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ANTH 1150

CHAPTER 1 – Part 2 Ethnographic Fieldwork Participant observation - The anthropologist becomes an ethnographer by going to live among the people under study.  Personally experiencing their habits and customs and understand their way of life  Championed by Franz Boas – the father of fieldwork – collecting data by experience Cultural bound: theories about the world and reality based on the assumptions and values of one’s own culture. Ethnography: the collection of descriptive material on a culture Ethnology: The comparative study of cultures to explain human behavior. Ethnohistory: the study of cultures from the recent past using oral histories, archeological sites, and written accounts left by explorers, missionaries, and traders. Participant observation - A method of learning a people’s culture through direct observations and participation in their everyday life. - Difficulties of participant observation  Alice Reich calls it, “a time honoured tradition of making a fool of oneself for a point”  Challenges such as :  Developing research proposal  Dealing with an ethics and review board  Learning the language  Overcoming personal and professional insecurities  Rapport with community members  Health and safety issues  Culture shock  RESERCHER BIAS – Every field experience from research process can influence researcher’s interpretation of the data. It is double edged sword.  Also, very existence of ethnographer in the field can change the dynamics and atmosphere of the group. - Participant observation does not always involve ethnographer’s joining people’s battle. - Ethnographer must be a meticulous observer to gather a broad overview of a culture without involving oneself in the culture - Only by discovering how all cultural institutions – social, political, economic, religious – relate to one another can ethnographers begin to understand cultural systems. - Anthropologist refer this outlook as holistic perspective  A fundamental principle of anthropology, that the various parts of culture must be viewed in the broadest possible context to understand their interconnections and interdependence. - Key informants assist ethnographer in unfamiliar culture  Members of a culture who help the ethnographer interpret what she or he observes - The popular image of ethnographer fieldwork is that it takes place among far-off, exotic people.  But anthropologist have recognized from the start that understanding of human behavior depend on knowledge of all cultures including their own.  1950-1960 : Many Canadian anthropologist turned their attention to social issues facing Canadian society Sir Edmund Leach:  Surprising through it may seem, fieldwork in a cultural context of which you already have intimate first-hand experience seems to be much more difficult than fieldwork which is approached from the naïve viewpoint of a total stranger. When anthropologists study facets of their own society their vision seems to become distorted by prejudices which derive from private rather than public experience. - This is true for popular culture.  The culture of our everyday lives – television, sports, fashion, arts and crafts, fiction and music.  More anthropologists are recognizing that popular culture has a much greater and more profound impact on society than high culture, and must be studied. - Studying outside culture is as important as studying own culture. New Directions In Ethnographic Fieldwork - Remaining scientifically objective, unbiased, and detached from the “Study group” has long been the basis of ethnographic research.  C.E. Marcus and M.J. Fisher began asking questions – Just how objective can ethnographer be without being influenced by circumstances, personal biases and emotions? - Now, many ethnographers believe it is impossible for Western ethnographers to completely understand indigenous ideology or point of view; there are multiple points of views and voices within any cultural group. - Indigenous groups are now representing themselves to the world, and the ethnographer is only one of many voices. - Anthropologists are paying close attention to living histories, through narratives and oral histories.  Employing a collaborating approach and recording oral histories and unedited narratives, Ridington set out to tell the story of the Dane-zaa in their own words and their voices. - Ethnographers are now writing their experiences in the field. - The field of ethnography is evolving, in an attempt to better meet the needs and wishes of the cultural groups under study and to provide a richer, more comprehensive presentation of indigenous worldviews. Ethnology Research - Ethnographic fieldwork is not the sole occupation of anthropologists.  Ethnography provides the basic data the ethnologist may use to study particular aspect of a culture by comparing it with same aspect in other culture. - Cross-cultural comparisons, like holism, are another hallmark of socio-cultural anthropology.  Providing far richer data than any other social science, and can be applied to any current issue. - George Peter Murdock established the Cross Cultural Survey in Yale’s Institute of Human Relations, (1937) which later becomes the Human Relations Area Files (HRAF), a catalog of cross-indexed ethnographic data. Ethnohistory Research - The ethnohistorical analysis of cultures is a valuable means for understanding culture change.  In Canada, ethnohistorians have explored the economic, social and political changes experienced by First Nations when they joined the colonial fur trade. - Ethnohistoric research is also valuable for assessing the reliability of data used for making cross-cultural comparisons. - Ethnohistory also has problems and limatations.  Reflecting biases and suffers from inaccuracies, misinterpretation and distortions.  Must take into consideration the reliability and objectivity of their literary sources, and often rely on several forms of information to validate their findings. Anthropology and Science - The primary concern of all anthropologists, regardless of specialization, is the careful and systematic study of humankind. - Anthropology has been called a social or a behavioral science by some, a natural science by others, and one of the humanities by still others.  Anthropology displays many characteristics of a science, including designing hypothesis or tentative explanations for cert
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