This brief section outlines some of the principles of ethnographic research.
James Spradley (1979) writes that “[e]thnographers work together with informants to produce a cultural description” (25). The ethnographer develops an understanding of a culture by making inferences based on evidence and premise, and then by refining and testing the inferences by collecting more data. Macaela Cashman Keegan (1994) describes ethnography as an evolving and interactive process between researcher and participants which has the ability to change according to what is appropriate (56). Ultimately, ethnography seeks to understand the meaning that is attached to expressive behavior and to elicit tacit and implicit rules that governs the action of its members. This thesis interprets the meaning that fraternity members attach to their bonds, conflicts, and rituals and locates implicit rules that influence their male bonds.
At the beginning, I lacked a clear understanding of how fraternities or male bonding worked. In part, my project was a personal quest to learn more about male bonding by discussing it with fraternity members and by digging up past resources and historical documents. My original model of male bonding was based on the feminist theories discussed in Chapter Three but these theories left too many questions unanswered. In my own confusion , I did not know what theory to test or what questions I should ask fraternity members.
Ethnography, again, proved useful in this dilemma. “Ethnography is an inductive process which usually being with a research question rather than a theory to be test” (Keegan 56). My own understanding of male bonding developed out of the ethnographic process. As I collected data and discussed male bonding with participants, theory emerged in a recursive and evolving manner. It is, perhaps, an interpretation that a few participants would disagree with. Nevertheless, ethnographic methods proved the best resource to gather information about the cultural meaning of secret rituals, conflicts, and male bonding.