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AN101 Lecture 3

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Anne- Marie Colpron

1/14/2013 4:51:00 PM Chapter 2 1/14/2013 4:51:00 PM Fieldwork: A Meeting of Cultural Traditions  Someone shows up in a community, plans to be there for a year or more, clams to be interested in the community‟s way of life, and then spends all of his or her time interacting with people, making observations, and taking notes.  Fieldwork not only broadens anthropological understandings of cultural worlds but also transforms the self-understandings of anthropologists and the people whom they world. Interaction in the Field:  Before and after anthropologists enter the field, researchers consult published literature and archives relevant to their research.  Often they conduct structured interviews. Sometimes the use questionnaires and psychological tests, but they never rely solely on such methods because, by itself, the information they produce cannot be contextualized and may be highly misleading.  Therefore, anthropologists generally engage in methods of participant observation.  It involves direct, face-to-face interaction between the researcher and their local research partners, as they go about their daily lives.  It is the most productive method available to anthropologists who seek a holistic understanding of culture and the human condition. The Fieldwork Experience:  A projects success often depends on the researcher‟s ability to obtain authorization to work in a particular place and acceptance from the people who will be participants in the study.  Anthropologists who conduct field research much remember that they are accountable not only to the people who fund their projects but also to the individuals who allow them entry into their lives. Modes of Ethnographic Fieldwork: A Short History: The Positive Approach:  Its proponents based on their view of science on a set of principles most fully set out in the writings of a group of influential thinkers known as positivists, who were active in the late 19 th and 20 th centuries.  Today, positivism has become a label for a particular way of looking at and studying the world scientifically.  Positivists are committed to explaining how the material world works in terms of material causes and processes that e can detect using our senses.  To achieve this goal, they are also committed to a separation of facts from values as part of scientific methodology. They justify this separation on the grounds that facts relate to the nature of psychical, material reality—what is—whereas, in their view, values are based on speculation about what ought to be.  Positivists are convinced that a single scientific method can be used to investigate any domain of reality, from planetary motion to chemical reactions to human life. Some believe that all scientific knowledge will ultimately be unified in a “theory of everything.”  The objective goal of the positivist program has been to produce objective knowledge: knowledge about reality that is absolute and true for all people, in all times and places. Applying Positivist Methods to Anthropology:  For the positivists, the prototypical research scenario involves a physical scientist in a laboratory.  Each research setting would correspond to a separate experimental situation, a method called controlled comparison.  Anthropologists found themselves confronting a paradox.  In order to remain true to positivism, they had to record objective facts from the perspective of an invisible observer; yet in order to get closer to the truth, they had to admit that they were personally involved in the situation. Questioning the Positivist Approach:  In the 1960-70‟s, many assumptions about the way the world worked were called to question, as was the nature of scientific inquiry.  Anthropologists began to write ethnographies highlighting the ways their own involvement with others in the field had contributed to the growth of cross-cultural knowledge.  At the same time, they noted that differently situated fi
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