Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography, Second Edition

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University of Chicago Press, 2011 - Social Science - 216 pages
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For more than twenty years, John Van Maanen’s Tales of the Field has been a definitive reference and guide for students, scholars, and practitioners of ethnography and beyond. Originally published in 1988, it was the one of the first works to detail and critically analyze the various styles and narrative conventions associated with written representations of culture. This is a book about the deskwork of fieldwork and the various ways culture is put forth in print. The core of the work is an extended discussion and illustration of three forms or genres of cultural representation—realist tales, confessional tales, and impressionist tales. The novel issues raised in Tales concern authorial voice, style, truth, objectivity, and point-of-view. Over the years, the work has both reflected and shaped changes in the field of ethnography.

In this second edition, Van Maanen’s substantial new Epilogue charts and illuminates changes in the field since the book’s first publication. Refreshingly humorous and accessible, Tales of the Field remains an invaluable introduction to novices learning the trade of fieldwork and a cornerstone of reference for veteran ethnographers.  


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impressionists and its advocates


1 Fieldwork Culture and Ethnography
2 In Pursuit of Culture
3 Realist Tales
4 Confessional Tales
5 Impressionist Tales
6 Fieldwork Culture and Ethnography Revisited

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About the author (2011)

John Van Maanen is the Erwin H. Schell Professor of Management and professor of organization studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of numerous books.

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