We came to linguistic ethnography in 2007 via a five-day course on Key Concepts and Methods in Ethnography, Language and Communication. The course introduced us to a range of perspectives and resources used to study language and communication ethnographically, drawn from the ethnography of communication, theories of social interaction, interactional sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, conversation analysis and social semiotics (see Chapter 2 for a detailed description). Our participation led us not only to continue our research using linguistic ethnography, but also to attempt to broaden discussions about the value, relevance and future of the field. In 2008, we established a conference on Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication (now the official conference for the Linguistic Ethnography Forum - see above). Impressed by the breadth and quality of contributions and also feeling that there were significant questions and issues about linguistic ethnography to be addressed, we decided on an edited collection. We sought a publisher and, together with our advisory group - Jeff Bezemer, Adam Lefstein, Janet Maybin, Ben Rampton and Celia Roberts - identified established and emerging researchers who were characterising their work as linguistic ethnography. We deliberately invited contributions from scholars working in a range of disciplines and settings. Our intention was to exhibit the breadth of research being undertaken and to invite debate about contemporary issues in linguistic ethnography. To aid this process we held a workshop for contributors in Copenhagen (at the same time as the Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication conference) with the intention of providing a forum for contributors to meet, explore connections and gain a sense of the aims and focus of the book. We discussed the proposed content and structure, asking contributors to provide case studies of current research (including detailed, worked analysis) and to address the following three questions:
1. In what ways did linguistic ethnography enable you to get to parts of the process you study which other approaches couldn't reach?
- 2. In what ways has appropriating linguistic ethnography led to changes in your work and the methods you use?
- 3. How has your own discipline influenced the concepts and emphases within linguistic ethnography?
Contributors provided a wealth of material from which we were able to draw to examine (at least a small part of) linguistic ethnographic research. As is the case with a broad area like linguistic ethnography, contributors' work varies in approach, focus and setting. There are, however, some commonalities. Our interpretation of the case studies in this collection is that they variously:
- • adopt an interdisciplinary approach to research;
- • use topic-oriented ethnography;
- • combine linguistics with ethnography;
- • bring together different sources of data; and
- • aspire to improve social life.
Taken together, these commonalities may provide the basis for linguistic ethnography to be described as an emergent field. However, as we state above, linguistic ethnography cannot yet claim to be a clearly defined or established approach. We therefore adopt a questioning stance when describing commonalities and invite readers to do the same as they engage with the chapters in the collection. For us, the commonalities provide an interesting way of introducing the contributions to the collection, while pointing to the challenges facing linguistic ethnography that we are keen for readers to engage with.