural psyche. Due to the evangilism which spread Christianity through the centuries, much of the world subscribes to this rigidity as well.

  • Discuss why you chose the theme.

  • These the themes of sexuality as a dynamic and individual occurrence were of chosen because they seemed to characterize Robert's experiences and beliefs and conflict with traditional American values.

  • Did it fit into your original question?

  • The themes fit with my original question regarding Robert's sexual exploration and history because they summarized his story.

  • Include excerpts of what was said which was meaningful to you or to the interviewee.
  • Was it the opposite?
  • Were there other themes that also overlapped or were relevant?
  • Be cautious not to choose too many themes. (2 pages) 

  • Bias can be introduced simply by observing. Did you find this to be true in your interview? 

  • I kept my comments, questions and clarifications to a minimum in order to avoid the likelihood that my bias disrupt the interview. However inevitably I introduced bias by simply being present. Perhaps the content was changed or selectively chosen to produce answers which matched what it appeared to him that I was looking for. I believe that bias played a small role in the overall content, as Robert spoke with an noticeable level of confidence and contentment with himself. Robert's speech was accepted as a valid and reliable form of data; he was not challenged by me in person or in this paper.

  • Why or why not?  
  • Were you trying to solve a problem or simply listening?
  • Whether or not you understand the person’s point of view, were you able to accept their voice as a valid and reliable realistic form of data? 
  • As a social work professional how does this information impact your understanding of this particular group?

  • As a social work professional, I have grown immensely from this experience, and hope to have many more experiences like this. Due to the nature of our relationship, which was neither close friend nor client, I feel I was able to gain a valuable and relatively unbiased look into the life a human being whose sexuality does not fit the callous Christian-American stereotype. As a professional I will be more culturally competent, in an area that I will need experience to be truly effective. Cultural competence does not come simply from reading academic articles on the subject. Cultural competence and comfortability comes from having relationships with people who have various cultural identities different from one's own. As a result of such relationships, I make a special effort to be sensitive and apologetic with all people when attempting to assist them.

  • Bein, A. (2003) The ethnographic perspective. In Anderson and Carter (2003) Diversity Perspectives for Social Work Practice. pp. 133-145. Allyn and Bacon: Boston.

People with disabilities. In Critical Multicultural Social Work. Pp. 67-79

Hubbard, R. (2007). The Social construction of sexuality. In Rothenberg, P. (7th ed). Race, Class and Gender. Worth Publishers: New York, NY. Pp. 65-68

 united states culture has an ideal of sexuality which comes from christianity; that sexuality is a sin that can only be redeemed if it is for the sake of reproduction. this carries with it the idea that homosexuality is wrong. short snippets in the bible have been used to justify this stance (Hubbard, 2007). over time, this ideal has morphed into an implied social norm that is pervasive in our cultural psyche. and due to the evangilism which spread christianity through the centuries, much of the world holds this belief as well.
homosexuality morphed from a moral and spiritual problem to a medical problem in the 1900s. still a problem, nonetheless.

Adams, M. Blumenfeld,W.J., Castañda, R., Hackman, H. W., Peters, M.L. Zúñiga, X. (2000). Readings for diversity and social justice.  An anthology on racism, Anti-Semitism, heterosexism, ableism and classism. Pp. 39-49

Sommer, C.S, Weatherman, S.M. and Cox, D. L. (2005) Reflections on Heterosexual Privilege, S., and Middleton, V. (2005). Explorations in Privilege, Oppression and Diversity.  Pp 65-72. Brooks/Cole: Belmont, CA

Perez, A (2005). Internalized oppression: How it affects member of the LBGT community. The Diversity Factor. Winter. Vol 13 (1)


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