Subcultural Mosaics and Intersubjective Realities

An Ethnographic Research Agenda for Pragmatizing the Social Sciences

By Robert Prus

Subjects: Anthropology
Paperback : 9780791432402, 349 pages, January 1997
Hardcover : 9780791432396, 349 pages, January 1997

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Table of contents


Part I. Establishing the Conceptual Foundations

1. Studying the Human Condition: An Interactionist Approach to the Ethnographic Venture
Theoretical and Methodological Foundations
Outlining the Premises


Human Group Life is Intersubjective
Human Group Life is (Multi)Perspectival
Human Group Life is Reflective
Human Group Life is Activity-based
Human Group Life is Negotiable
Human Group Life is Relational
Human Group Life is Processual


Conceptual and Methodological Implications

2. Subcultural Mosaics and Intersubjective Realities: Acknowledging Ambiguity, Activity, and Accomplishment
Reformulating the Cultural Problematic
Acknowledging the Subcultural Mosaic
Culture as "Something in the Making"
Attending to Subcultural Enterprises
Working Notions of Subcultural Variants


Local, Embedded, and Transcontextual Associations
Totalizing, Focused, and Interfused Subcultures
Cyclical, Occasional, and Supportive Subcultural Phenomena


Toward a Conclusion

3. Subcultural Involvements: Experiencing, Forming, and Coordinating Subcultural Associations
Becoming Involved in Subcultural Enterprises
Getting Started (Initial Involvements)
Sustaining and Intensifying Involvements (Continuities)
Becoming Disinvolved
Becoming Reinvolved
Experiencing Subcultural Life-Worlds
Acquiring Perspectives
Achieving Identity
Doing Activity
Experiencing Relationships
Experiencing Emotionality
Developing Communicative Fluency
Forming and Coordinating (Subcultural) Associations
Establishing Associations
Objectifying Associations
Encountering Outsiders

Part II. Pragmatizing the Social Sciences: A Research Agenda

4. Achieving Intersubjectivity, Managing Place and Space, and Maintaining Presence
Subcultural Mosaics: Examining Realms of Human Endeavor
Achieving Intersubjectivity
Managing Symbolic Interchange
Developing Stocks of Knowledge
Dealing with Objects
Managing Place and Space
Acknowledging the Physical (Geographical) Environment
Obtaining and Maintaining Spaces and Accommodations
Achieving Mobility and Transportation
Maintaining Presence
Locating and Consuming Foods (Including Liquids and Other Substances)
Developing and Using Clothing
Providing Person-Directed Services
Obtaining Negotiables for Exchange

5. Encountering the Other, Managing Morality, and Emphasizing Community Presence
Encountering the Interpersonal Other
Acknowledging Family Life
Encountering the Broader Community
Experiencing Intimacy and Sexuality
Managing Intergroup Relations within the Community
Venturing and Moving into New Communities
Participating in Collective Events
Managing Morality
Participating in Religious and Cultic Movements
Defining Propriety (and Deviance)
Identifying Deviants and Regulating Deviance
Becoming Involved in Deviance
Emphasizing Community Presence
Implementing Political (Governmental) Forums
Creating Military Agendas and Agencies
Enhancing Communications (and Generating the Media)

6. Experiencing the [Intersubjective] Self
Acknowledging the Contextualized Self
Attending to the Physical (Physiological and Imaged) Self
Developing an Ownership Self
Appreciating the Proficient and Accomplished Self
Attending to the Relational Self
Invoking the Tactical (Target and Tactician) Self
Managing the Centralizing and Fragmented Self
Toward a Conclusion

Part III. Pursuing the Ethnographic Venture

7. Doing Ethnographic Research: Fieldwork As Practical Accomplishment (with Mary Lorenz Dietz and William Shaffir)
Ethnographic Research
The Ethnographic Advantage
Clarifying Ethnographic Assumptions
Accessing Human Lived Experience
Methodological Practices
Substantive Settings
Analytical Foci
Making Contact with the Other
Interacting with the Other
Managing Oneself in the Ethnographic Context
Recording Information in Ethnographic Context
Sampling Concerns
Analyzing Human Lived Experiences
Coding Ethnographic Materials
Toward an Interactionist Analysis
Contextualizing Human Lived Experiences

8. Writing Ethnographic Research Reports: Some Practical Considerations for Students (with William Shaffir and Mary Lorenz Dietz)
Formatting the Ethnographic Text
The Title: Providing Preliminary Directions
The Introduction: Contextualizing the Study
The Data and Analysis


Taking a Natural History Approach (Studying Events)
Studying Careers of Involvement
Examining Role Performance (Activity)
Exploring Subcultural Life-Worlds
Developing Generic Social Process Projects


The Conclusion
Epilogues and Appendices
Assembling the Paper
Managing the Data
Writing for the Other


Index of Names

Index of Terms

Examines the theory and methods by which social scientists study the human lived experienced.


The author builds on the broader interpretive/constructionist ethnographic and pragmatist traditions, particularly those developed within symbolic interaction to provide an agenda to refocus, revitalize, and synthesize the social or human sciences. Robert Prus offers a set of primary assumptions that centrally respect the unique (and uniquely enabling) features of the human condition, as well as considers a reformulation of the cultural problematic. By viewing human group life as a subcultural mosaic that is more or less continuously "in the making," a systematic research agenda for attending to the entire realm of human involvement is developed; one that opens every single arena of human endeavor to ethnographic inquiry.

Robert Prus is Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Waterloo. He is the author of Symbolic Interaction and Ethnographic Research: Intersubjectivity and the Study of Human Lived Experience, also published by SUNY Press, as well as Pursuing Customers: An Ethnography of Marketing Activities and Making Sales: Influence as Interpersonal Accomplishment. He is the co-author of Road Hustler: The Career Contingencies of Professional Card and Dice Hustlers; Hookers, Rounders, and Desk Clerks: The Social Organization of the Hotel Community; Road Hustler: Grifters, Magic, and the Thief Subculture; and Doing Everyday Life: Ethnography as Human Lived Experience.


"Prus has written a textbook on qualitative research--a textbook in the best sense of being the summation of a discipline presented in a manner that can be put to use by students. " -- Marvin Scott, Hunter College, City University of New York

"This book is rich in texture and shines as exemplary in its practical application for both students and professionals who are engaged in ethnographic research. In fact, everyone doing field research must have this text as a handy reference. It is the best I have seen in both describing the nature of ethnographic research and taking the reader through the pragmatic process of field work, analysis, and writing up results. " -- Helen Rose Ebaugh, University of Houston

"In addition to laying out an 'encyclopedia' of social processes, this book rethinks, in a fresh and stimulating manner, an old and tired concept--that of subculture. I would think that almost anyone who does qualitative research--whether in sociology, anthropology, education, nursing, or social policy and welfare would want a copy of this book on their shelves. " -- Arnold Arluke, Northwestern University

"The topic of this book is, perhaps, the one most central to current debates and discussion on ethnography and intersubjective approaches to social science. " -- Stanford M. Lyman, Florida Atlantic University