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'Drawing from the Greek ethnos, "people", and graphein, "depict", ethnography is in some sense as old as human curiosity about attentiveness to, the lives of others' (Ferrell and Hamm, 1998: 255). The use of ethnography was taken on by Chicago Sociologists in the early 1920's, as Albion Small wanted to gain deeper understanding into the lives of the deviant (Ferrell, 1998: 20). George Herbert Mead's symbolic interactionism further developed the sociology of deviance seeing deviants as rational actors, seen as an early form of labelling theory, as deviants only become deviant once they are labelled accordingly (Downes and Rock, 2007: 163). However, the Chicago School was later criticised for having a cold relationship with crime, lacking political and societal meaning (Downes and Rock, 2007: 66) which, Stanley Cohen tried to achieve through his Folk Devils and Moral Panics research. Suggesting the media has a large impact on defining deviance, often amplifying that deviance. The idea of criminological verstehen, then sought to add emotional motives to criminal activity (Ferrell, 1998: 28), seeing its causes as not just structural. However the use of ethnography declined due to its limited scope and dangerous nature, although Jeff Ferrell believes its importance may return in the future (Ferrell, 1998: 36).
Ethnography makes it possible to study 'isolated fragments of the city scientifically' (Breslau, 1990: 435) through extensive participant observation of the subject's day to day life which, must be entered open minded as any preconceptions researcher's hold can hinder their experience (Rock, 2001: 30). This view was adopted by Chicago Sociologist Albion Small who believed 'armchair theorists' lacked credibility through reluctance to engage in research, so Chicago ethnographers 'took on the role of the other' (Mead, 1934 cited in Deegan, 2001: 11), hoping to developing deeper understanding of their subjects lives.
Due to Chicago's diversity of inhabitants interacting with and interpreting the cities space in different ways, Robert Park saw the city as a 'sociological laboratory' (Deegan, 2001: 17). For Park ethnography offered an opportunity to lift 'the blindness each of us is likely to have for the meaning of other peoples lives' (Park, 1950, cited in Breslau, 1990: 431), enabling researchers to gain insight into the lives of the marginalised and deviant, challenging the public image associated with these groups. Parks interest in the city inspired his research into Human Ecology where he mapped regions of the city in regard to their racial structure. Parks research is significant for the sociology of deviance through its recognition that crime was predominately situated in the zone in transition, committed by poor, marginalised individuals who were unaccustomed to each other (Downes and Rock, 2007: 55), suggesting deviance is merely a coping mechanism to the problems of poverty and exclusion.
Chicago sociologists placed importance on knowledge through experience, such as Frederic Thrashers (1927) study The Gang. Sumner (1994: 46) explains how Thrashers ethnographic research highlighted that 'gangs had well developed moral codes of their own' so, were far from being uncontrollable and dangerous like society assumed. Deviants were recognised in a refined light, no longer considered insane and irrational; instead it was suggested their deviance resulted from an unjust society, with deviance used to reduce the inequality they were experiencing. Sanchez-Jankowski's (1990) research into gangs elaborates that individuals choose gang life as the benefits outweigh those one could achieve alone (Hobbs, 2001: 210). Suggesting that gang life presents an answer to an individual's social situation by opening up means of attaining not only money, but also status, which are otherwise unachievable. These studies influenced the development of deviance by highlighting that deviants are not irrational, but choose deviance due to their social inequality, thus offering a revised view of deviants, and their behaviours.
George Herbert Mead's symbolic interactionism focused on how our actions are premeditated in relation to how others will perceive them, which determines our actions, and it is through our language and clothing that we attempt to make our private self public (Downes and Rock, 2007: 161). Highlighting, that ethnography attempts to understand a subject's life through their behaviour and appearance. Thus if our actions are considered before we act, they are a conscious rational choice, proving especially influential for deviant actions. We are then able to see 'petty criminals and delinquents as normal people caught up in difficult and competitive social environments' (Sumner, 1994: 43) merely using deviance to temporarily solve their social deprivation. This was significant for the sociology of deviance as deviance was considered a rational choice, yet societal factors may predispose individuals to deviance.
Irving Goffman applied this to his (1961) research The Asylum, where he looked at how mental institutions label and define people as 'ill', with their whole lives then rewritten in relation to this label (Williams, 1986: 352). This also applies to deviants, as once labelled deviant, they may continue believing their behaviour is justified, or become ashamed, stigmatised, and further marginalised (Downes and Rock, 2007: 163). As symbolic interactionism focuses on the reactions others have to our behaviour, it is considered an early form of learning theory. Labelling theories have a substantial impact on the understanding of deviance as 'the deviate' is simply one who challenges the values, habits and lifestyles of the community' (Tannenbaum cited by Sumner, 1994: 124) therefore, if the majority of society disapprove of such behaviours they are labelled deviant, thus socially constructing the label deviant. This is significant for the development of deviance, stressing that in order for behaviours to be considered deviant, they must first be labelled accordingly.
The rise of European Marxism in the UK attempted to combine symbolic interactionalism with structuralism, to add a political and societal meaning to theories of deviance, which the Chicago School were criticised for overlooking (Downes and Rock, 2007: 66). Stanley Cohen sought to do this through his observational research Folk Devils and Moral Panics by suggesting that the conflict between the Mods and Rockers in the 1960's was amplified by the negative media attention it received (Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 1994: 155), with the group then demonised for what Cohen saw as 'mundane youth deviancy' (Hobbs, 2001: 209), which reinforced the panic further. It was therefore, society's reaction to the violence that created the moral panic, reinforcing the significance of belonging to either gang. Cohen's theory was significant for the sociological development of deviance as sociologists started looking at deviance in terms of its 'collective representation' (Sumner, 1994: 265), and how this image can be warped and amplified by the media, which becomes increasingly important in a media dominated age.
The Chicago School's relationship with crime was criticised for being very cold, which led to the development of criminological verstehen, the idea that researchers needed to understand the emotions crime causes by experiencing the deviant act wherever possible (Ferrell, 1998: 28). Jack Katz research into the foreground of crime explained the thrills that crimes such as shoplifting and armed robbery give, while Lyng's research looked to explain the attractiveness of crime, along with the thrills and gains it produces (Ferrell, 1998: 28). This was an influential development for the sociology of deviance as for this first time researchers began to understand the emotions associated with criminal activities, learning that the thrill and excitement it created were also motivation for the offence and not just social factors.
However, criminological verstehen, and ethnographies of deviance have been openly criticised for ethical reasons, and additionally their limited scope as, the very nature of this kind of research urges researchers to participate in criminal activities, which can have dangerous consequences (Ferrell, 1998: 31). For this reason the use of ethnography has declined yet, Ferrell suggests the need for ethnography may return due to increases in unemployment and lower payed jobs which produce little job satisfaction, thus more people may turn to crime to experience the thrills and sense of meaning that it produces (Ferrell, 1998: 36), as they may become unable to achieve this in other parts of their lives.
To conclude, ethnography has had huge impact on the development of the sociology of deviance. Robert Parks human ecology allowed us to see crime was committed by the poor and marginalised as a coping mechanism to their poverty (Downes and Rock, 2007: 55). While George Herbert Mead's symbolic interactionism suggested that crime was a rational choice, seen as an early form of learning theory, as individuals only become deviant when they are labelled accordingly (Tannenbaum cited by Sumner, 1994: 124), thus deviance is socially defined. Stanley Cohen's 1960 research into the Mods and Rockers was also incredibly influential, highlighting that the media have an enormous impact on defining deviance, often amplifying the problem (Goode and Ben-Yehuda, 1994: 155), which added a political and societal meaning to theories of crime. Criminological Verstehen also suggested crime had emotional motives due to the thrills and excitement it creates (Ferrell, 1998: 28), thus its motivations are not merely structural. Lastly, although ethnography is not as widely used today, I believe it has left a significant mark on the sociology of deviance, and has also largely influenced the development of criminology.