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Lecture 2

Lecture 2 - Fieldwork - September 18.docx

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University of Toronto St. George
Tania Li

September 18, 2012. Lecture 2 – Fieldwork  We have assumptions about what is normal and standard o Ex: Someone walking out of class in the middle of a lecture is perceived as odd  We can form hypotheses/assumptions about this “abnormal” behaviour o Ex: two major hypotheses for walking out of class:  Personal reasons (phone call, washroom, family emergency)  Statement (disappointed with the lecture, disagreement with lecturer/material  We can assume that we can merely ask people to find explanations behind odd behaviour, but there are limitations o Ex: maybe it would be inappropriate to ask; invasion of privacy o Person might not give an honest response o Person might not want to talk to you in the first place, etc.  Coming to conclusions in cultural anthropology require taking into account multiple factors and exploring different facets of knowledge to find an answer (history of the situation, history of the person(s) in question, cultural context, etc.)  This does not mean cultural anthropology doesn’t acquire scientific knowledge, it might not be an exact science, but accurate knowledge can still be gained o Cultural anthropologists seek out the best answer that can be used as a potential conclusion based on knowledge through speaking to people, interpreting body language, observing societies, reading applicable literature, researching past studies, etc. and accumulating all factors to create a scientifically accurate narrative  Cultural anthropology differs from psychology in the sense that we aren’t analyzing the subjects brain/neurochemistry/personal thoughts; we focus more on all the factors that contributed to make that person who they are (their desires, goals, perceptions of social norms, etc.) Film: Pioneers of Social Anthropology  Bronislaw Malinowski, Polish born pioneer of anthropological fieldwork  Realized next major step of anthropology was to develop an in depth knowledge of native life; getting to know what these people were really like  Went to the south coast of New Guinea  Visited Trobriand islands in 1915, made his base on the largest/most important of the collection of islands  Malinowski felt it was important to analyze how the subject society worked at the time of observation rather than focusing on the evolution of the culture and how it came to be  Lived in a tent in the village, children made and sold him necessary tools and exotic fruits, wives of the village cooked his food, etc.  In this Trobriand village there was a magic accompaniment for everything (hunting, fishing, love, gardening, etc.) o Malinowski wondered why they required magical rituals, hymns, songs, rites, etc. for every technical process the people went through despite the fact they seemed well versed in said processes o “Magic is like your fertilizer”  Malinowski managed to write up a description of this society far better than his predecessors; it was more complete because he: o Spent an extended period of time living with the villagers o Took pictures o Learned their language and asked questions/took notes  Missionaries to the Trobriand islands recorded an important ritual/custom based on gift-giving and visits between friends: Kula o Kula means “to go”, first step in the process of dangerous explorations/expeditions o Expeditions based on acquiring treasures (shells and necklaces) that are extremely special and valuable items of exchange amo
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