Observing prisons, conceptualizing punishment: Ethnography and the possibility of theory

Lynne Haney

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


    This chapter discusses the theory and practice of ethnographic research and argues that the ethnographic method encompasses diverse research methodologies. It presents a case for the importance of theory-driven ethnography and highlights the possibilities of one such approach: the extended case method. The chapter explores the challenges of combining theory and ethnography in most detail-and to specify precisely what this combination offers social scientists of crime and punishment. Qualitative research encompasses different methodologies and epistemologies. In the social sciences, a great deal of qualitative research actually reproduces the logic of inquiry used in quantitative work. In sociology, differences in the role of theory in research are largely what underlay the infamous “ethnography wars”. Although the plan had always been to extend out from ethnographic work to reflect on penal governance, that extension proved to be a bit of a struggle. The chapter suggests that the new language must include a rethinking of both ethnography and theory.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Title of host publicationQualitative Research in Criminology
    Subtitle of host publicationAdvances in Criminological Theory
    PublisherTaylor and Francis
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781351495257
    ISBN (Print)9781412856775
    StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Social Sciences


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