CHAPTER 1 – Part 2
- 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
Ethnohistory: the study of cultures from the recent past using oral
histories, archeological sites, and written accounts left by explorers,
missionaries, and traders.
- 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
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
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
Anthropology displays many characteristics of a science,
including designing hypothesis or tentative explanations for