Summary of “Why Ethnography” By Penelope Eckert

According to the article “Why Ethnography?”, Eckert examines adolescents and the stages of life a person goes through. The main argument that Eckert is analyzing is that socioeconomic class has an impact on adolescents more than people think it does. In this article, Eckert uses the type of students who are considered to be   the “jocks” and “burnouts.” The jocks are described as being the students who care for their future, dress very regularly, usually go to study, complete some work for the school like go to football games, and talk with other jocks. Students who are deemed as ‘burnouts’ tend to dress, talk, act differently compared to the jocks they; do more of what they want and don’t speak the same as jocks or have the same goals as them. The information that Eckert uses to support her views are valid and help her argument. An example of this is when she goes to a high school and studies the students that attend the school and see how they act and talk with each other. The jocks are students who pay attention in school, want to do well in classes, and end up applying to go to college. Burnouts are people who don’t care much for school and will end up working at a small job after they graduate high school and don’t mind that. Furthermore, whether the students are jocks or burnouts through their own social choice, affects what kind of friends or people they associate themselves with. The type of person you are becoming now leads to you forming your friend groups and socioeconomic group in the future. The central purpose of Eckert presenting this article is because it determines that although all the students studied are considered to be middle class when they get older. Choosing their future based on who they are really as a person directs them to engage and talk to other people who are seeking the same kind of future as them. Many people connect with others based on their personality as well. People who are determined enough and work hard will end up going where they want to and pursue the path they want, and their socioeconomic class can support their journey. 

Eckert, Penelope. n.d. “Why Ethnography?” https://web.stanford.edu/~eckert/PDF/whyethnography.pdf.

One thought on “Summary of “Why Ethnography” By Penelope Eckert

  1. You have a clear statement of what the argument of the article is. However, you’ve significantly mischaracterized the argument. The author uses class as an example of something she thought would be a determining factor before she started her research but turned out not to be nearly as important as she assumed it would.

    In reviewing the evidence you don’t give your reader many specifics. Importantly for this context, you don’t mention the features of language Eckert finds to differ between groups. You might also go into a bit more about how the two groups differ in terms of activities. You should expand on your idea that what sets the two groups are that the members of each are, as you say, “seeking the same future” though in general the two groups are oriented in different directions.

    Your discussion of the contribution would benefit from a careful review of the author’s conclusion. For example, if the title of the paper is “Why Ethnography?” the answer might be an important contribution that your summary could cover.

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