Fieldwork and Ethnographic Writing
These three deal with Ethnographic Writing
7. The Ethnographic Present
• Anthropologists’ work is never finished, so they just write about stuff as it is now
• You write in the present tense even though you’re describing history (even if its just a
week or 10 year or 1000year history)
• It just matters what is happening now
8. Ethnographic Authority
• You are the basic source of information of that group you are studying. There is no way
that information you collect can be completely verifiable.
• There is no completely unbiased info and you have to establish your authority for the
A Ceremonial Act of the Kula (Picture)
• Argonauts of the Western Pacific
• What’s important is the person at the very end (left) because he’s facing the camera
(indication that he is communicating with Malinowski aka photographer)
• Example of Ethnographic Authority!
A Diary in the Strict Sense of the Term
• He was angry…
• Picture screams “I WAS THERE”
• More E.A.
• We have become aware that we have a certain position in society and we need to be
aware of this vis-à-vis the people we are studying.
Frank Hamilton Cushing
• American who was the first longterm fieldworker. • Sent by Smithsonian to do fieldwork in Zuni (Pueblo) and lived there for five years.
• He died at 42/3? After returning to East Coast to Zuni & choked on a fish bone… loser…
• He was initiated into the Zuni tribe (left pic).
• He also shows us that the people themselves have a kind of reflexivity.
o Ex. A Zuni Artist Looks at Frank Hamilton Cushing – book -- This guy took pieces
from Cushing’s work and illustrated them.
Explanations of Cultural Variation
• Principle of Plenitude
o God wanted more and better diversity in the world – a richer life and environment
o Great Chain of Being
Hierarchy of forms (inanimate to animate to divine)
• Linnaeus –
o person who gave us the system of scientific classification (Swedish scholar) with
a scheme of diversity that wasn’t hierarchical.
o Underlying it though, was a racist view of humans.
Wild Man – 4ft 8in, hairy
American – (Native) red, hot tempered, hair black, eyes wide, nostrils
European – White, confident, brawny, hair abundantly flowing, gentle,
acute, governed by laws, consciousness
Asian African – yellow, sad, rigid, hair black, eyes dark, severe, governed
African – black, skin silky, indolent, anoints himself w grease, governed by
o Connected physical attributes with character
• Geographic theories (Eg. Ellsworth Huntington) o Simplistic theory to explain
o To advance economically, technological, etc you needed to have a climate that
could stimulate it – also rainfall had to be steady throughout the year because
periods of rain/drought were hard on your brainpower.
o He’s actually describing why peoples of the artic regions didn’t turn out very
advanced – he was just describing the environment in New Haven so yeah.
• Cultural Evolutionism
o Lewis Henry Morgan – Ancient Society – 1877
He was a lawyer in Rochester NY and got interested in Iriquois
particularly in the area of traditional (unwritten) law.
He divided periods of history into Savagery, Barbarism, and Civilisation.
(Lower, Middle, Upper class people?) and connected these stages to
technological advances and then gave examples as well of who were the
Not historical – ex. Aztecs did not live after the Iriquois… Irir, Atha, Poly all
lived at the same time… Greeks disappeared millennia before the lower
stages… It disregarded the chronology of history.
o Basic Elements
1. Comparative Method
• Explaining variety by ordering the people according to a hierarchy
ranging from savagery to civilization (lowest to highest)
2. The Doctrine of Survivals
• Mainly promulgated by top right guy who believed there were
earlier stages of civilization among the civilized (Britain) aka
something that had “survived” from earlier s