Ethnographic Research Methods

The Study

  • 26 interviews in St. George
  • 24 interviews in St. Paul
  • 200+ pages of notes
  • 4 volunteer positions held
  • 0 cakes won in cake walks

This study is based on six months of ethnographic research in St. George (June-September 2012) and St. Paul (September-December 2012), Alaska. During this period we conducted interviews in the two communities with a cross section of residents: young and old, men and women, fishermen and non-fishermen. We also acted as a participant observer, volunteering at schools and participating in local events. Notes and interview transcripts were then coded using grounded theory analysis.

The Process

Scoping and Community Interest

Participant Observation


Grounded Theory Analysis

Obtaining community support.

An important part of conducting ethnographic research on groups of people who have been historically marginalized, is to ensure that community members support your research. To that end we conducted a two-week pilot study. During this period, I introduced myself to representatives of the tribal governments, and spoke with community members about fisheries.

The Themes

Using grounded theory analysis we identified a total of 61 codes, which we then grouped into eight themes.
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  • High cost of living
  • Employment difficulties
  • Decline in services/infrastructure
  • Disaffected youth
  • Boredom
  • Alcohol
  • Worries about work ethic and interest in culture
  • Outmigration of the best and brightest
  • Graying workforce
  • Changing weather
Fishing Community
  • Crab
  • Economic base
  • Worries about dependence
  • Halibut
  • Way-of-life
  • Day fishery
  • Identity
  • Family business
  • Fun
  • Risky
  • Supplemented with other income
  • Concerns with quota
  • Opportunities for youth
  • Perception of resource
  • Quality of life
  • Culture
  • Social capital
  • Beauty and nature
  • Home
  • Connected to but different from other Pribilof Island
  • Development plans (specific projects)
  • Obstacles to development
  • Declines in fish
  • Market fluctuations
  • Less government aid
  • Politics
  • Conflicts among entities
  • Conflict among CDQ groups
  • Corruption
  • Feelings toward CDQ group
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Ambivalent
Coping Strategies
  • Frugality
  • Interconnections with other communities
  • Attitudes
  • Hard work
Shaped by Colonialism
  • Work ethic
  • Desire for autonomy
  • Made us leaders/advocates
Local Power and Autonomy
  • Strategies
  • Advocating to politicians
  • Seeking allies
  • Litigation
  • Aid from other communities
  • Feelings about
  • Empowered
  • Marginalized
  • Declines in wildlife
  • Concerns about management
  • Trawlers negative impact on the environment
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