The ethnography is a type of social anthropology . This study of the different communities allows us to make a map of humanity and is used in Latin America to improve the lifestyle of its citizens by discovering the identity and problems of the community, as well as the search for solutions for progress.


What is ethnography?


The ethnography is a method composed by scientific field study customs, rites and beliefs for the cultural framework in a social group . This type of study began in  anthropology to describe ancient civilizations, although today it is also used in sociological analysis .

  • Definition
  • What Ethnography Studies
  • Story
  • Characteristics
  • What is ethnography for?
  • Types
  • Advantage
  • Disadvantages
  • Importance
  • Featured Ethnographers
  • Ethnography in the world
  • How it differs from ethnology


Translated as “study of the people” , ethnography is the study of ethnic groups. It is the analysis of the way of life of a group of individuals through the observation and description of the people, direct participation, interviews and documentation to generate a descriptive picture of the studied community. This table consists of describing the culture and routines of the group.

Ethnography has its bases in anthropology and sociology , since both branches focus on the study of human society.

What Ethnography Studies

Ethnography studies the set of social norms , beliefs, customs and organization of a certain social group interacting directly in the social context itself, collecting information directly and the events that occur during their stay in the area. It should be noted that the analyst should not be influenced by the culture that he possesses ( ethnocentrism ).


Proposals for ethnographic studies began in the 1970s at universities in Great Britain , the United States, and Australia . The qualitative analysis of ethnicities began in non-Western cultures such as indigenous peoples and countries with very traditional cultural characteristics. Eventually, ethnography began to be applied to large modern cities, where intercultural relationships were beginning to occur.


Ethnographic research is characterized by:

  • The researcher begins his work through participant observation . He travels to the area in question, in order to experience the context first-hand.
  • Interviews are conducted with the participants that must be recorded, as well as the observations of the researcher.
  • Data should be collected naturally, events should not be created for the study.
  • The data is then qualitatively analyzed , the results are interpreted through the context of the interactions.

What is ethnography for?

Ethnography allows us to recognize customs in certain areas of geography. In addition, with an impartial vision of the environment, it is possible to discover the inherent problems of society, as well as to propose solutions. In marketing, an ethnographic analysis allows us to know which products are profitable in a given area.


  • Field Guides: It is the research that starts from universal categories, theoretically neutral, to objectively approach the study topics.
  • Semantic Ethnography: Analyzes linguistic phenomena in certain societies.
  • Microethnography: It is the study of the individual properties of each member, with which it is sought to define the behavior of the group.
  • Macroethnography: Part of the generalities of the group to find the individual characteristics.


The main advantages of ethnography are:

  • A concrete definition of cultures is obtained.
  • The analysis makes it possible to predict the consequences of encounters between civilizations.
  • It is holistic in nature.
  • Your data is contextualized.
  • Various ways are used to collect information.


Regarding the disadvantages of ethnography we must highlight:

  • The researcher is required to spend a lot of time in the area to be studied.
  • The researcher must be accepted in society.
  • The naturalistic nature of the research makes data collection unpredictable.


Through ethnography, it is possible to intervene in societies without being rejected for being a foreigner if a process is applied that coincides with the way society acts . This type of methodology allows to recognize the area, break stereotypes or prejudices and eliminates the subjectivity between the researcher’s doubts and the answers.

Featured Ethnographers

  • Paul Rivet (1876-1958): French ethnologist who originated the multiracial theory, where he affirmed that the human beings of South America came from Asia, Australia and Melanesia. It was part of the Second French Geodetic Mission in 1901 and at the end of the expedition it remained in the inter-Andean valleys of South America for six years. He presented his South American observations with René Vernaus, in two parts, between 1912 and 1922.
  • Jose Imbellioni (1885-1967): Italian anthropologist who developed his research in Argentina. His first works compiled his studies on the descent and development of ancient Argentine ethnology. Later, he presented ethnological publications on all of America, among which the Indiana Sphinx (1926) and Epitome of Culturology (1936) stand out.
  • George Alexis Montandon (1879-1944): French university of Swiss origin, carried out ethnological studies in Ethiopia, where he worked as a doctor in Lausanne.
  • Florentino Ameghino (1854-1911): Argentine self-taught, carried out paleontological studies in Pampa and investigated the Quaternary man from Chelles. He studied Patagonia.
  • Alex Hrdlicka (1869-1953): Czechoslovakian doctor who later moved to the field of anthropology seeking to discover the reason for racial similarities on different continents. In his theory he tried to show that all races have a common origin. Another of his theories states that American man came from Asia through the Bering Strait and neighboring archipelagos.

Ethnography in the world

Ethnography of Argentina

The majority of the Argentine population is made up of descendants of Europeans who arrived in the country as a result of two world wars. Approximately 56% of Argentines are of mestizo origin, the rest being completely European, African or indigenous ancestry.

Ethnography of Chile

89% of the population is made up of whites and mestizos. The rest of the population contains mainly by indigenous races.

Ethnography of Colombia

In Colombia, the race that predominates in the population is mestizo, approximately half of Colombians are a mixture of indigenous races and Spanish whites.

Ethnography of Cuba

The predominant race on the island is the black, since the majority of the indigenous population became extinct as a result of the Spanish conquest. Consequently, the indigenous descent is in the mulattoes (a mixture of black and Indian) that make up half of the population in Cuba. The rest of citizens are made up of whites and blacks, the latter being the group with the least amount of the total.

Ethnography of Mexico

In Mexico , the largest number of citizens are of indigenous origin. For this reason, the dominant race is mestizo (70%), followed by Indians and whites, with the same proportion (14% each)

Ethnography of Venezuela

The Venezuelan population is, mainly, the mixture of the three races, whose product is known in the country as brown , these make up 52% ​​of the population, followed by whites (44%) and Afro-descendants (3%). Most of the whites come from Europe as a result of the world wars.

How it differs from ethnology

Ethnology is the social science that compares the cultures of the ancient world and the present. Although ethnography and ethnology are two social studies sciences, the first comprises the study of a particular society while the second consists of the study of two or more cultures in order to compare them. Ethnography is, then, one of the frameworks that can be used for ethnological studies.

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