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The studying of cultures -- measuring or immersing?

  • Susanna Magnusson
  • Jacobsson Katarina
  • Sjöberg Katarina
Publiceringsår: 2012
Språk: Engelska
Sidor: 109-122
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Pondering on methods. A variety of methodological concerns.
Dokumenttyp: Del av eller Kapitel i bok
Förlag: Lund University, Faculty of Social Sciences


The aim of this chapter is to discuss two different approaches to the studying of cultures – the etic and the emic approaches. The two different approaches reflect not only different views on how cultures ought to be studied, but also to some extent different views on the nature of cultures. The etic approach suggests that it is possible to study cultures from “the outside” and that it is feasible to compare different cultures along standardized, universal and objective dimensions. This perspective unfolds most clearly when using a quantitative methodological approach, such as in the works of the Dutch anthropologist Geert Hofstede. Hofstede is one of the most influential researchers on cultures within certain academic areas, such as managerial cross-cultural studies. The emic approach, on the other hand, claims that each culture is unique, and should not be compared to other cultures. According to this approach, cultures can only be properly understood “from within” and to increase the understanding of a certain culture, qualitative methods such as “thick description” as proposed by the American anthropologist Clifford Geertz, are appropriate. In the chapter, I give an account of theoretical and methodological perspectives implied by the two different approaches and point out strengths and weaknesses. I finally argue that both approaches are justified in cultural research and also that they are possible to combine. However, as a researcher, it is necessary to thoroughly reflect on the basic theoretical and methodological assumptions embedded in the different views on culture.


  • Communication Studies
  • emic
  • etic
  • Geertz
  • Hofstede
  • cultural anthropology


  • ISBN: 91-7267-340-0

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