Project #2

In this project, you will focus on working with the variety of ethnographic texts that are assigned for class discussion. As before, the project will proceed in a series of drafts, moving from a small-scale summary of a single text to a complex thematic analysis of how the texts can be made to “talk” to each other.
The first draft for the project is due on Sunday, February 21, by 11pm. As always, you should submit your draft on Moodle.

For the first draft, you should select one of the four chapters that we have encountered so far in the second unit—those by Berliner, Feld, Neuman, and Leante. You should identify a theme that is important to the article and write a short summary of how the author develops that theme. Your summary should be no longer than two typed, double-spaced pages; therefore, it must be quite focused.

Please note that you are not producing a summary of the author’s overall argument! Your task is very directed: summarize only how the particular theme develops in the chapter. Furthermore, your task in this draft is not to make an argument. (This is one of the few times in the course where you will not be making an argument!) Your summary should therefore be as neutral as possible.

To succeed at this draft assignment, you should first give some thought to the theme you wish to write about. The theme you choose should be something that is important to the chapter, but it should not be so broad that you can’t summarize its role in two pages. Some themes you might consider include (but are definitely not limited to): gender, race, epistemology, religion, education, a life cycle, gifts, practice, performance. Each chapter make use of a number of themes and concepts; don’t limit yourself to those that are stated in the chapters’ titles.

The second thing you must do for this assignment is to include at least one quotation from the text that demonstrates some aspect of how the author uses the theme. Pay very careful attention to how you integrate quotes: make sure that you adequately explain their meaning, and don’t use quotes excessively (i.e., more than you are able to explain). (You may wish to consult the chapter from They Say/I Say titled “The Art of Quoting” for help with this part of the assignment. If you do not own the book, it is on reserve in the library, and this chapter is posted in the Readings section of the website.) 

Your first critique in this project will focus on the thematic coherence of your summaries. To prepare for the in-class critique on Tuesday, February 23, you should download and read the papers of everyone in your group. You should also prepare a more detailed critique of the paper belonging to the person below/after you in your group’s alphabetic list. As always, you should have your written critique prepared before class; you must either email the critique to me and the paper’s author by 12:15 on Tuesday or bring two physical copies of the critique to class.

For your more detailed critique, you should do the following:

  • Identify each quotation the author has used and underline any words or phrases that seem to you to be critical to the meaning of the quote. (We’ll call these “themes.”)
  • Assess the integration of the quote into the surrounding text. Look for repetitions of the themes you underlined in part 1. When looking for repetitions, think about whether the author has used words or phrases that are similar in meaning to the underlined themes but that are not literally identical. What is the effect of these variations? Are the variations consistent with the meaning suggested by the quotation?
  • Identify any themes that seem to recur throughout the paper. Obviously, there will be at least one of these—the theme that is the focus of the summary—but you’ll likely find at least a few others, too.
  • Assess the summary’s neutrality. Are there any points where the author seems to reveal an interpretation or perspective on the text s/he is summarizing? How might the author revise the text to remove any sense of partiality?
Your second draft is short, but it is essential that you complete the draft by the deadline—Sunday, February 28. (Yes, I know this is during Spring Break, but I wanted to keep with the Sunday deadlines, just in case you don’t have time to complete the draft during this final busy week before the break. You’re obviously welcome to submit your draft earlier than this.) Please submit your draft by this deadline; late drafts will incur a 10% penalty on your grade for this project.

For this draft, you should write an introduction to the summary you produced in your first draft. The introduction should be motivating: it needs to convince a reader to do a certain thing. Therefore you’ll need to envision a reader—someone without detailed knowledge of the theme and article that you are summarizing, but who has some background in music and is reasonably intelligent. Then, you’ll need to think about why your reader would need to read your summary. What is the reader going to gain? The “value” of your summary might be pragmatic (the ability to do something) or it can be conceptual (understanding something); very often, introductions contain a hybrid of these value types. You’ll also need to consider what the reader already knows, because this will directly impact your technique for motivating that reader.

There is no set form that you need to follow for this draft. Your introduction might be two or three paragraphs, or it might be a single, tightly-constructed paragraph. Your introduction will be evaluated based on how well it is suited to the existing knowledge and needs of your (hypothetical) reader.

The second critique will take place in class on Thursday, March 10. This critique will be a bit shorter, because you are primarily focusing on the introductions that you wrote before the break. To prepare for the critique, you should read all of the introductions from the members of your group, and you should also prepare a detailed critique of the introduction belonging to the person before you in your group’s alphabetic list. In your critique, assess the following:

  • Is there a claim or the promise of a claim? Identify the claim and circle any words that seem like they will be thematic/important in the ensuing discussion.
  • Does the introduction construct a problem? How? In responding to this part of the critique, you should look for the kinds of “stasis” and “destabilization” cues that we discussed: What contextual knowledge does the author present? How does the author point to things that readers are expected to know? How does the author destabilize that knowledge (and thus, create a gap to address)?
  • Does the introduction create value? What will be gained by accepting the argument (or lost by not accepting it)?
  • Finally, and most importantly, do the parts of the introduction fit together? Does the claim respond to the question or gap posed by the problem? Is the target reader likely to care about the problem and claim? Suggest revisions as necessary.

As always, you should either email your critique to me and to the author by the beginning of class on Thursday, March 10, or bring 2 hard copies to class.

Your third draft for this project is due on Sunday, March 13, by 11pm. As always, you should submit your draft on Moodle.

For this draft, you will add a second text alongside the one you’ve already summarized. Your first step, then, is to select a second text to write about. You are welcome to select any ethnographic text that we have read thus far in the semester; this includes all of the chapter/article-length pieces from the second unit, as well as Sardinian Chronicles from the first unit. In selecting a text, you should think about which other pieces work with the theme you’ve already summarized. For instance, if you summarized the Neuman chapter in relation to the theme of “education,” then you might want to think about whether education is a prominent theme in, say, the Berliner chapter or anywhere in the Lortat-Jacob book. Give this pre-writing element of the draft some serious thought; for your paper to be successful, you need to be able to show how the texts are related.

Once you have selected a second text, you should give some thought to precisely how this new text interacts with the one you have already summarized. How are the two texts similar? How are they different? But be careful! Your task in this new draft is not simply to compare texts; rather, you have to generate some value from putting the two texts together! So you should also consider the following: Do the two authors argue against each other (explicitly or implicitly)? Are the arguments compatible with each other? Most importantly, what is gained from addressing these two texts together in the same paper?

This part of the project can be rather difficult, because you, as the writer, are creating a dialog where there is not necessarily one. This is something that intellectual writers (not only academics) do frequently: they play others’ ideas against each other, and they generate their own arguments through that interplay of ideas. So unlike the first draft, where you were required to remain neutral, in this draft you are welcome (and encouraged) to favor one author over the other. And you must make an argument in the new draft. This likely means that you’ll have to not only add material about the new text, but also revise what you already have written to reflect your new thoughts about the texts. It is up to you to decide what sort of structure will be most effective, but your draft will not be successful if you only append a new summary to the end of what you have already written. You must find a way to integrate the two texts into a single coherent argument. (Of course, you’ll also want to revise your introduction to reflect this new argument.) Your new draft should be about 4–5 pages long (typed, double-spaced). Do not forget to include a works cited list at the end!

You should prepare the following critique for your group’s meeting in week 9. (See the schedule posted in Announcements for your group’s meeting time.)

As in the previous critique, this critique will focus on the construction of the introduction and the way it motivates readers. As always, you should read all of the papers of your group members. You should also perform a detailed critique of the paper belonging to the person two (2) after you in the alphabetic list of your group.

The first thing you should do is evaluate the introduction. Is there a plausible “stasis” in the introduction (i.e., a portion that states something that the reader is likely to agree with)? How does the writer create a gap or a “problem”? Are there consequences (and are these plausible and valuable to the reader)? Finally, is there a precisely worded claim (or at least the promise of a claim)? Pay close attention to the thematic focus on the introduction, the fit of the different parts, and how the reader will be motivated (or not) by the introduction. Suggest how the writer can revise.

In addition, you should then think about the expectations created by the introduction. Does the writer focus on a particular set of themes? Is there value that the reader will expect to see in the paper? As you identify these expectations, you can move on to evaluate whether the writer realizes those expectations in the body of the paper. Is the motivating value expanded in the body? Is the initial thematic focus maintained? Suggest ways in which the author can make the body fit the introduction (and vice versa) more closely. You should make some substantive suggestions for at least one or two body paragraphs, and also be able to give an overview of the introduction-body fit.

As always, you must either bring two hard copies of the critique to your group meeting or email your critique to me and to the writer no later than the meeting time of your group.