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Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography

3.73  ·  Rating details ·  188 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
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 ...more
Paperback, 190 pages
Published May 15th 1988 by University Of Chicago Press (first published February 29th 1988)
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Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Van Maanen provides examples of three different styles of ethnographic writing:
- Realist tales (kind of matter of fact, authority assumed)
- Confessional tales (acknowledging the personal foibles and journey of the ethnographer with the result of actually increasing trust in the findings)
- Impressionist tales (dramatically telling the story of a key event - Geertz' Balinese cockfight story being perhaps the most famous example)

I know I'll find this taxonomy useful as I think about ethnography
Dec 05, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: qualtitative researchers
Written in 1988, this book is considered a classic account of how to report ethnographic research data. Writing ethnography was historically considered a matter of "style," but Van Maanen challenges this notion and presents three methods for writing up fieldwork and participant observation data.
Kristen Ghodsee
Jul 27, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing-advice
This is an extended rumination of various forms of ethnography, and the nature of different kinds of "tales" that ethnographers can tell. The book is heavy on theory, and lacks practical writing advice for those trying to write a dissertation or first book. However, it is an important theoretical contribution to the field and an important counterweight to Writing Culture. Overall, I recommend this to all students of cultural anthropology, especially the very useful epilogue in the second edition ...more
Trish Bodine
Jan 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
Van Maanen did an excellent job of sorting many of the various types of ethnographies. He provided information on how each ethnographer would gather, coalesce, and publish findings, WITH examples of how it would look in the real world. Van Maanen also has a wicked dry sense of humor, so that helps make the read an easier one.
Ann Yanchura
Mar 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
How can a text like this be amusing? And yet it was. I was entertained and surprised by Van Maanen's writing. Even better, this has given me some ideas for my own writing.
Jan 07, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: masters-program
Ethnography is not my favorite subject so I am a bit biased in my review. I honestly skipped whole huge parts of the book.
Jul 24, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography
Maanen, John Van
required text for college courses in australia, looked at the ideas of learning about culture with an open mind
Jan 04, 2008 added it
There is a funny story of a police chase.
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“...tales in search of an excuse for their telling.” 1 likes
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