Jay Borchert is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Sociology and a Population Studies Center Trainee at the University of Michigan, as well as a Visiting Scholar at the Center for the Study of Law & Society at UC Berkeley School of Law. We discuss research he conducted for his dissertation titled “Mass Incarceration, The Profession of Corrections, and the Way Prison Workers Construct Meanings about their Participation in our Punishment State,” where he conducted ethnographic observation of prisons and semi-structured interviews with correctional officers.

“Dramatic things happened all the time in the prisons. It’s important to be able to manage your emotions and your reactions in those situations. Many prisons have been built in areas of extreme poverty and isolation, particularly in the case of Kentucky. The characteristics of local political economies make going to work in prisons – which is a stable job, with benefits – a logical, if not pleasant, choice for a lot of people. Their choices are understandable. Going in with a judgmental attitude just makes no sense if we claim to know anything about our history and our politics – particularly our racial politics. It makes no sense to do that if we really want to work toward solving social problems.”
 – Jay Borchert – 

In this episode, we are joined by Dr. Clifton Evers. Clifton is a member of the Media, Culture, Heritage unit at Newcastle University. He joins us to discuss mobile video ethnography and his use of GoPro cameras to better capture and understand affects, emotion, and masculinity through the study of surfing. Clifton’s chapter on this topic can be found in the recently published edited volume Researching Embodied Sport: Exploring Movement Cultures

I started carrying a very old Handycam everywhere and shooting footage. I eventually got frustrated because I was stuck on land. And, what a lot of the men would speak about or what they would experience in terms of emotions, affects, and embodied experience was happening in the water. So how does one do video research in the sea?

– Clifton Evers –


In this episode we discuss an innovative methodological approach to understanding reflexivity and identity when doing ethnographic fieldwork. We talk with Elizabeth Cherry, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Manhattanville College, who collaborated with fellow ethnographers Michaela DeSoucey, Assistant Professor of Sociology at North Carolina State University and Colter Ellis, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Montana State University.

We discuss their article, “Food for Thought, Thought for Food: Consumption, Identity and Ethnography,” published in the Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE). This article brings together their field experiences studying animal rights, local food production, and cattle ranching and examines how those experiences re-shaped their own food consumption practices.

For anyone who is interested in being able to defend their claims and say that the research that they gathered was at the very least valid and that they know they were getting answers to the questions they asked, this is a good way to gauge the extent to which you as an individual may have affected the data collection process…. It’s interesting to see the ways in which our identities might shape what we find. It’s a good added methodological tool.
– Liz Cherry – 

Bonus podcasts! Check out Colter Ellis on TSP’s Office Hours Podcast to learn more about his work on beef production and labor and Michaela DeSoucey on TSP’s Office Hours Podcast to learn more about her work on food and cultural authenticity.

In this special edition of Give Methods a Chance, we talk with Chris Uggen to get context and insight to a recent retraction of a political science article in Science and the resulting public discourse around the study under question.

“Outright fraud, where people make up data, is likely to be exceedingly rare–in part because it is not sustainable over a long term. As academics, we rely on our professional reputation. So you might be able to get a paper published, which might even get you a job, but, long term, it just isn’t in anyone’s interest to falsify data.”
– Chris Uggen –