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Book - Love, Sex, and Desire in Modern Egypt: Navigating the Margins of Respectability HT




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[Free eBook] Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World by Lesley Downer [Japan Cultural History & Ethnographic Expat Memoir]

Geisha: The Secret History of a Vanishing World by English author Lesley Downer, a former expat in Japan, journalist and historical novelist, is an ethnographic cultural history and expat memoir, free for a limited time courtesy of publisher Endeavour Press.

This was originally published in 2000 by Headline Books.

The book presents an accessibly-written cultural history cum personal ethnographic memoir of Japan’s geisha—from the predecessors of the profession in the artistically accomplished ladies-in-waiting of the Heian period, to the courtesans of later eras, to the present day—and the various other professions that grew up around supporting them, some passing down the family business through centuries, with the author herself invited to spend several months experiencing the training and daily activities of the geisha in Kyoto while living among them.

Offered worldwide, available at Amazon.

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Voices from Four Directions
Storytelling and singing continue to be a vital part of community life for Native peoples today. Voices from Four Directions gathers stories and songs from thirty-one Native groups in North America. including the Catawba. Vivid stories of cosmological origins and transformation, historical events remembered and retold, as well as legendary fables can be found in these pages. Well-known Trickster figures like Raven, Rabbit, and Coyote figure prominently in several tales as do heroes of local fame such as Tom Laporte of the Maliseets. The stories and songs entertain, instruct, and recall rich legacies as well as obligations. Many are retellings and reinventions of classic narratives, while others are more recent creations.Award-winning poet and critic Brian Swann has gathered some of the richest and most diverse literatures of Native North America and provides an introduction to the volume. In addition, each story is introduced and newly translated.
Of the people of Siberia and especially its indigenous inhabitants’, both their spiritual and material wellbeing unquestinably demands: away with the alcohol! This shout is heard from the east, it is heard from the west, it is heard from every direction, and only the deaf or the apathetic could close their ears to it.
One must admit, the state’s alcohol monopoly, soon to be put in place here as well, will do something to rein in drinking, now that private individuals or companies no longer may use this trade to their own benefit, and one hopes this will be the first step of many towards temperance, but the current situation it cannot greatly improve. The peoples of Siberia cannot be helped by extended medication, here an operation is due as soon as possible.
For the local Khanty people on Demyanka, humanely looking all help will be too late, for the people is on its deathbed, but there are other Khanty areas too, where the development seems to follow the same trajectory; there are other indigenous peoples too, threatened by the same fate: mental and bodily demoralization, withering and dying.
—  K. F. Karjalainen, 1898
The Portrayal of Satanism and How it Affects the Youth of Today

Preface

Growing up, I always had a pretty decent idea of what was good and what was evil. I knew that cops were the good guys and the robbers were the bad guys and I knew that Batman was the hero and the Joker was the villain. But I guess the most prominent example I knew of regarding the power struggle of morality was the battle between God and the Devil, with God being the bringer of life and the Devil being the evil incarnate. But, in more recent times, with society becoming more open when it comes to one’s belief, the idea of Satan or, more appropriately, Lucifer, being a misunderstood bringer of justice has become a more accepted concept among the younger population. This is only because of how he is presented in works of fiction like the Fox television show Lucifer, which is, in turn, based off of the DC comic series of the same name. The show follows Lucifer, the archangel who was cast out of heaven for refusing to follow his father’s orders,  as he sets out to bring justice upon the criminals of L.A. This backstory can also be seen in the television show, Supernatural, where he is still a villain of the story but is given a sense of humanity for the pain he feels for being cast out by the father he loved. 

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Leviathan
dir. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel (2012)

An Unrecognizable Condition

We came to Istanbul because our village was burned.
They came to the village. They killed the men.
They killed a husband and wife and took the baby,
later we asked where.
The PKK came and made this situation.
We saw them.
If we said we didn’t see them it would be a lie.
I saw many
and in 1994 the last thing that could not be overcome came:
They said, “You will be a guard or else
you must abandon the village at once. If you don’t go
we will drop a bomb here,” they said, “we will drop a bomb,” they said.
What is that?
We entered the battle; we went there with the wrongness.
In a village near the city, bombs were dropped all over the village,
rockets.
They called the police station.
“Hey, you are hitting our village!” they were saying;
“No,” they said,
“there are PKK there; we are hitting them,” they said, “not you.”
But two or three houses were hit.

We went back to the village to see the village,
not a rock remains on top of a rock.
I mean there is nothing except for concrete.
Everything made from the earth and the stone was burned.
When we come again after 1994,
we go and see the village, we don’t recognize the village.
An unrecognizable condition has arrived.

If it is left, if the state gives permission, with my own effort,
from the stone and the earth there I would try to make something.
But they say to you, “Okay, return to the thing, but you will be a guard.”
Do you become a guard?
In that case you make at least two enemies.
The enemy that is in the mountains is one;
the soldiers that will oppress you are two.

They come to check on the Special Teams.
They come to the houses at night.
During the day you are required to provide hospitality.
After that, again they return to the village,
in official dress.
They say, “Last night I came to your house, you
gave food and this and that to me.
In your house there is this kind of door, the window is like this,” they say.
I mean they sat so long they surveyed everything.
They took photos.
Later tomorrow they come to your house.
They take out of their bag and leave
a bomb.
They say, “This bomb is yours.”
Even if you say it isn’t yours they say it is.

At that moment seventeen of our relatives were in jail.
Seventeen!
My older brother lay in jail for seven years,
They say to you, “This gun is yours.”
The people have one crushing, two crushings, three crushings.
Now they say go to the village.
Nobody will go there.

In that place, when our fathers entered the door,
we greeted them with a ready posture.
We waited on them.
We served tea.
But now, here,
if you say to your younger sibling, “Bring tea,”
“Go get it yourself,” they say.
Get it yourself, they say!
Why?
Because the respect and love of that place stayed there.

We came to escape the oppression in the village.
But in Istanbul still
you start to talk
you are sitting in a coffee shop
the police come.
“Where are you from? Okay come along, let’s take a look.”
Where are you from?
I’m from Mardin, from head to toe.
I will be looked at as though I am suspicious
from head to toe.

A man comes, he swears, says you are a terrorist.

I won’t go to the coffee shop,
I will go someplace where nobody will see me.

—————————————————————————————-

A “found poem” from the transcript of an interlocutor’s story as told in a focus group, published in Anna Secor, “‘An Unrecognizable Condition Has Arrived’: Law, Violence, and the State of Exception in Turkey,” in Violent Geographies: Fear, Terror, and Political Violence, edited by Derek Gregory and Alan Pred. Some context under the cut.

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田調紀錄:新竹摃丸的幾個獨特邏輯
上週,支流與行人一群同事到新竹邊聊邊吃走了一趟新竹摃丸之旅。這趟行程的規劃邏輯是:如同許多台灣在地小吃,新竹摃丸都有外地人比較難以觸及的多樣性。我們通常都只能接觸到交流道附近或者出口到全台灣的大型連鎖店家,這些店家也是好吃,也相當有代表性;但可惜不能將新竹百家爭鳴的深層(巷內)摃…
By yi-zheng zhou

躲同學的田野紀錄,貼一下因為太久沒吃貢丸了啊

Can’t Stop Keeping Up With The Kardashians

In the endless stream of content that beleaguers consumers of art, culture and entertainment, people are constantly in the search for the more scintillating, the more engaging, the more exciting. In this search for amusement and momentary escapism from the capitalistic enslavement of the daily nine to five, reality television proves to be a seductive option. Reality television promises a raw, unscripted, and uncensored experience. There is no plot, it is just a production of people’s real lives, no characters, no pretentions. Reality T.V. gives you access to, as implicit by the name, reality. The phenomena of producing real lives serves as “the ideal of what is natural” in the field of the entertainment industry, as it “diminishes the tension between the finished product and everyday life” (Adorno 1944, 5). For the scope of this essay, I will investigate the ways in which this reality is produced for spectatorship through the mechanism of the culture industry by analyzing the television show Keeping Up With The Kardashians. The episode selected for analysis is the first episode of the fourteenth season, which is also a special ‘tenth anniversary episode’, aired on September 24, 2017, celebrating ten years of the Kardashian Empire.

           Keeping Up With The Kardashians, first aired in 2007 and running till date, is E! network’s highest-rated show. The megafranchise, consisting of multiple spinoffs and business endeavors, collectively garners billions of dollars every passing year earned from television salaries, celebrity appearances, social media endorsements, and make-up and fashion lines (Forbes 2018). The show follows the lives of sisters Kourtney (age 39), Kim (38), and Khloe Kardashian (34), their half-sisters Kendall (22) and Kylie Jenner (21), and other close family such as their mother and the family’s matriarch, Kris Jenner (62), brother Rob Kardashian Jr (31), stepfather Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner (69), and significant others. Each episode documents one event in the Kardashian-Jenner life, spanning from a day long to a week long, interspersed with clips from camera interviews of the separate family members commenting on the event that is taking place. The structure of all the episodes provides the audience with an immersive experience of the event, being shown (selectively) all the angles of a situation, and all recorded reactions. Each situation is dealt with and portrayed in a similar way, be it a scandal, a holiday, a party, or a personal challenge. As Adorno (1944, 9) says, a trademark of the entertainment industry is that the “content is merely a faded foreground; what sinks in is the automatic succession of standardized operations.”  The episode analysed for this essay documented the media coverage of the family’s tenth anniversary celebrations, a trip taken by the three Kardashian sisters to Cleveland, and a scandal regarding Kendall Jenner’s advertisement for Coca-Cola.

           It becomes evident from the beginning of the episode that the producers, in our case Ryan Seacrest and Kris Jenner, do not intend to hide the ‘industrial’ nature of the T.V. Show that they are producing. The first five minutes of the show itself revealed the Kardashian-Jenners in the middle of a production studio standing under artificial lighting against a luxurious white background, surrounded by cameramen, producers, make-up artists, crew members etc, posing for a photoshoot by The Hollywood Reporter covering the show’s tenth anniversary. The filming does not discriminate between the home lives and the business lives of the Kardashians, it testifies its promise of showing the family’s actual lives wherever they go, and so the spectator is left under the impression of watching these people in their natural habitat. The spectator accepts that the production studio is as much of a natural habitat for a Kardashian as a luxury restaurant or their home. Following this acceptance of seeing a Kardashian in a natural habitat, the spectator slowly begins to accept every depiction on the show as a truth and a reality. The episode features a vacation taken by the three Kardashian sisters to Khloe Kardashian’s boyfriend Tristan Thompson’s Cleveland house. The celebrity status of the Kardashians becomes evident as entire restaurants and amusement parks are booked out for their visit, and they are greeted by hordes of fans at multiple locations, all which is caught on camera. This stardom is juxtaposed with interval cuts of the sisters speaking to producers on camera, answering personal questions about their feelings, opinions and thoughts to bring them back in touch with the normal experience of the everyman. On being asked (note: the question prompt is never featured on screen, only the response of the Kardashian-Jenner being filmed, which too is evidently edited) about what Khloe Kardashian and her boyfriend do in Cleveland, Khloe tells the camera that they “are boring, watch T.V.” and “do normal things like cooking, cleaning…” These small interviews that are inserted into the videographical narrative that follows the Kardashians humanizes their lives, their emotions, and helps the audience feel as if they’re being communicated all essential information that may contextualize the events being filmed, while providing real human feelings for the audience to connect to. Seeing Khloe portraying herself as any other girl in a mundane relationship reassures the audience of the realness of the people whose lives they so enthusiastically yet absent-mindedly follow.

           The utility of these interview cuts can be illustrated with the way the Kendall Jenner Coca-Cola scandal was dealt with in this particular episode. The depiction of the scandal completely unveiled the mechanisms of the culture industry that may prevail today. One of the first conversations regarding the scandal, about eight minutes into the episode, featured Kourtney Kardashian telling her sister Kendall Jenner on video chat that “Russel called me today saying that we can turn this into a positive and said he’d call mom,” to which Kendal replied saying “yeah, he called me…if I knew this was the outcome I would never have done anything like this.” Many allusions were made to people such as Russell who were the Kardashians’ personal publicists and other business affiliates. The conversations regarding the scandal throughout the episode revealed attempts of the family and their employed publicists to diffuse the scandal that labelled Kendall Jenner a racist for doing a culturally insensitive commercial for Coca-Cola during the Black Lives Matter protests. In an interview with the camera, Kendall explained that when she “first took [the offer] [she] thought it was going to be a good thing. The company is amazing. So many people have done it. Michael Jackson did it, Britney Spears has done it…the list goes on…I trusted everyone, I trusted the teams.” This information reveals the influence of the entertainment business on the lives of the Kardashians. The narratives created when the Kardashian-Jenners refer to the external team recording and controlling their appearances make explicit to the spectator that all social media news on the Kardashians external to the television show is mediated, untrue and ‘gossipy’, while proving the show to be the source of ‘real facts’ or information for the audience to consume unquestioningly. It is the reckless honesty portrayed by the cameras that helps perpetuate the show’s position as an unbiased documentation of now-celebrity lives.

           However, “the culture industry perpetually cheats its consumers of what it perpetually promises” (Adorno 1944, 10). It becomes evident to the suspicious eye that the portrayal of what is true on the T.V. show is just the product of another narrative that is trying to be created by executive producer and also star-mom Kris Jenner to clear up any unwanted controversy and keep the show popular and entertaining. Through the show there are multiple cuts where Kendall discusses her regret over starring in the commercial and having no bad intent while shooting it. There is a scene where the family discusses Caitlyn Jenner’s upcoming media appearances and their apprehension of her tendency to say politically incorrect things on camera or, in Kim’s words, “Caitlyn [being] known for saying all the wrong things.” This implies a right versus wrong narrative that could be associated with the family, and Kris Jenner’s motive to always stay on the right side becomes explicit through the content of each episode. Kendall makes clear to the audience on multiple occasions to not pay heed to her father’s public words as “the only problem is that because she’s [her] dad, people are gonna like really believe it and take it and run with it and like what does she even actually know.” Even the ending scene of the show drives home the point that any controversy created by Caitlyn Jenner regarding the Coca Cola scandal is baseless as Kendall sobbingly testifies to the camera that “my dad doesn’t actually know what happened…I just feel really really really bad…that this was taken in such a wrong way.” The T.V. show naturally monopolizes all the news on the Kardashian family, while easily being one of their most edited and mediated productions that run past several bureaucratic check-posts before the final airing.

           It should be noted that the executive producer of this television show, the kingpin of the mediation who controls the final narrative created around the Kardashian Lifestyle, is in fact personally involved with the family’s fortune and appearance. This kingpin is the Kardashian-Jenner’s mother, Kris Jenner. Her influence can be felt in certain productions of truth on the show, such as writing away her popular ex-husband Caitlyn Jenner as an uninformed liar, however this observation may be based on my personal conjecture. The bitterness, also felt by her children towards their ex-stepfather, can be recorded in this show by Khloe’s statement “It’s not cause you’re trans, that’s not why I’m not talking to you, I’m not talking to you because you’re a bad mean person.” The outrage against Caitlyn Jenner is fierce in this particular episode, and the Kardashians make it a point to feature it extensively in their show, publicly demonizing Caitlyn Jenner. It is also interesting to note in the statement above Khloe’s need to clarify that she dislikes Caitlyn Jenner, but not because of her gender. The fact that the show is a product of a business industry that must appease certain public ideologies is revealed in all the Kardashian-Jenner’s effort to be politically correct on camera, and also clear up controversies outside camera regarding political correctness using extensive means such as publicists, personal social media statements et cetera. These small details make evident the fact that ultimately, the show is being produced for a particular consumer, an imagined spectator, whom the show must adjust itself to to keep him or her unquestioningly amused and involved. As Adorno (1944, 9) says, “it is quite correct that the power of the culture industry resides in its identification with a manufactured need, and not in simple contrast to it, even if this contrast were one of complete power and complete powerlessness.”

           The “complete power” of these media magnates is shown in the public engagement with their brand that is formulated on the platform of the T.V. show. The blasting sales of Kylie Jenner’s make-up line that makes her one of the youngest and richest ‘self-made women’ (Forbes 2018) or the amused people who flock to watch redundant spin-offs made on different members of the Kardashian clan to remain as connected to the family as possible, prove the influence of the Kardashians on their followers. These followers are provided a “convergent media experience” (Barron 2012, 82) where they can stay in touch with the Kardashian’s personal lives through their social media accounts on Instagram and Snapchat in addition to the T.V. show and Hollywood news, adding a sense of accessibility to their celebrity lifestyle. The fanbase generated by the seemingly innocuous family can be explained by Adorno on page 8:

The consumers are the workers and employees, the farmers and lower middle class. Capitalist production so confines them, body and soul, that they fall helpless victims to what is offered them. As naturally as the ruled always took the morality imposed upon them more seriously than did the rulers themselves, the deceived masses are today captivated by the myth of success even more than the successful are. Immovably, they insist on the very ideology which enslaves them.

Each fan following the Kardashians has become an aspirant to their lifestyle, and a subject of their brand. On page 22 Adorno continues by saying that “the assembly-line character of the culture industry, the synthetic, planned method of turning out its products is very suited to advertising,” claiming that each “interchangeable” shot of a celebrity in a production becomes an advertisement for his or her name. Every public appearance made by a Kardashian-Jenner is controlled by and also controls the brand name Kardashian. The brand infiltrates the wishes and wardrobes of its consumers. The Kim Kardashian make-up line generates its profits not from its inherent goodness as a cosmetic, but through its cosmetic connection with the queen of the pop culture industry. Every “recommendation” by the family “becomes an order” (Adorno 1944, 21). The advertising takes place in the show as well as on all platforms of media outside. Whether it be sponsored Instagram posts on Fit Tea, or in the episode under analysis, a three minute sponsored demonstration of Nurse Jamie’s Healthy Skin Solutions which the Kardashian sisters learn about, experience and review on camera. These endorsements become cultural symbols of a Kardashian lifestyle and control the tastes of the public for economic profit.

Through this essay we realize the not-so-hidden business intentions behind the reproduction of the Kardashian-Jenner family life for public reality television. What started out as Ryan Seacrest’s wish to create a successful T.V. show (Cosmopolitan 2018) has evolved into an entertainment empire headed by Matriarch and Executive Producer Kris Jenner, and her business subjects, also children, Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kendall, Kylie and Rob. There are many instances through the T.V. show that reveal its industrial nature to us, be it the brand endorsements casually mentioned through the episode, the intimate relationship of the family with the business associates such as publicists, personal assistants, crew members etc, the revelation of the politics around Hollywood gossip or the constant editorial interruption in the forms of camera interviews that sprinkle the flow of events in each episode. Nevertheless, consumers keep desiring more of the DASH business, and “desire is always in excess of the object’s capacity to satisfy it” (Phillips 1999, 100). The Kardashians could produce as many spinoffs, brew as much controversy, and curate countless media appearances, and the consumers will never be satisfied. That is because the depiction of absolute reality promises a constant influx of possible new information, gossip and news. Because the consumers’ lives run parallel, in the same space-time fabric as their T.V. idols’ lives, the expectations do not cease. Thus every episode, like a kiss, leaves the watcher disappointed, longing for more. This disappointment ensures the return of the consumer for another round, another peck. Like a moth, the consumer lingers in front of the bright screen desiring a minute more of escapism from the rut of capitalistic enslavement, by submitting him or herself into an alternate industry that controls not their employment but their culture.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Barron, Lee. Social Theory in Popular Culture. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Lerner, Rebecca. “‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ Ratings Improve.” Forbes. January 26, 2018. Accessed October 29, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccalerner/2018/01/17/keeping-up-with-the-kardashians-ratings-improve/#316f29d969c2.

Phillips, Adam. On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored: Psychoanalytic Essays on the Unexamined Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999.

Rees, Alex. “Here’s How the Kardashians Landed Their Reality Show.” Cosmopolitan. October 07, 2017. Accessed October 29, 2018. https://www.cosmopolitan.com/entertainment/celebs/news/a35457/heres-how-the-kardashians-landed-their-reality-show/.

Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception,” in Dialectic of Enlightenment. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002.

Robehmed, Natalie. “How 20-Year-Old Kylie Jenner Built A $900 Million Fortune In Less Than 3 Years.” Forbes. July 13, 2018. Accessed October 29, 2018. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesdigitalcovers/2018/07/11/how-20-year-old-kylie-jenner-built-a-900-million-fortune-in-less-than-3-years/.

Dhanmaya loved all her children. She spoiled them all. How could she not, she asked, when she had lost so many. Yet, because of the community they were born into, she— a mother who was also a daughter— spoiled the son more than the daughters. Her daughters were her closest companions and her most dependable workers. But like all daughters in the village, they eventually would leave. Even though recent legislation gave daughters the right to inherit land, few families had enough land to ensure that their sons could support a family, let alone leave any to daughters. Women depended on their husbands’ property to care for them and their children. Once married, they were welcome to return to their maiti (parents’ home) to visit; they were rarely welcomed to stay. Attention, if not affection, was inevitably attached to the future. In a community where survival was so precarious and land so limited, was there any choice? Once when Devimaya[Dhanmaya’s daughter] and I were beating rice on the dikki, we talked about what we would most like to have or who we would want to be. With no hesitation, she said that she wished she were a boy.
—  Ann Armbrecht, Thin Places
Using your wider sociological knowledge asses the usefulness of ethnographic research methods for investigating young people in poor neighbourhoods (25 marks)

Ethnography is a qualitative research method in which a researcher observes a social setting to provide descriptions of a group, society or organisation. This method is most frequently used by interpretivists as it allows the collection of meaningful and valid data which is one of the things interpretivists value most.

This method would allow the researcher to observe the interactions among the members of the working class, meaning they can learn about youths in poverty. This would allow the lower class to have a voice and show that they don’t want to be in the situation that they are in. This method would allow a great deal of insight among the lives of youths in the lower class, this is important as it would allow detailed research and qualitative data to be collected making the information more valid as it would give a proper representation of the youths working norms and values. This method priorities the building of trust and rapport which creates more valid data, this would be very important in this study as it is unlikely that the working class youths would be open and truthful to a person they just met because of their sensitive position, this means that the researcher would need to build trust and a relationship with the participants for them to be completely honest.

This method can be subjective as the qualitative data collected may be biased due to the researcher’s subjective and selective interpretations, confirmation bias may play a role in the results collected as researchers will look for the results they want in the qualitative data. The researcher may experience many social interactions but will only select a limited amount for analysis and publication. This means the data collected may be unrepresentative of the population and only represent the sociologist’s point of view. This is sometimes called the file drawer phenomenon.

The use of qualitative data means that this method is difficult to replicate and therefore verify. Much of the research data depends on the rapport built with the members of the group meaning that other sociologists may not be able to build this same rapport and therefore produce different data. This means that the data is less reliable and can lead to problems in verifying results.

Using a combination of qualitative methods produces a fuller picture and allows you to gain a deeper insight into the lives of other groups, this will make your data more valid as it will truthfully reflect the group you are investigating.

Researchers are less likely to be misled by subjects because the group is typically studied over a period of time, this means that if there is anything that could skew the results, maybe one person in the group who has different norms and values or some other factor then the period of time would allow you to detect the anomalous result.