When we think about ethnography, we usually think about the Nuer or the Navajo or some tribe that we have never even heard of in Patagonia û some people from far away and who are at least culturally and psychology part of the long ago.
Of course, this is no longer an appropriate framework within which to consider the practice of ethnography, which is simply the creation of written texts that describe the results of ethnological or cultural anthropological research. As such, it has changed dramatically over the last two decades as anthropology has begun to shift from its roots in colonial political activity (and philosophy) during which the subject of anthropological discourse was always The Other û and as exotic and dark-skinned an Other as possible.
Anthropology has come home within the last generation for a variety of reasons, some pragmatic and others more reflective of substantial shifts in philosophy. The pragmatic changes in anthropology over the last generation have been largely brought about because the isolated, simple û and no doubt happy û natives that anthropologists traditionally studied became increasingly integrated in the world economy. It is hard to study the primitive carvers of a West African nation when they all have their MTV. Or rather, it is perfectly fascinating to study them, but an entirely new definition of the relationship between anthropologist and anthropological subject must be redefined. And with such a definition must come a change in the nature of the ethnographic enterprise as a whole.
This paper, after a very brief overview of the position of ethnography within the larger practice of traditional anthropology, examines the ways in which ethnographic methodology and concerns can be brought to bear on the question of AIDS in either First World or Third World (or both) societies as a way of explaining peopleÆs behaviors in the face of the pandemic. In this sense, ethnographies of communitie...