Hearsay Ethnography: A Method for Learning About Responses to Health Interventions

  • Susan Cotts Watkins
  • Ann Swidler
  • Crystal Biruk
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


How can we know how health interventions – the dissemination of health knowledge and the promotion of behavior change – are received by the people whom our interventions address? In this paper, we describe a practical methodology that contributes to the project of studying collective meaning making as it unfolds and changes. By fixing episodes of public discourse as texts, rather than directly interrogating respondents in interviews or focus groups, conversational journals convey a sense of spontaneous issues that comprise the dynamic world of publicly available, collectively constituted meanings. While several theoretical traditions, from the Durkheimian to the symbolic-interactionist, posit such a dynamic public realm, few methods capture its texture.


Sexual Partner Physical Symptom Everyday Conversation Social Autopsy Classical Ethnography 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Susan Cotts Watkins
    • 1
  • Ann Swidler
  • Crystal Biruk
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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