Three people in the past month or so, independent of one another and with various degrees of committment to the idea, have mentioned to me the possibility of doing an ethnographic study of funeral homes. If you, too, are working on this topic, I guess I would urge you not to dally.
Is this social science having a late-blooming Six Feet Under effect? Have funeral homes always been an attractive topic for ethnographers but something about the topic has prevented their from being (to my knowledge) The Great American Funeral Home Ethnography?
As a different matter regarding ethnography, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance recently about a prominent sociology ethnography in which the author, with the consent of the research participants (members of a minority group living in poverty), used their real names. The acquaintance was of the position that this was definitely wrong and asserted that their view was the consensus among people who do ethnographic research. I have to admit I don't really understand this as a general position. I do understand it in the obvious, but special, case in which naming an informant would allow one to determine the identities other people who don't want their names used. Otherwise, it seems like newspaper editors have the right idea in fretting about negative consequences of anonymous sourcing; namely, that there is basically no accountability for the writer to represent the source accurately rather than tweaking statements in ways that suit the author's argument. I recognize that people who do interview-based studies get very cross when someone says "I think you're just choosing quotes that fit your argument" or, worse, "How do we know you aren't just making this up?" But, irritation is not quite the same thing as counterargument. I can understand the idea that confidentiality is unfortunately what must be offered to get interviewees to provide honest participation, but the idea of swaddling it in ethicky goodness even for participants who express no reluctance about speaking on the record--this I don't buy.