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This paper describes some possible convergence between ethnographic and psychoanalytic methods in a study of early childhood intervention. Insofar as both psychoanalysis and ethnography emphasize the value of personal relationships as ways of knowing, there is enormous potential for a convergence of both theory and method. Like psychoanalysis, ethnography puts a premium on the interpretation of emerging dynamics in our encounters with others rather than the development, in advance, of experiments designed to test hypotheses. This emphasis can put ethnographers at odds with the hypothetical-deductive paradigm that is dominant in so many social sciences, but it is designed to allow for surprising findings to emerge by virtue of the ethnographer’s immersion in local cultural contexts. The value of an ethnographic approach is illustrated here by examining some of the contributions that an ethnographic study has made to our evolving understanding of how a Montessori early childhood program affects families.


  • ethnography
  • psychoanalysis
  • early childhood intervention
Frédérique Le Houezec-Jacquemain
Paul Spicer
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