Ethnography Among the British Upper Middle Classes: Writing About or Writing a Gentry Class?

Smith, Daniel R. (2017) Ethnography Among the British Upper Middle Classes: Writing About or Writing a Gentry Class? SAGE Research Methods Cases.

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This case study is concerned with the writing of an ethnography about young upper-middle-class British people. Against the backdrop of a published ethnographic monograph, Elites, Race and Nationhood: The Branded Gentry, the case study explores how the empirical subject matter—an ethnography of a brand, Jack Wills, and their upper-middle-class participants—gave rise to re-interpreting British social class through a bygone category: gentry. Ethnography is, simply, writing about culture. As such, part of the ethnographic process is engaging in the production of social categories and concepts as much as rendering apparent the cultural universe under consideration. In this case study, I outline how and why an archaic class category may be able to be utilized for its ability to shed new light on existing accounts of class and culture in British society. Taking into account that ethnography necessarily ends up as written texts, the case study explores how ethnographic methods require dialogue with texts, people, and practices so as to fully elucidate the novel aspects of social life it captures. By so doing, it brings to light new information about existing social problems. In this regard, the literary construction of a “gentry” out of historical context does not do violence to social reality; instead, it shows how longstanding notions of belonging and class distinction become reimagined in relation to present social-economic arrangements.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: middle class, upper class, branding, sociology, social class, ethnographer, social life
Faculty: ARCHIVED Faculty of Arts, Law & Social Sciences (until September 2018)
Depositing User: Dr Daniel R. Smith
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2018 15:01
Last Modified: 09 Sep 2021 18:59

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