Trying the Way:Ethnographic Glimpses of York University
Van Esterik, Penny
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To our knowledge, this is the first ethnography of a Canadian university. Why write an ethnography of York University, or of any university, for that matter? The initial impetus for this project was to write an ethnography to complement the history produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of York in 2009 (Horn 2009). Underlying this intention was a concern that neither national surveys, nor Maclean’s ranking of Canadian universities, nor public relations branding campaigns could capture the essence of York culture or counter anti-York writing in the media. York was not well served by these approaches, and we thought that an ethnography might do better. In the public media, universities are often targets of anti-intellectual rants; but criticism of universities often comes from people who are not familiar with the complexity of university cultures. We thought that as anthropologists, we should be able to capture and communicate that complexity.
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