SOCI 1P80 - Sept 16th, 2011
Methods of Cultural Anthropology
Humans have forever reflected on their own societies and cultures. We are looking at a
much more recent period of time. The scholars of that period tended to be “armchair
scholars”. They weren’t out with the cultures, they were working from home after reading
There were some workers who did more face to face research within cultures. (Eg.
Lewis Henry Morgan, Horatio Hale; both interested in the Iroquois, both spent time with
them.). These men were writing in the context that the Iroquois would disappear due to
Modern anthropology shifts away from armchair scholars to long term fieldwork.
Bronislaw Malinowski was a Polish migrant to Britain. He had been involved with short
trips to Papua New Guinea during WW1. He was interned in Papua New Guinea as he
was seen as an enemy/alien. He decided to stay there and put two years in the
Trobriand Islands, Papua New Guinea. This long term residence is often seen as
initiating long term fieldwork.
His deep immersion in a different community/social group helped him understand
everyday life, the language, etc. He began to argue for a model that holistic and
functionalist. He promoted himself as the long anthropologist in another culture. One of
his books was called Argonauts of the Western Pacific (1922) revealed the value of long
term participation in other cultures to anthropology. Many decades later his personal
diaries were published; they shed light on his dislike of many of the people he worked
with, and his physical discomforts.
One of the ways his work was critiqued was how he displayed the Trobriand Islands. He
had presented it as off the beaten path, but the Islands were already part of global
Aihwa Ong - Cambodian refugees in US
George Gmelch - Global tourism workers in Barbados
Both are contemporary works.
There is an attempt to go beyond locality and place and think of non territorial cultures.
Example of this is Tom Boellstorff’s Second Life; spent two years in research.
Ilana Gerson - The Breakup 2.0 ; talked to University students about the appropriate
ways to break up with significant others. Doing Fieldwork in Cul. Anthropology:
Anthropologist need to think about the project they’re going to pursue and the
community or concept they are interested in. Have to review studies that have taken
place prior to the new study. They must prepare for fieldwork, which involves institutional
reviews and informed consent from those you study. Going from the bread area of
interest into a more focused area. Usually we are trying to gain access to a network,
culture, etc, and this is called gaining rapport. \
Richard Lee did studies in Africa. Gift-giving and exchange is important in his attempt to
gain rapport. He was trying to offer a reciprocity to a culture that had taken him in for a
year. He went about this by choosing a large ox to slaughter, but was told over and over
again that there were problems with the ox. This was called “insulting of the meat”.
Understands looking back that he could not just offer an ox to compensate for a whole
Philippe Bourgois did studies about crack houses that operated outside of the law.
Wanted to gain access, this was difficult due to it being illegal. Trying to get into the
group by going into the bar and buying beer. He chose the wrong type of beer and this
did not work, showed that he was an outsider.
Many different factors help or hinder you in the field (eg. class, race, ethnicity,
indigeneity, gender, language and age). Example of a restudy done by America