Graduation Year

2004

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Anthropology

Major Professor

Angrosino, Michael A.

Keywords

ethnography, cognitive maps, memories, elders, women

Abstract

This thesis is an analysis of the pros and cons of doing ethnographic and oral history research with elders. The subjects are women born before 1933 and residing in Sulphur Springs, Florida for most of their adolescence and adult lives. They were selected from attendees of the semiannual reunion of students who attended the Sulphur Springs School during the years it served both elementary and junior high. This method of research, with an elder population presents specific challenges and rewards. The pros and cons of such research are discussed within the context of doing ethnography of Sulphur Springs from the perspective of a select group of women. Interviews were conducted with eight (8) women in their homes, yielding approximately fourteen (14) hours of recordings. A list of questions was developed to prompt memories during the interviews.

A small tabletop recorder was used to record unstructured interviews regarding their years in Sulphur Springs, with emphasis on the years they consider most memorable. A social network analysis of attendees of the recent reunions was conducted with the responses to a mailed questionnaire. The study revealed the importance of understanding the culture of a generation through the lens of history and place. Special considerations need to be made in preparation of survey instruments and interview questions for any physical limitations and/or security concerns. Researchers also need to be flexible in the application of their pre-determined research designs in order to assure maximum quality and quantity of resulting data.

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