Category Archives: Methods

Methods, Spring 2017

Paul and Mary would very much like you to make… a national heritage: ‘The Great British Bake Off’ and forming a Modern British Identity

In a Tortoiseshell: Abigail Denton positions The Great British Bake Off as a site of postcolonial tensions, bringing together insights from a range of disciplines, including media studies, sociology, and history, in order to weave a compelling argument about the nation-building capacities of the popular television program.

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Methods, Spring 2017

“It’s all coming together now”: An ethnographic study of Princeton University’s Black Arts Company and a glimpse at the effects of globalized hip-hop in a concentrated campus setting

In a Tortoiseshell: In the following excerpt, author Lavinia Liang fuses anthropological methods with sociological insights to craft an enthralling study of the Black Arts Company. Her unique method, showcased below, relies on the synthesis of self-directed ethnography and secondary literature analysis, providing readers with a firsthand account of the dance company coupled with relevant sociological concepts.

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Methods, Spring 2017


Method refers broadly to the system of principles, ideas, and theories that undergird any substantive scholarly project. Academics often refer to a set of methods as a methodology, which refers more specifically to any number of research conventions typical of a particular field or discipline. For instance, under this framework, the close reading of written texts, the distinction between primary and secondary sources, and the use of archives for the discovery of primary documents all comprise distinct methods. Taken together, they represent part of the methodology of history as a field of study.

Method is thus crucial to most scholarly works because it allows readers to position the papers that they read in a recognized category. In humanistic disciplines, methodology often manifests as an analytical framework for the understanding of evidence. In the social and natural sciences, methodology enables authors to provide strategies for reproducible results.

Though methodology is often bound by understood conventions and systemic methods familiar to academics within a certain field, it is also possible to discern a range of methodologies in scholarly projects that adopt interdisciplinary approaches to answer their research questions. By employing the analytical frameworks from a range of disciplines, these projects can propose bold arguments with unexpected implications. The papers excerpted in this section are emblematic of this approach. Both papers feature authors who make risky moves. In the context of method, this risk involves the interlacement of a variety of disciplines to craft a new and unique analytical framework.

Abigail Denton’s paper, which analyzes the popular Great British Baking Show, uses theories and concepts from media studies, sociology, and history to propose a fascinating interpretation of the television program as a site for national cohesion. Abigail relies on a vast assortment of diverse sources to build her argument. In doing so, she refrains from swallowing her own voice. Instead, the remarkable clarity of her paper allows her to distinguish her own opinions and arguments from those of the secondary authors, a tricky move to pull off in a paper as interdisciplinary and ambitious as this one.

Lavinia Liang’s paper is inherently risky because of the nature of the prompt, which asks the writer to perform an ethnography of a university dance group. As demonstrated in her excerpt, Lavinia is more than up to the task. Her paper entwines observations from her anthropological fieldnotes with relevant and often surprising insights from a range of other disciplines. The excerpt here demonstrates this effective method, pairing together primary evidence with a sociological key term to arrive at a more nuanced understanding of performance and performativity.

These excerpts provide readers with noteworthy examples of risky, cross-disciplinary methods that unite to form a unique and cogent argument. The accompanying commentaries, supplied by the authors and Tortoise editors, furnish readers with additional insights that explain why the excerpts are exemplary.