Home    Number 3, 2022

How Ethnographic Is Ethnographic Interview?

[Etnografichno li etnograficheskoe interv’iu?]

DOI: https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541522030058


Type of publication: Research Article

Submitted: 12.07.2021

Accepted: 30.07.2021

About author(s)

Aleksandra Kasatkina | https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8827-9696 | alexkasatkina@gmail.com | National Research University Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg (16 Soyuza Pechatnikov St., St. Petersburg, 190121, Russian Federation)


interview, participant observation, fieldwork methods, history of ethnography, linguistic anthropology, dialogic theory, Bakhtin


Fieldwork conversation is part and parcel of the participant observation method to such an extent that analyzing its specifics is rarely deemed necessary in anthropological or ethnographic practice. Fieldwork conversation is often interchangeably called “interview”, yet I would argue that the latter term may be rather thought of as referring to sociological methods of inquiry. The interview genre not infrequently makes the interlocutor adopt the position of an outsider vis-à-vis his or her own culture, which goes counter to the very point of participant observation. This may make anthropologists feel uneasy about the question of how ethnographic the ethnographic interview really is. I argue that fieldwork conversation – and fieldwork interview as a formally institutionalized genre of the latter – may require special analytic tools designed specifically for the context of oral communication. Viewing ethnographic interview as a speech situation and employing concepts of Bakhtin’s dialogic theory, I attempt to show how the use of methods targeted at the analysis of speech helps us receive better answers to the ethnographic questions that we pose. As a case in point, I draw on the experience of my own fieldwork conversations or interviews with garden owners in the Leningrad region.


Kasatkina, A.K. 2022. Etnografichno li etnograficheskoe interv’iu? [How Ethnographic Is Ethnographic Interview?] Etnograficheskoe obozrenie 3: 71–87. https://doi.org/10.31857/S0869541522030058 EDN:  HUEUZU

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